Today, let us celebrate Pablo Picasso, who was born on October 25, 1881, and lived until April 8, 1973. He is considered an innovator of artistic style, particularly in cubism and surrealism. By all accounts, he was a determined yet playful man, who had lot of charisma and sought to remake reality.
Just imagine having such a prolific career that it could be codified by periods of style: Early, Blue. Rose, African-Influenced, Cubist, Surrealist, and Later Works, which included his contributions to Verve. Such is the reputation of Picasso.
The works of Picasso’s Early Period demonstrate his technical abilities in more traditional and realistic terms than those that have come to be more commonly associated with his art.
Picasso’s Blue Period (1901-1904) refers not only to the dominant color scheme in the paintings, but also to the predominant melancholy of the subjects, which is said to reflect his own emotional state while he mourned the death of a good friend.
The Rose Period followed and is so-named for the inclusion of warmer red, pink and orange tones. The subjects of this phase often included circus people such as, La famille de saltimbanques.
(It is hard to ignore the similarities in composition and color between these two examples of the Rose and African periods. Notice the small grouping to the left and the solitary figure in the foreground to the right.)
During the period considered to have been influenced by African sculpture we begin to see the development of Picasso’s cubism, the style for which he is perhaps best known. In this example, Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon, he places prostitutes as the central subject, which was considered unusual in its time.
Ma Jolie, an early 20th-century painting, which can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is often cited as a quintessential example of Picasso’s cubist period.
One could hardly speak of Picasso without noting his stunning attack on war with the paradoxically beautiful, cubist, surrealist mural, Guernica. One story spawned of this piece is that a Nazi soldier saw it and asked Picasso, “Did you make that?” To which Picasso is said to have replied, “No, you did.”
Picasso’s later works were often characterized by their bright colors and the implication of animation, the kind of captured movement one might see in the carefully selected elements of multiple-exposure photography. The women in his life were often the subjects of this period.
During the early phase of what is known as the Later period, Picasso re-imagined Goya’s famous painting in order to acknowledge the massacres happening in Korea in the 1950s.
Picasso continued throughout his life to protest violence and war through his art, but is perhaps better known for his contemporary contributions to Verve magazine (1937-1960), the first cover of which was designed by Henri Matisse.
So, did he accomplish the goal?
Did Picasso remake reality?
I think he did.
Happy Birthday, Pablo Picasso, may you never be forgotten.
Images: Pablo Picasso, c. 1960; Le Moulin de la Galette, 1900; The Old Fisherman 1895; Selections from the Blue Period 1901-04 ; The family of Saltimbanques, 1905; Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon 1907; Ma Jolie, 1911; Guernica 1937; The Weeping Woman (Suffering of Dora Maar), 1937; Massacre in Korea, 1951; Cover for Verve, 1951.
References: Mailer, Norman. Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man. Atlantic Monthly Press. 1995.