Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biography of Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso, perhaps the most widely recognized artist of the 20th century, was born to Don José Ruiz Blasco and Doña Maria Picasso y Lopez in Malaga, Spain on October 25, 1881. Ultimately, he would adopt his mother’s more prestigious maiden name, Picasso. Pablo Picasso’s father was a trained artist and art teacher, and was an early influence in Picasso’s art training. By the time Pablo Picasso was 13, his painting was so accomplished that his father handed him his palette and declared he would never paint again.

Pablo Picasso
Early Work and Instruction (1893-1900)

Picasso’s talent was quickly recognized as a young teen and he was enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona, Spain where his father was a professor. He was admitted to the advanced classes at the academy after he completed an entrance examination in a single day – an accomplishment that typically took seasoned students a month. Within a couple of years, he left for Madrid to study at the Madrid Academy, but returned unsatisfied with the training. It is reported that his early years resulted in over 2,200 works that are still saved and shown at the Barcelona Museu Picasso.

Picasso would visit Paris in October, 1900, and would move back and forth between Spain and France until 1904, when he finally settled in France. He started to experiment with a wide variety of modern art styles, influenced by the French nightlife and artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He painted café scenes, landscapes and still lifes of friends.

Picasso Blue Period (1901-1903)

The years of 1901-1903 defined the Picasso Blue Period, a clear break from his more formal art instruction. Unlike his earlier artwork, the themes in Picasso’s paintings turned very dark and depressed. Although it is unknown when or why the Blue Period began, certainly the suicide of his friend Casagemas impacted Picasso greatly.

Artwork during the Blue Period was typically painted in a monochromatic use of blue shading, greys and whites. Unlike previous paintings, subjects were portrayed as sad, poor and underprivaledged.
The Picasso Blue Period is highlighted by some of Picasso’s most recognized pieces of art - Child with a Dove, The Blue Nude and The Old Guitarist were all completed during this time period. It will become the first of many distinct genres that Picasso will ultimately define.

Rose Period (1904-1905)

The Picasso Rose Period, sometimes referred to as the circus period, marked a distinct style shift in his art. His focus was mainly on a different group of social outcasts – circus performers. The color in his paintings also shifted – now featuring warmer, reddish and pink colors. The thick outlines of the Blue Period also disappeared.

Similar to themes in his earlier Blue Period artwork, Picasso felt empathy for his new subjects – circus performers. They were paid to entertain, but really had no relevance or significance in society. The sad clown would become an important figure in his paintings, and would continue to appear as a theme in future pieces. Clowns appeared happy on the outside, but were unable to show their true feelings.

This period also marked Picasso’s first of many romantic relationships. Fernande Olivier provided a subject for Picasso’s artwork and her features could be found in many of his paintings.

Cubism (1908-1917)

The Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso

Cubism was developed as a collaborative effort by Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Although its roots are not positively known, many believe it has influence from African Tribal Art and Paul Cezanne. Cubism was considered the most radical change in art in the 20th century. The Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso
The movement was divided into two periods - Analytical Cubism and Synthetic Cubism. Analytical Cubism concentrated on using geometric forms, often using strait lines and right angles. Subdued colors such as tans, browns, grays, blues and greens were preferred. Overall, it showed a structured "analysis" of form. Synthetic Cubism, the second period, used more decorative shapes, stencilling, collage, and brighter colors. Pieces of cut-up newspaper and tobacco wrappers could now be found in Picasso and Braque’s paintings. This collage technique was posed the question of what was reality vs. illusion.

Picasso also meets Olga Koklova, a russian dancer who he ultimately marries in 1918. Olga becomes the mother of his son, Pualo and is the centerpiece of many of Picasso's paintings.

Many art historians believe Picasso's greatest Cubist masterpiece was The Three Musicians, completed in 1921.

Classical Period (1920 - 1925)

Post World War I marked a noted return to a more conservative art form. During the time period, Picasso focused on more classical themes - bathers, centaurs and women in classical drapery. Many of these subjects were shown as massive, heavy and dense. He also used a strong contrast of light and dark to help strengthen the theme of his images.

Cubism and Surrealism (1925-1936)

The period of 1925 – 1936 was a time where Picasso featured a variety of styles. Some paintings were composed of tightly structured geometric shapes, limited to the primary colors of red, blue and yellow. He also started painting women as contorted, whose open mouths and teeth reveal a very emotional attitude.

Picasso also focused on a series of paintings of mostly nude women, tranquilly asleep. The model for the paintings, Marie-Therese (at the time Picasso's mistress), eventually became the mother of Picasso's daughter Maia in 1935.

In the early 1930s Picasso had increasing contact with the members of the surrealist movement. He became fascinated with the idea of metamorphosis. The Minotaur – a creature which has the head of a man and the body of a bull, was the subject of many paintings and writings. The Minotaur has numerous incarnations in Picasso's work, both as an aggressor and a victim, as a violent character and a friendly one. It may represent the artist himself and frequently appears in the context of a bullfight, a typically Spanish scene close to Picasso's heart.

In 1936, Picasso met a new mistress in a cafe in Paris. Dora Maar, born Markovitch to a Yugoslav mother and father, was raised in Argentina. Picasso often called Dora Maar “the Weeping Woman”, which many of his paintings depict at the time.

Overall, the time period produced several Picasso masterpieces, including The Dream, Still Life with Pedestal Table, and Dora Maar.

Guernica (1937)

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Guernica, painted by Pablo Picasso, was created to be the mural centerpiece of the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 World's Fair in Spain. The piece is a striking protest of a fascist coup led by Francisco Franco, the driving force behind a massive Civil War between Franco and Spain's Republican forces.

On a dark day in April, 1937, on behalf of Franco against the Spanish population, Nazi armed forces chose a small Basque town in northern Spain for massive bomb tests for over three hours. It is estimated that over 1,600 people are killed in Guernica and the town burns for three days. As photographs and news of the bombing of Guernica reach his home in Paris, Picasso finds immediate inspiration for his mural.

Picasso delivered Guernica just three months later on a large canvas. Key elements include a woman holding her dead child, a large eye of God, a bull and a wounded horse. Clearly, it depicts struggle and the horrors of war and fighting.

World War II (1939-1945)

Picasso chose to stay in Paris during World War II, despite the threat of the German occupation. Some of his paintings reveal the anxiety of the war years, yet some are more playful and whimsical. After receiving news of the Nazi death camps, Picasso painted, but did not finish, an homage to the victims of the Holocaust. The painting, called the Charnel House, he restricted the color to black and white and depicted an accumulation of distorted, mangled bodies. Picasso actually joined the Communist Party during the war and attended several peace conferences after the war.

Picasso's Late Works (1945-1973)

Picasso remained a prolific artist until late in his life, although this later period has not received universal acclaim from historians or critics. He made variations on motifs that had fascinated him throughout his career, such as the bullfight and the painter and his model, the latter a theme that celebrated creativity. And he continued to paint portraits and landscapes. Picasso also experimented with ceramics, creating figurines, plates, and jugs, and he thereby blurred an existing distinction between fine art and craft.

Because of his many innovations, Picasso is widely considered to be the most influential artist of the 20th century. The cubist movement, which he and Braque inspired, had a number of followers. Its innovations gave rise to a host of other 20th-century art movements, including futurism in Italy, suprematism and constructivism in Russia, de Stijl in the Netherlands, and vorticism in England. Cubism also influenced German expressionism, dada, and other movements as well as early work of the surrealists and abstract expressionists. In addition, collage and construction became key aspects of 20th-century art

The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso


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