17 September, 2018

Famous Artists - Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was a Spanish painter born in Malaga, Spain. He's credited as being one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

From a young age, Picasso's ability to draw was evident when he would always ask his parents for a pencil. It wasn't until he was 10, that his journey into art started.

Picasso - The Prodigy 

His talent for drawing burst into life around the age of 10 and his father, an artist and professor, took him on as a pupil. At the age of 14, he was granted an exemption and enrolled into the prestigious School of Fine Arts after a remarkable entrance exam. 

Two years later, he attended the Royal Academy of San Fernando but became frustrated with their focus on classical techniques. He would often skip classes to walk around the city and find new inspiration.

After moving back to Barcelona, he broke away from his classical training and embarked upon a life of experimentation. 

Picasso's Many Talents

A man of many talents, he mastered an array of art styles and became renowned for his ability to reinvent himself to the extent that he was considered radical. 

"Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it." - Pablo Picasso

When you explore Picasso through his paintings, you can see how he went through periods of art styles. Art historians break his career down into the following periods:

  • Blue period - suffering from depression, he captures the problems within society e.g. illness, poverty and misery by using blue as the main colour.
  • Rose period - after overcoming depression, Picasso used warmer colours.
  • Cubism - The artist would analyse the subject off-canvas and then re-create them using numerous shapes or lines on the canvas. 
  • Classical Period - Picasso embraced his teachings and depicted subjects in their true way.
  • Surrealism - This art style depicts images from the unconscious mind of the artist. Essentially, it's true thought in an honest and fearless way. 

Popular Artworks by Picasso 

Picasso was extremely prolific as a painter as he created over 50,000 pieces of Art. Here, we outline some of his most famous works.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)

A benchmark for cubism, this artwork took 9 months to complete and became famous for rejecting the traditions of an artwork's composition.  

The main talking points about Les Demoiselles d’Avignon concern the use of distortion. Resembling jagged edges or shards, they portray 5 prostitutes from the famous Avignon in Barcelona, Spain.

Trivia -  You can find Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Blue Nude (1902)

This work helped to propel Picasso into a new light because of his ability to capture societal problems in his paintings

Painted during the blue period of Picasso's career, he's used the colour blue to create a powerful image.

The subject of Blue Nude is a young model who has her back to us. The reason why Picasso chose this specific angle is to show her rejection of society. In addition, the subject is also holding her knees which can suggest she is looking for a sense of security or is in fear.

Trivia - Blue Nude is located at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The Old Guitarist (1903)

Another painting from the blue period, The Old Guitarist is regarded as Picasso's most striking. What inspired this painting was the suicide of Picasso's close friend, Casagemas.

What's interesting about this artwork is the guitar which Picasso has painted in a brighter colour. This distinction in colouration can suggest the guitar is the focal point of the painting. 

The figure of the guitarist is one of weakness, hunger, illness and possible blindness as his eyes are closed. Debates on The Old Guitarist suggests the guitar is being shown as a sign of hope in dark times.

Trivia - The Old Guitarist is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Three Musicians (1921)

Picasso returned to high-synthetic cubism with Three Musicians. This style is where the artist uses brighter colours and simpler shapes to create a collage effect. 

One of the inspirations behind Three Musicians came from Commedia dell'arte, an early form of theatre from Italy.

The characters are:

  • A masked Pierrot on the left playing the clarinet.
  • A singing monk who is holding a sheet of music on the right.
  • A masked Harlequin who is playing the guitar in the middle.

Trivia - Three Musicians is located at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Girl Before a Mirror (1932)

The subject of Girl Before a Mirror is said to be Marie Therese Walter who was the mistress of Picasso.

A popular subject in his paintings around the time, it depicts a young woman who, on the left, is made-up and on the right, looks darkened and twisted. 

This painting is interpreted in numerous ways and when you look closely at the image and its symbols etc., you can see how it can change the outlook of the painting. For example, you can even compare it to day and night.

Trivia - Girl Before a Mirror is on display at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Final Words

With a talent recognised as early as 10, Picasso lived an extraordinary life and created some of the most famous paintings the world has ever seen.

His ability to master the different art forms lead him to create his own, Cubism. Pioneered with Georges Braque, Picasso was able to push the boundaries of art even further by creating a new way for us to express ourselves. 

Strongly affected by his emotions, his venture into Surrealism helped to make the real the realities of war. His painting "Guernica" became a symbol of the movement and illustrated his ability to astound us again, again and again. 

What are your favourite Picasso paintings? Hit the share button and let us know!

Missed our article on Van Gogh? Check it out here: 5 Famous Paintings By Van Gogh.

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The Story of Pablo Picasso
The Story of Pablo Picasso
The Story of Pablo Picasso
The Story of Pablo Picasso
The Story of Pablo Picasso
The Story of Pablo Picasso