Spanish Draftsman, Painter, Printmaker, and Sculptor
Summary of Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso was the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the 20th century. Associated most of all with pioneering Cubism, alongside Georges Braque, he also invented collage and made major contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. He saw himself above all as a painter, yet his sculpture was greatly influential, and he also explored areas as diverse as printmaking and ceramics. Finally, he was a famously charismatic personality; his many relationships with women not only filtered into his art but also may have directed its course, and his behavior has come to embody that of the bohemian modern artist in the popular imagination.
- It was a confluence of influences - from Paul Cézanne and Henri Rousseau, to archaic and tribal art - that encouraged Picasso to lend his figures more structure and ultimately set him on the path towards Cubism, in which he deconstructed the conventions of perspective that had dominated painting since the Renaissance. These innovations would have far-reaching consequences for practically all of modern art, revolutionizing attitudes to the depiction of form in space.
- Picasso's immersion in Cubism also eventually led him to the invention of collage, in which he abandoned the idea of the picture as a window on objects in the world, and began to conceive of it merely as an arrangement of signs that used different, sometimes metaphorical means, to refer to those objects. This too would prove hugely influential for decades to come.
- Picasso had an eclectic attitude to style, and although, at any one time, his work was usually characterized by a single dominant approach, he often moved interchangeably between different styles - sometimes even in the same artwork.
- His encounter with Surrealism, although never transforming his work entirely, encouraged not only the soft forms and tender eroticism of portraits of his mistress Marie-Therese Walter, but also the starkly angular imagery of Guernica (1937), the century's most famous anti-war painting.
- Picasso was always eager to place himself in history, and some of his greatest works, such as Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), refer to a wealth of past precedents - even while overturning them. As he matured he became only more conscious of assuring his legacy, and his late work is characterized by a frank dialogue with Old Masters such as Ingres, Velazquez, Goya, and Rembrandt.
Biography of Pablo Picasso
"I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them." Said Picasso, and whether he was partnering with Braque on Cubism or spending time with the poets he admired, or the muses he loved and craved, he was finding new ways to see, and represent what he saw. His life is a virtual progression of modernism.
Important Art by Pablo Picasso
La Soupe is characteristic of the somber melancholy of Picasso's Blue Period, and it was produced at the same time as a series of other pictures devoted to themes of destitution, old age, and blindness. The picture conveys something of Picasso's concern with the miserable conditions he witnessed while coming of age in Spain, and it is no doubt influenced by the religious painting he grew up with, and perhaps specifically by El Greco. But the picture is also typical of the wider Symbolist movement of the period. In later years Picasso dismissed his Blue Period works as "nothing but sentiment"; critics have often agreed with him, even though many of these pictures are iconic, and of course, now unbelievably expensive.
Gertrude Stein was an author, close friend, and even supporter of Picasso, and was integral to his growth as an artist. This portrait, in which Stein is wearing her favorite brown velvet coat, was made just a year before Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and marks an important stage in his evolving style. In contrast to the flat appearance of the figures and objects in some of the Blue and Rose period works, the forms in this portrait seem almost sculpted, and indeed they were influenced by the artist's discovery of archaic Iberian sculpture. One can almost sense Picasso's increased interest in depicting a human face as a series of flat planes. Stein claimed that she sat for the artist some ninety times, and although that may be an exaggeration, Picasso certainly wrestled long and hard with painting her head. After approaching it in various ways, abandoning each attempt, one day he painted it out altogether, declaring "I can't see you any longer when I look," and soon abandoned the picture. It was only some time later, and without the model in front of him, that he completed the head.
This painting was shocking even to Picasso's closest artist friends both for its content and its execution. The subject matter of nude women was not in itself unusual, but the fact that Picasso painted the women as prostitutes in aggressively sexual postures was novel. Picasso's studies of Iberian and tribal art is most evident in the faces of three of the women, which are rendered as mask-like, suggesting that their sexuality is not just aggressive, but also primitive. Picasso also went further with his spatial experiments by abandoning the Renaissance illusion of three-dimensionality, instead presenting a radically flattened picture plane that is broken up into geometric shards, something Picasso borrowed in part from Paul Cézanne's brushwork. For instance, the leg of the woman on the left is painted as if seen from several points of view simultaneously; it is difficult to distinguish the leg from the negative space around it making it appear as if the two are both in the foreground.
The painting was widely thought to be immoral when it was finally exhibited in public in 1916. Braque is one of the few artists who studied it intently in 1907, leading directly to his Cubist collaborations with Picasso. Because Les Demoiselles predicted some of the characteristics of Cubism, the work is considered proto or pre Cubism.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Pablo Picasso
- 166 viewsMind Blowing Documentaries - PicassoOur PickTrailer. Directed by Michael Blackwood
- 33k viewsMind Blowing Documentaries - PicassoIncludes interview with famous Picasso Biographer: John Richardson
- 458k viewsPablo Picasso - Masters of the Modern EraBy British art critic Alastair Sooke
- 4k viewsOverview by Prof Ian AaronsonOur PickHighlights of Picasso's career, particular emphasis on Cubist years
- 1.5M viewsHow To Understand A PicassoOur PickConcise and down-to-earth intro to looking at art of Picasso by NerdWrite
- 34k viewsSeven Women, Seven WorksOverview centred around the main muses of Picasso's life
- 29k viewsPablo Picasso - Cubism and moreHighlighted works from whole career, but emphasis on Cubism
- 54k viewsStill-Life with Chair Caning (1912) by smARThistoryConversation around the artwork
- 5k viewsNude, Green Leaves, and Bust (1932) by T.J. ClarkIncluding comparison to Picasso's 'Nude on a Black Sofa' (1932) and other artworks
- 40k viewsGuernica (1937) by Simon SchamaOur PickFocus on the Picasso during his creation of Guernica. Part of The Power of Art series
- 7k viewsGuernica (1937) by T.J. ClarkAnalysis by the Picasso scholar
- Picasso at WorkOur PickA collection of footage of Picasso painting
- 13k viewsThe Rivalry between Picasso and MatisseKirk Varnedoe and John Elderfield discuss Matisse-Picasso exhibition at MoMA
- 1k viewsPicasso and Braque Symposium: Un-Self-ContainedPicasso follows Cézanne's innovations to create Cubism - by art historian Charles Palermo
- 4k viewsAn Anecdotal History of Les Demoiselles d'AvignonInteresting perspective on and around the painting by art historian Beth Gersh-Nesic
- 2k viewsLes Demoiselles d'Avignon LectureFleming Museum Director and Picasso scholar Janie Cohen discusses the role of colonial photography in Africa on the artwork
- 93k viewsSurviving Picasso Trailer (1996)Director James Ivory's fictional adaptation of Picasso's life, starring Anthony Hopkins
- Pablo Picasso: Lives and LovesThe Art Story Blog: The many women and muses of Picasso
- Picasso: Works Entering the Public Domain in 2019Copyrights expire in the United States for a number of Picasso artworks
- Defining Modern ArtTake a look at the big picture of modern art, and Picasso's role in it
- Timeline of Most Important Modern ArtPicasso's 3 important works are a part of the overall history of Modern Art
- A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, 1881-1906By John Richardson
- A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel, 1907-1916By John Richardson
- A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932By John Richardson
- Picasso (Dover Fine Art, History of Art)By Gertrude Stein
- Life with PicassoOur PickBy Françoise Gilot
- Picasso & Lump: A Dachshund's OdysseyBy David Douglas Duncan, Paloma Picasso Thevenet
- Picasso: 200 Masterpieces from 1898 to 1972Our PickBy Pablo Picasso, Bernard Picasso, Bernice Rose
- Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973: Genius of the CenturyBy Walther F. Ingo
- Picasso and the war years, 1937-1945 (1999)Guggenheim Exhibition Catalogue / By Steven A. Nash, Robert Rosenblum, Brigitte Baer
- Picasso and American ArtBy Michael FitzGerald, Julia May Boddewyn
- Picasso Line Drawings and PrintsBy Pablo Picasso
- The Artist Pablo PicassoBy Robert Hughes / Time Magazine / June 8, 1998
- Artists on Picasso: Then and NowJuly 19, 2007
- Simon Schama's Power of Art series, on Picasso's Guernica
- Picasso: a documentary by Luciano Emmer
- Le Mystere Picasso: a documentary by Henri-Georges Clouzot
- Visit to Picasso: A Documentary by Paul HaesaertOur Pick
- Surviving Picasso (1996)Story of Picasso's lover Françoise Gilot
- Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies2008 Documentary about the beginnings of Cubism
- David Bowie Music Video