Born in Spain 25 October 1881. Died 8 April 1973 aged 91
Picasso was a child prodigy and even at a very early age, was producing incredible artworks of skill well beyond his years.
In 1897 at the age of 16, Picasso went to study art in Madrid but he disliked instruction ad so he left and became more interested in the art of the city, especially in the artist Goya’s work which depicted figures with elongated limbs.
In around 1901, Picasso’s work went into his ‘Blue’ period. A very close friend had committed suicide and this had a profound impression on him. His work was all of depressed, dark, elongated figures in deep blues and greens.
In around 1904-06, he went into his ‘Rose’ period where his work had more warm reds and pinks and the figures became less depressed. The harlequin appeared in these paintings and this symbol would reappear in work throughout his life.
1905 Picasso met the writer and art collector Gertrude Stein who was a great supporter of his and bought a lot of his work. She also introduced him to other collectors and artists. Stein introduced him to Matisse who became a lifelong rival. He and Matisse were quite different in their styles but yet both were extremely important stepping stones in the story of Modern Art and both had long lives and produced a huge body of diverse work. Amongst many differences, Matisse tended to work more from observations of nature and life and Picasso more from the imagination and expression.
In around 1907, following viewing a big exhibition of African artefacts, Picasso became heavily influenced by African art, especially with masks. This can clearly be seen in the changes in his work towards a more simplistic naïve depiction of faces and figures, moving more into exaggerated expression rather than realistic representation.
In around 1909, Picasso moved into his ‘Cubist’ period. Another artist working in a very similar way was
Georges Braque. The colours were not strong or bright, often brownish and monochrome. Cubism would break shapes down to plains or surfaces and look at an object from multiple viewpoints, then putting the different viewpoints back together in an abstract way. Objects were still represented clearly, but were broken down and reconstructed in a very angular way. A typical Cubist painting by
Picasso is ‘Violin and Grapes, 1912, oil on canvas. It clearly shows the sections and shapes of the violin all fragmented and made quite angular. It is painted in deep browns and warm colours.
In 1937, Picasso produced perhaps his most famous work, ‘Guernica’. Fascism was on the rise in Europe and there was a civil war in Spain. Franco, the Spanish Fascist leader got his ally Hitler’s Luftwaffe to bomb a small Basque town full of innocent civilians. It was an atrocity which Picasso wanted to bear witness to with his great painting. This piece is still today one of the strongest pieces of protest art in existence. Picasso used many symbols but did not want to explain what they meant. He wanted the viewer to take their own meanings from the symbols in this work. The work is very dark with only a few quite monochromatic colours but the symbolism is violent and disturbing.
Pick your painting by Picasso (pref Guernica) , give date, title and Medium used (i.e. oil on canvas).
Analyse your piece using content form process mood. This is a very important element of your essay.
Picasso went through many phases in his life as an artist and produced a huge body of work in all kinds of media. His later works became more and more abstract and even naïve. His work was all about capturing the real core essence of his subject rather than a visual representation. Things became more and more simplified and exaggerated in the search for the true essence of his subject. He was, as always, before his time and could be described as the first Abstract Expressionist. He was expressing feelings or emotions through his art.
Many say that Picasso was a key link or stepping stone into Modern Art from the earlier times of Post
Impressionism. Picasso died in France in 1973, having produced a huge amount of work right up until his death. His final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.”