I remember growing up thumbing through some art books and going to museums and coming across some Pablo Picasso paintings that I really found out that I enjoyed very much. I am really only familiar with two or three of his paintings, and one of them I learned was painted during his “blue period.” That painting was of course “The Old Guitarist” from 1903. I am an amateur musicologist so one of my hobbies is music and music history and so the painting represents a lot to me: with it’s dominant color being blue it could represent the blues genre. The way he’s strumming the guitar, it kind of looks like how someone might strum a classical song. Or a blues song even. He painted it in 1903, and so looking at it also makes me imagine the American roots stuff of that era. Another painting of his that I really like is “Three Musicians” from 1921. I think it’s a really colorful painting and in a way reminds me of the jazz era.
On October 25, 1881 Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso – Pablo Picasso – was born to Don Jose Ruiz y Blasco and Maria Picasso y Lopez. He was a painter, co-founding the Cubist movement and he was also a sculptor. His dad was also a painter and taught at the School of Crafts and ran a museum. He was born in Malaga, Spain.
He became interested in drawing at a very early age and painting realistically throughout his childhood and teenage years. “Piz”, which is a short form of the Spanish word for pencil “lapiz”, was his first word according to his mom and at seven years old his dad taught him figure drawing and oil painting.
Picasso’s family moved to LA Coruna, Spain in 1891 where his dad started teaching at the Instituto da Guarda art school and in 1892 Picasso joined his dad at the art school as a student. He attended the school for three years where he received a classical art education.
In 1895 Picasso’s father started to work at the La Lonja Art Academy in Barcelona joined once again by Picasso. With help from his uncles, he decided to move to Madrid, Spain in 1897. He dropped out of school around this time because his teachers couldn’t help him solve the technical problems he had. He wanted to be more like the classical painters Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Diego Velazquez. No matter how great he was at such a young age, he couldn’t match the masters.
He realized he would not progress while in Madrid so he decided to quit his studies and with his father’s aid he was able to have two of his first paintings “The First Communion” and “Science and Charity” included in a large exhibition which made him a recognized artist in Spain, and he wasn’t even seventeen years old yet!
The organic forms that we associate Picasso with today were due to what he learned from a Catalan architect by the name of Antoni Gaudi when he lived in Barcelona, Spain. Picasso went from being “Picasso the traditionalist” to “Picasso the Great Innovator.” Also while staying in Barcelona he would visit the Els Quatre Gats Cafe (“The Four Cats”) often. On his visits to the café he met and befriended several artists that regularly made visits to Paris, France for work. Picasso soon followed suit.
At the turn of the 20th century, Paris had become the center of avant-garde art and Pablo Picasso had become an avant-garde artist and while still living in Barcelona he helped found a magazine with a writer by the name of Francesco de Asis Soler called “Arte Joven” (young art). When the magazine folded, Pablo moved to Paris.
Pablo Picasso was like the famous singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in a sense, as in his style of painting changed a lot over the years, just like Bob Dylan’s musical styles changed a lot over the years as well. Between 1899 and 1900 his painting style changed tremendously from a very dry style to a romantic style. The Picasso we know today was just starting to flourish. Some artworks by him from that era would remind you of work done by Henri de Toulouse-Latrec or Cornelis Theodorus Maria Van Dongen.
Picasso and an artist friend of his by the name of Carlos Casagemas got there first studio together in Montemarte, Paris, France in 1900. Around this time Picasso used a technique of oil painting that’s a bit blurred and reminds one of soft pastels. “Dancer In Blue” was painted around this time and shows off his fascination with the Paris night life. Another painting of the time is “Le Moulin Galette” which was an homage to Toulouse-Latrec.
Picasso changed his painting technique to divisionism in 1901. He also experimented with expressionism around this time. He also began to paint circus artists.
He found a way to use his imagination, poetry skills and ability to spot artistic innovations and use them in his work with modern art. While in Paris he had some difficult years where he didn’t earn enough from his work.
His “Blue Period” began around 1901 and ended about 1904. This was a time when he used the color blue as the dominant color in his work. At 20 years old he was an accomplished classicist painter and he was also dissatisfied with traditional art. Picasso and his contemporaries were experiencing the after-shock of an artistic eruption by the name of Vincent Van Gogh which hurdled the art world towards abstract art. Inspired by this, the blue period marked the end of his development and his work eventually would culminate into cubism and the first steps to modern abstract art.
On an interesting side note, he started painting in blue because his friend Carlos Casagemas committed suicide which caused Picasso some trauma which he found expression for in a series of sentimental paintings that he painted in blue. He also lived in poverty during part of his stay in Paris which may have contributed to the melancholy paintings.
Picasso’s next period was his “Rose Period,” which was an era where pink dominated his paintings, however he still continued his blue period work until his cubist period which followed his rose period. It wasn’t until the period after that – his “neo-classicist” period did his work begin to show playfulness that would remain a feature in his work the rest of his life. Picasso also had a “black period” which occurred from 1906 to 1907 and is an era where his work was heavily influenced by African art. One famous piece from this period is “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”
Even though his blue period seems to be more popular, his rose period has greater importance to art history. In 1904 his work regained it’s romantic style with paintings that had warmer colors in them – many in pink, hence why the art world called it his “rose period.” The most expensive painting in the world from May 2004 to June 2006 was Picasso’s rose-era painting “Boy With Pipe” from 1905. It sold for a whopping $104,000,000!!
A constant theme in Pablo Picasso’s blue and rose periods was the desolation of social outsiders: prisoners, beggars, circus people or poverty stricken people. Paintings of the lower classes of society was a conscious move towards the political left. He also became commercially successful during his rose period.
One very interesting trait of Picasso’s was how he was able to emulate styles and methods of other painters and still create original paintings. For example: Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh were the influence for “The Death of Casagemas” and “Portrait of Jaime Sabartes (The Beer Glass)” and the work of Paul Gauguin were his influence for “The Absinthe Drinker.” He enjoyed imitating other artists like an actor enjoys portraying different people.
His Cubism period lasted from around 1909 to about 1912 and it refers to a style of painting he developed with Georges Braque using monochrome brownish and neutral colors. A further development in the genre was where cut paper pieces or even parts of newspapers were cut out and pasted into compositions – making it the first time the art of “collage” was used in fine art.
After World War I, Picasso was in his “Neo-classical” era. His works from this era were influenced by the work of renaissance painter Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael) and French neoclassical painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. In the 1930s, the minotaur became a common motif in his work. What is probably his most famous painting was painted in this era and was inspired by the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. This painting is called “Guernica.”
In the 1950s his style changed yet again: He made a series of works influenced by Diego Velazquez, Fracisco Goya, Nicolas Poussin, Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet and Eugene Delacroix. He was also commissioned to sculpt a 50-foot high sculpture in Chicago, Illinois known as the “Chicago Picasso.” It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in downtown Chicago and was unveiled in 1967. He even donated it to the city, refusing the $100,000 offer the city offered him!
His final works were more daring, colorful and expressive. Some were even dismissed by most as pornographic fantasies of an impotent old man or as slapdash works from an artist who was past his prime.
He passed away from a heart attack at 91 years of age in Mougins, France on April 8, 1973 while entertaining friends with his wife Jacqueline, who committed suicide 13 years later at the age of 59 because she was very devastated and lonely after Picasso’s death. His final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore.”
During his lifetime, Picasso had produced around 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, 12,000 drawings, and numerous tapestries and rugs. There are now museums that house his work exclusively: Musee Picasso in Paris, France; Museo Picasso Malaga in Malaga, Spain and Museu Picasso in Barcelona, Spain. He is also featured on several postage stamps around the world.
The following are some of his paintings:
The Old Guitarist The Three Musicians
Dancer In Blue Death of Casaemas
Guernica Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
Science and Charity The First Communion
This is an original article, but some research was made while writing it.
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BBC On This Day | 8 | 1973: Art Master Picasso dies. BBC.
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Carsten-Peter Warncke and Ingo F. Walther. Pablo Picasso biography.
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