Pablo Picasso is one of the greatest visual artists of the twentieth century. Born in Spain in 1881, he later moved to France where he spent most of his productive years. Though the public remember him as a painter, he also excelled as a sculptor, graphic artist and ceramist. He gained reputation on the basis of his “technical virtuosity, enormous versatility, incredible originality and prolificity”. (The Columbia Encyclopedia)
Though a naturally gifted artist, Picasso honed his skills at the Royal Academy of Art in Barcelona at the turn of the twentieth century. He then moved to Paris as the city was famous for its art patronage. He lived here for the next four decades of his life which was also the most creative and productive phase in his artistry. He produced such works as The Old Guitarist (1903). This early phase is noted by biographers as Picasso’s ‘blue period’, typifying the liberal use of the color as well as the melancholy mood carried by the paintings. This was followed by his ‘rose period’ which was represented by “a lighter palette and greater lyricism, with subject matter often drawn from circus life.” During this most exciting phase in his career Picasso interacted with many of his contemporaries such as Apollinaire, Gertrude Stein, Matisse, Braque, etc. He also experimented with sculpture during this time. (Geiser 112)
By the time Picasso was nearly thirty, he had begun showcasing his unique Cubist expression. Starting with Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (which is currently displayed in Museum of Modern Art in New York), Picasso began to challenge conventional rules of art. Picasso attempted to fuse the style of Cezanne and African sculpture into his artistic sensibility. Thus his works featured fragmented or distorted human forms, giving birth to Cubism as we know it today. His contemporaries such as Braque also practiced and developed Cubism and modern abstract painting. Some of Picasso’s famous works in this genre are the Female Nude (1910) (currently displayed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and a Woman’s Head (1909). Picasso also experimented with techniques such as collage and papiercolle. (Blunt 45)
As his artistic career progressed, Picasso reinvented classical themes and created some of his nude masterpieces. These works tried to integrate antique styles with cubist expression. Some of these works are considered under the surrealist genre, marked by their intellectual depth. As Picasso witnessed the unraveling of the two World War Wars, his artistic conception also evolved to reflect these geo-political developments. The famous painting Guernica (currently displayed in Queen Sophia Center of Art) is a statement of dissent against fascism and war. Towards the last stages of his life, Picasso turned to fantasy and comic inventions. He also produced many notable sculptures, ceramic works and stage designs. He drew upon the ideas of artists such as Delacroix and Velazquez during this phase. Some of his final masterpieces include Rape of the Sabine (1963) and Young Bather with Sand Shovel (1971). Picasso breathed his last on April 8, 1973. (The Columbia Encyclopedia)
• Blunt, Anthony, and Phoebe Pool. Picasso, the Formative Years: A Study of His Sources. New York: Graphic Society, 1962.
• Geiser, Bernhard, and Pablo Picasso. Picasso: Fifty-Five Years of His Graphic Work. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1955.
• “Picasso, Pablo.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2012.