Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was an outstanding Spanish painter, printmaker and sculptor, one of the brightest personalities in history of the 20th century art, representative of Cubism, one of the inventors of collage.

Early years

Pablo, Diego, José, Francisco de Paula, Juan Nepomuceno, Maria de los Remedios, Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad was born on October 25, 1881 in Malaga. He started drawing from early on, receiving lessons from his father Don Jose Ruiz y Blasco, who was a painter. The boy created his first serious work in 8 years – “Picador”.

Picasso studied at school at A Coruña (1894 – 1895) and then enrolled School of Fine Arts at Barcelona. Initially he signed as Ruiz Blasco but soon chose his mother’s surname Picasso. In September 1897 he left for Madrid where successfully passed exams to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando.

Pablo returned to Barcelona in June 1891, where he joined “El quarte gats” – a meeting point of artistic Bohemia, where his first exhibition was held. In Barcelona the artist became close friends with Carlos Casagemas and Jaime Sabartès.

Blue and rose periods

In 1900 Picasso together with his friend Casagemas moved to Paris. There he first encountered with Impressionism. The painter’s life was quite difficult at that time and suicide of his friend Casagemas had deeply affected Pablo, forcing him to develop a peculiar manner, later named “blue period”. It was named after the predominating colors of the master’s palette. The elongated shapes of figures on the canvases reminded of El Greco heritage, as well as general monumentality of visual language. Subjects of senility and death in the works of that period were accompanied with images of poverty, melancholy and sadness; people’s motion is slowed-down, as if they’re listening to themselves (“Absinthe Drinker”, 1901, “Rendezvous”, 1900, “The Tragedy”, 1903The piece that marked transition between “blue” and “rose” period was “Girl on the ball” (1905).

In 1904 Pablo Picasso settled in Paris in well-known artistic commune “Le Bateau-Lavoir”. New, “rose period” ousted depressive notes of the previous one, switching over to more vivid scenes of the theatrical and circus life. The artist preferred combinations of rose and gold or rose and grey hues depicting romantic yet solitary life of itinerant actors (comedians, dancers and acrobats), like we see in “The Acrobat’s Family with a Monkey” (1905).

Proto-cubism and Analytic Cubism

After experimenting with color and representing mood Picasso shifted to analysis of form: conscious deformation of shapes (“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, 1907), one-way interpretation of Paul Cezanne’s system and interest in African sculpture led him to absolutely new manner. Together with Georges Braque, whom he had met in 1907, Pablo Picasso founded Cubism – the artistic movement that rejected naturalistic traditions and imitating function of art.

Picasso paid special attention to dividing objects into geometric shapes (“Factory at Horta de Ebro”), exaggerated and decompose volumes (“Portraits of Fernande Olivier”, 1909) into facets, which were continued into the space he considered to be a solid body itself, limited by the painting surface (“Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler”, 1910).

Perspective disappeared, coloring tended towards monochromity and though the initial aim of cubism was in depicting space and masses with methods that would be more convincing than traditional ones, the author’s pieces of that time were rather enigmatic.

Synthetic cubism

To return connection with reality Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque introduced lettering, elements of tromp l’oeil and rough materials into their canvases – wallpapers, fragments of newspapers, objects (like matchbox, for instance). Still lifes were prevailing at that period, mainly with musical instruments, pipes, notes and other attributes of bohemian lifestyle in 1910s. A sort of “cryptograms” appeared in compositions – coded phone numbers, addresses, initial of names etc.

Braque also inspired Pablo to try his hand in collage that completed (“Guitar and violin”, 1913, “Portrait of a girl”, 1914). The “synthetic period” of cubism was also defined by harmonized coloring and balanced compositions (often oval ones).
All in all, the painter distanced from Cubism soon after the beginning of World War I, though he kept on applying some cubistic features in his major works up to 1921 (“Three musicians”, 1921).


In 1925 one of the most complicated and uneven periods of Pablo Picasso creative life began. After epicurean refinement of 1920s (Dance) Picasso revealed interest in more irrational world of subconsciousness, mainly under the influence of surrealist poets that emerged after the war. At that time the artist depicted mysterious strained creatures (“Seated Bather”, 1930), screaming, shapeless and inflated-like (“Woman in an Armchair”, 1927, “Nude Standing by the Sea”, 1929) or presented in metaphorical and aggressively eroctial images (“Figures by the Sea”, 1931).

Stylistically it was rather diverse period (“Girl Before a Mirror”, 1932). Female characters were the main motifs of Picasso’s surrealistic compositions, probably because of his difficult relations with woman – he frequently quarreled with his wife, Russian ballet dancer, Olga Khohlova and in 1932 met Marie-Thérèse Walter, who inspired the master on unconcealed sensuality in his works (“Mirror”, 1932). She also posed Pablo for some calm and noble sculptures during their stay at his mansion in Boisgeloup – busts and nudes, in which certain influence of Henri Matisse was obvious (“Woman lying down”, 1932). Among other Picasso’s sculptural pieces of 1930s we should mention some statuettes of animals and surrealistic-like figures (“A man with a bouquet”, 1934) and especially close to abstract art metal constrictions, created in artistic collaboration with Spanish sculptor Julio Gonzalez. Apart from that the artist rendered a series of illustrations for Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, which witnesses that classical art never stopped being of the orienteers for him.

“Guernica” and pacifism

In 1937 Picasso’s political sympathies were on the side of republicans, who fought in Spain (series of aquatints “The Dream and Lie of Franco”, printed as postcards in 1937 and scattered from planes over francoist’s positions). In April 1937 enemy’s aviation threw bombs on Guernica – Basques’ cultural and political center. In two months Pablo displayed his “Guernica” in Spanish republican pavilion at the International Exhibition in Paris. Dramatic contrast of light and dark colors associated with flashes of fire.

The master’s fear of threat of barbarity impended over Europe, fear of war and fascism, he expressed indirectly, with uneasy and obscure atmosphere of his canvases (“Night fishing at Antibes”, 1939), sarcasm and bitterness that can’t be observed only in his kids’ portraits of that time (“Maya with her doll”, 1938). And again another Pablo’s muse, Dora Maar, with whom he became close in the late 1930s, appeared in his paintings – “Weeping woman”, 1937.

Human appearance was ultimately (if not to say cruelly) deformed, combining in burlesque forms, strikingly different from clear rationalism of Cubism (“The serenade”, 1942). Nazi’s occupation didn’t force Pablo Picasso to leave Paris and didn’t enfeeble his activity: portraits, sculptures (“Man with a Lamb”, 1943 – 1944) and still lifes (“Still life with a Steer’s skull”) depict the desperate mood of the epoch.

In 1944 Picasso entered French communistic party, yet he didn’t immerse himself into its ideology to express it in his historical compositions, as probably his comrades had expected. Humanistic ideas were represented in pieces of 1950s, first of all in the widest-known “Dove of Peace” (1950).

Afterwar period

Postwar heritage of Pablo Picasso was influenced by his relations with young Francoise Guilot, whom he had met in 1945 and who born him two kids. Hence episodes of family-life started appearing rather often. The painter left Paris for South of France, which climate prompted creating very Mediterranean by atmosphere, idyllic pictures with revived antique spirit, that are now preserved in the Antibes museum (“Joy of life”, 1946).

In autumn of 1946 Picasso started working at the Madoura factory in Vallauris; interested in issues of crafts and handwork, he executed numerous dishes, decorative plates, anthropomorphic vases and statuettes of animals or mythological creatures (“Centaur”, 1958), archaic and witty.

Sculptures of that period are especially important (“Pregnant woman”, 1950). For some of them the master applied assemblage technique, combining various random materials (“Goat”, 1950, “Monkey”, 1952). In 1953 Pablo and Francoise broke up – that was hard emotional crisis for Picasso, which echoed in a significant series of drawings, done between 1953 and 1954. The artist expressed the bitterness of senility and his own skepticism about painting in ironic manner. In 1954 he met Jacqueline Roque, who would become his wife in 1958 – Picasso depicted her in a series of beautiful portraits.

Last decades

Pablo Picasso’s pieces of last 15 years were diverse by subjects and artistic quality (“The Cannes studio”, 1956). Return to Spanish motifs were rather obvious (“Portrait of a painter, after El Greco”, 1950), especially theme of bullfights, captured in numerous Goya-like drawings and watercolors (1959 – 1958). Unsatisfied with the limits of his own legacy, Picasso often referred to masterpieces of other painters –“Women on the Banks of the Seine, after Courbet” (1950), “Las Meninas” (1957), “The Luncheon on the Grass” (1960).

Pablo Picasso died on April 8,1973 in Mougins, France.