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Pablo Picasso is one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century not only because of his brilliant paintings but because of the way he revolutionized the modern art scene by co-creating the Cubist movement. This, in addition to his masterpieces from various periods of his life, (The Old Guitarist from the Blue Period and Boy with a Pipe from the Rose Period, to name a few) encapsulate the life of a man who was a genius with the brush and who contributed generously to the collective art scene of the early to mid-20th century.
Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in the city of Málaga, which resides in the Andalusian region of Spain. His father, Don José Ruiz, was a prominent influence on his life, as he was also a painter – one of the naturalistic depictions of birds and nature. Since Picasso was seven years old, his father provided him with formal artistic training and as such instructed him in the arts of previous masters. He informed his son, Pablo that proper training required that he copy and build upon the great works that came before him, as well as the studying of the body with the aid of live models and plaster casts.
Pablo Picasso soon became enchanted with art and immediately began to suffer in school due to his devotion for painting. When the family moved to A Coruña in 1891, Don Ruiz became a Professor at the School of Fine Arts, and Pablo continued to hone his craft. By 1895, he was sent to the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, which is the country’s leading art school, and it is here he began to grow into the recognizable Picasso we are all familiar with.
Of course, his schooling didn’t help much – Pablo Picasso stopped attending classes soon after enrolment, but Madrid itself provided the artist with the inspiration and environment he would need to produce his famous works.
Pablo Picasso’s artistic life flows in a series of periods, one of the most famous and recognizable being the Blue Period, which began in 1901. This period is characterized by painting almost monochromatically in shades of blue and blue-green, while only seldom utilizing warmer colors. These works were inspired by Spain and composed mostly in Barcelona and Paris, and are, to this day, representative of some of his most famous and popular works (such as The Old Guitarist, Woman with Folded Arms, La Vie and The Tragedy). Most of the Blue Period is notable for having significantly melancholic themes, such as poverty, loneliness, and despair.
The Rose period is a shift in the opposite direction – one to gaiety and festivity, and it usually incorporated characters such as clowns, harlequins, and carnival performers. The color scheme, instead of a monochromic one, bursts into vivid reds, oranges, pinks and earth tones and represents much more pleasant thematic imagery. Included in the Rose Period is Picasso’s highest selling painting, Boy with a Pipe and joins other famous paintings (such as The Actor, Lady with a Fan, Harlequin Family and Boy Leading a Horse).
After this period, Picasso’s art morphs beautifully into the Cubist period, which he co-developed with his friend Georges Braque, which utilized a brownish, monochrome palate. Both Braque and Picasso had a desire to ‘take apart’ objects and to ‘analyze’ them according to their shapes and sizes, abstracting them down to essential forms. One of Picasso’s most famous pieces, and most recognizable as a Picasso, is Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which features five prostitutes in provocative positions, fully employing Picasso’s newfound cubist style.
Continuing on and developing the cubist style, Picasso painted one of the best anti-war paintings in the Western artistic canon, Guernica, which depicts the events of the bombing of the city of Guernica by German and Italian warplanes, during the Spanish Civil War. This haunting piece, not only exceptional in style and composition as well as being breathtaking to look at, is believed to be credited with helping the world see and understand the horrors of the Civil War, bringing the plight of Spain into the world stage.
Guernica displays unambiguous horror, and its anti-war message is clear, from the screaming, frantic faces of humans and livestock, to the blank, lifeless monochrome gray palate (directly comparable, of course, to the humanity of the Blue and Rose periods). During the Second World War, Picasso’s intention was made manifest when a German Gestapo officer saw Guernica during a search of his house. The officer saw the painting and asked, “Did you do that?” and Picasso replied, “No. You did.”
Pablo Picasso died a legend, on April 8, 1973, in Mougins, France. The importance of his work has been recognized, not only by the world during his life but also by the contemporary art scene. His influence was, and is, monumental.
Pablo Picasso was chosen by us here at Musart because we understand the vital impact the man had on the state of the worldwide art community. He not only developed an entire body of work comprised of exceptional pieces, (with works such as Guernica surely granted immortality), but by creating Cubism it caused artists worldwide to react and respond, allowing future movements – such as Orphism, Abstract Art, and Purism – to emerge in France, as well as forms like Dada, Constructivism and De Stijl in other countries. His importance is recognized worldwide, and he will always remain a constant reminder of genius in the art world.