Pablo Picasso is known for his many artistic talents; painting, sculpting, drawing, graphics and ceramics. His art forms changed so often because of his intense responses to life. Picasso’s constant search for understanding “made him the leader in expressing the complexities of the 1900s” (International Arts Portal, para.1, 2005). The artist was drawn to tension and conflict, searching on the subconscious level of human emotion through his art. Picasso was not just an artist however; he was a man who had experienced the many facets of life. Picasso loved women, and the many emotions he felt through relationships as expressed through his art. He was a passionate political activist and a loving friend to many. Picasso’s life, spent primarily between Spain and Paris, was filled with memorable and inspiring moments which can be seen through his art; however this essay focuses on the few prominent moments that are contributed to his most popular artistic stages.
Pablo Picasso was born in 1881 to Don Jose and Dona Maria. Picasso’s father was an enormous influence on the artist; he acted as Picasso’s mentor (Mallen, 2007). Don Jose was a strong influence on Picasso’s art as demonstrated by his early artwork which depicted pigeons; which was what his father kept as subjects for his own paintings (Mallen, 2007).
In 1892, Picasso becomes a student of the “sculptor and painter, Isidoro Brocos” (sect.11, 2007). It is Brocos who informally introduces Picasso to watercolor techniques (2007).
By 1894 Picasso had established himself as a young artist, in journals and exhibits in A Coruna (2007). Picasso began focusing on transformation in his paintings when he was fourteen years old; which could have been associated with the death of his sister which occurred around that time. Picasso saw his paintings as a way of transforming himself and everything or everyone around him.
The artist demonstrated his natural love of all things and unbiased nature by befriending people of all ages and nationalities.
The artist had an “insatiable appetite for examining the work of others” (Mallen, sect.23, 2007); he was known to take pieces of others work that influenced him and craft it to his vision. Perhaps the most significant moments in Picasso’s life which demonstrates the extent of his talent, is in 1895 when his father Don Jose gives up his brushes and pallet to Picasso in a gesture that the student has surpassed the teacher (Mallen, 2007).
Picasso’s love of life, friends and family influenced his work. Picasso was passionate about his friendships; when close friend Casagemas commits suicide in 1901, it began Picasso’s Blue Period which was an expression of his sadness (Voorhies, 2004). Picasso wrote “I began to paint in blue, when I realized that Casademas had died” (Olga’s Gallery, 2007).
A young mistress of Picasso’s, Dora Maar, once stated that the artist had five factors which explained his way of life and artistic style; the woman he was in love with, the poet(s) who served as a catalyst, the home, his circle of friends and his dog (as cited in Miller, para.3, 2001).
African sculpture influenced Picasso. The African influence depicted in his cubist art was dubbed his “Negro Period” (Olga’s Gallery, 2007)as seen in his first Cubist painting “Les demoiselles d’ Avignon”. The majority of Picasso’s friends were disappointed by his new cubist experimentation with the exception of fellow artist and friend Braque and the art dealer Kahnweiler were excited (2007). Braque and Picasso explored cubist possibilities together. In 1909, Picasso “gives up a central perspective and splits forms up into facet-like stereo-metric shapes” (sect.1), which was the beginning of the artist’s new stage of analytical cubism. The “Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table” was the original work which gave way to Picasso’s analytical cubism period. Picasso had many relationships during this period, which influenced his work. In 1912 Picasso, along with his friend Braque, experimented with “still lifes of cut and-pasted scraps of material” or collages which could be seen in “Still-Life with Chair Caning” this is considered Picasso’s synthetic cubism period (Olga’s Gallery, sect. 6, 2007).
Picasso’s “life, mood, state of mind” and art was changed dramatically during World War I, as seen in “Pierrot” (Olga’s Gallery, sect. 6, 2007). The people in his life were greatly affected by the war and Picasso became more of a realist because of it. The art dealer, Kahnweiler, had his gallery confiscated while fellow artists and friends Braque and Derain were sent off to war (Olga’s Gallery, 2007.).
Big changes came for Picasso in 1916 when Jean Cocteau, the poet, and Picasso traveled to Rome and worked on décor for the Russian ballet. It was at this time when Picasso fell in love with his future bride Olga Khokhlova who he would marry in 1918 (Olga’s Gallery, 2007).
Once married Picasso preferred the classic and surreal (Classicism and Surrealism), such as “The Lovers”. His first child Paolo was born in 1921 and he began working with the mother and child theme as in the past (Olga’s Gallery, 2007).
While Picasso’s fame rose, he on the other hand felt suppressed by such fame. This was in contradiction to how his wife saw it and they began to have marital problems for which Picasso acted on by having an affair with his son’s seventeen year old nurse (Olga’s Gallery, 2007). Picasso worked out his stress by experimenting with sculptures using items such as “shirts, floor-rags, nails and string” (Olga’s Gallery, sect.8).
Olga and Picasso ended up in divorce; his mistress gave him a child and then further down the road, he fell in love with Dora Marr (2007). All this, especially the divorce, put Picasso in a financial crunch, which was demonstrated in his art by snorting, dying bulls. It would seem that Picasso was searching for happiness and he was feeling unsatisfied with life.
Picasso was very proactive in politics. When asked two paint a mural for the Spanish government, he originally planned to paint “a painter in his studio”; but after hearing of the destruction of Guernica by the Germans he created his own version of the destruction in “Guernica”. Demonstrating his political beliefs, Picasso decreed that the painting was not to go to the Spanish government until fascism was ended, thus the painting stayed in New York until 1981, forty years after its creation.
In another political stance, Picasso passed out postcards of “Guernica” to Germans, when Germany was occupying Paris in 1940. When asked by the Nazi soldiers, after receiving the postcard from Picasso, “Did you do this?” Picasso simply replied, “No, you did” (Olga’s Gallery, sect.9, 2007).
After the liberation of Paris, Picasso joins the communist party due to their success against the German Nazis and was an “active participant of the Peace Movement” (Olga’s Gallery, sect. 10, 2007). Much of Picasso’s art during and soon after World War II depicted the horrors of Germany at the hands of the Nazi’s. Picasso created paintings based on reports of the war (sect. 10, 2007). Picasso used his art as a way to communicate his humanitarian political beliefs (sect.10).
Picasso passed away in 1973. He was a passionate man, who used his art to express himself to the world. As an artistic genius he created over twenty thousand works of art expressing “intellectual, political, social and amorous messages” (Voorhies, 2004), through styles such as cubism, neoclassicism, surrealism and expressionism. Picasso lived his life searching for the unconscious emotions underlying the most dramatic events; while being inspired by the ones he loved.
Mallen, E. (2007). Biography. Online Picasso Project. Retrieved February 13, 2007 from http://picasso.tamu.edu/picasso/BioSearch?Keywords=Picasso&SearchStyle=continuous&SearchBy=season&StartYear=1881&StartSeason=1&StartMonth=0&StartDay=0&EndYear=1973&EndSeason=1&EndMonth=0&EndDay=0&Sort=ascending&CurrentItem=1
Miller, A. (2001).Two Worlds as One. Einstein, Picasso Space, Time, and the Beauty That Causes Havoc. (ch.1). Retrieved February 13, 2007 from http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/miller-01einstein.html?_r=2&oref=slogin
Olga’s Gallery. (Updated 2007). Pablo Picasso. Retrieved February 13, 2007 from http://www.abcgallery.com/P/picasso/picassobio.html
Voorhies, J. (2004). Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pica/hd_pica.htm