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Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)


Also known as:  Picasso, Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Crispín Crispiniano de la Santissima Trinidad Ruiz Blasco; Picasso, Pablo Ruiz; Picasso, Pablo Ruiz y; Ruiz Picasso, Pablo; Ruiz y Picasso, Pablo; Ruiz, Pablo; Ruys Picasso, Pablo; Ruys, Pablo

Birth Place: Málaga (Málaga province, Andalusia, Spain)

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is considered by many to be one of the greatest, most influential artists of the 20th century and easily one of the most widely recognized household names in art history. Picasso’s transformation from a young, classically trained artist to a pioneer of the Cubist movement to a Surrealist exponent can be defined by “periods”—a quality for which his career is widely distinguished.

The first occasion when a consistent theme was evident in his body of work was later dubbed the “Blue Period” to denote the austere color palettes and melancholy subject matters that often comprised his compositions. This phase, which lasted until 1904, was influenced by a trip he took to Spain and, in particular, by the sudden death of his good friend Carlos Casagemas, who committed suicide in 1901. The Old Guitarist, one of Picasso’s most famous works painted in 1903, is particularly representative of his temperament during the time and is reminiscent of the works of El Greco.

The “Blue Period” was followed by a much more sanguine series, appropriately labeled the “Rose Period,” which lasted from 1904-1906. Picasso’s works during these years were more reminiscent of his temperament prior to 1901 and featured a warmer color palette as well as more sprightly characters such as the harlequin, which remained a personal symbol and recurring motif in Picasso’s work for many years that followed.

The launch of Picasso’s “African Period” is marked by two figures in one of his most significant masterworks of all time, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, painted in 1907. There’s a distinct African influence in his renderings of the female form, but his fascination with African artefacts is particularly palpable in the two women furthest right, who appear to be wearing tribal masks. Many of the formal conceptions that Picasso developed between 1907 and 1909 laid the foundation for his epic Cubist movement that followed.

True to form, even his decade-long evolution of the Cubist genre can be broken down into different styles. Analytic Cubism, which Picasso developed with George Braques from 1909-1912, comprised primarily browns and neutral colors. Their notion of taking objects apart and “analyzing” them in terms of their shapes is represented in some of Picasso’s well-known still lifes, including Guitariste, La mandoliniste (Woman playing guitar or mandolin) and Still Life with a Bottle of Rum. Synthetic Cubism took their concept a step further by incorporating a collage element to enhance the geometric, abstract quality of forms.

Even after achieving international renown for spearheading the Cubist movement, Picasso continued to push the envelope by reverting back to a more traditional style of painting in Neoclassicism. He was so revered by his peers for his avant-garde ideas that he was invited to exhibit Cubist works in the first Surrealist group exhibition in 1925. From this exposure, Picasso adopted elements of the Surrealist style—in particular, an emphasis on symbolism in his works—and produced what many consider to be his most prolific masterpiece of all time, Guernica in 1937. Pablo Picasso, alongside contemporaries Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp, truly revolutionized the manner in which artists, critics and the general public defines, perceives and appreciates art in all of its shapes and forms.

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