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Pablo Picasso

Spanish Draftsman, Painter, Printmaker, and Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Cubism, Symbolism, Surrealism

Born: October 25, 1881 - Malaga, Spain

Died: April 8, 1973 - Mougins, France

Pablo Picasso Timeline

"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth."

Pablo Picasso Signature

Summary of Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the 20th century. Associated most of all with pioneering Cubism, alongside Georges Braque, he also invented collage and made major contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. He saw himself above all as a painter, yet his sculpture was greatly influential, and he also explored areas as diverse as printmaking and ceramics. Finally, he was a famously charismatic personality; his many relationships with women not only filtered into his art but also may have directed its course, and his behavior has come to embody that of the bohemian modern artist in the popular imagination.

Key Ideas

It was a confluence of influences - from Paul Cézanne and Henri Rousseau, to archaic and tribal art - that encouraged Picasso to lend his figures more structure and ultimately set him on the path towards Cubism, in which he deconstructed the conventions of perspective that had dominated painting since the Renaissance. These innovations would have far-reaching consequences for practically all of modern art, revolutionizing attitudes to the depiction of form in space.
Picasso's immersion in Cubism also eventually led him to the invention of collage, in which he abandoned the idea of the picture as a window on objects in the world, and began to conceive of it merely as an arrangement of signs that used different, sometimes metaphorical means, to refer to those objects. This too would prove hugely influential for decades to come.
Picasso had an eclectic attitude to style, and although, at any one time, his work was usually characterized by a single dominant approach, he often moved interchangeably between different styles - sometimes even in the same artwork.
His encounter with Surrealism, although never transforming his work entirely, encouraged not only the soft forms and tender eroticism of portraits of his mistress Marie-Therese Walter, but also the starkly angular imagery of Guernica (1937), the century's most famous anti-war painting.
Picasso was always eager to place himself in history, and some of his greatest works, such as Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), refer to a wealth of past precedents - even while overturning them. As he matured he became only more conscious of assuring his legacy, and his late work is characterized by a frank dialogue with Old Masters such as Ingres, Velazquez, Goya, and Rembrandt.
Brigitte Bardot and Picasso during a visit to his studio at Vallauris, near Cannes, during the film festival of 1956.
Brigitte Bardot and Picasso during a visit to his studio at Vallauris, near Cannes, during the film festival of 1956.

"I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them." Said Picasso, and whether he was partnering with Braque on Cubism or spending time with the poets he admired, or the muses he loved and craved, he was finding new ways to see, and represent what he saw. His life is a virtual progression of modernism.

Important Art by Pablo Picasso Important Art and Analysis

The below artworks are the most important by Pablo Picasso - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

The Soup (1902-03)
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The Soup (1902-03)

Artwork description & Analysis: La Soupe is characteristic of the somber melancholy of Picasso's Blue Period, and it was produced at the same time as a series of other pictures devoted to themes of destitution, old age, and blindness. The picture conveys something of Picasso's concern with the miserable conditions he witnessed while coming of age in Spain, and it is no doubt influenced by the religious painting he grew up with, and perhaps specifically by El Greco. But the picture is also typical of the wider Symbolist movement of the period. In later years Picasso dismissed his Blue Period works as "nothing but sentiment"; critics have often agreed with him, even though many of these pictures are iconic, and of course, now unbelievably expensive.

Oil on canvas - Art Institute of Chicago

Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1905)
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Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1905)

Artwork description & Analysis: Gertrude Stein was an author, close friend, and even supporter of Picasso, and was integral to his growth as an artist. This portrait, in which Stein is wearing her favorite brown velvet coat, was made just a year before Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and marks an important stage in his evolving style. In contrast to the flat appearance of the figures and objects in some of the Blue and Rose period works, the forms in this portrait seem almost sculpted, and indeed they were influenced by the artist's discovery of archaic Iberian sculpture. One can almost sense Picasso's increased interest in depicting a human face as a series of flat planes. Stein claimed that she sat for the artist some ninety times, and although that may be an exaggeration, Picasso certainly wrestled long and hard with painting her head. After approaching it in various ways, abandoning each attempt, one day he painted it out altogether, declaring "I can't see you any longer when I look," and soon abandoned the picture. It was only some time later, and without the model in front of him, that he completed the head.

Oil on canvas - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
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Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Artwork description & Analysis: This painting was shocking even to Picasso's closest artist friends both for its content and its execution. The subject matter of nude women was not in itself unusual, but the fact that Picasso painted the women as prostitutes in aggressively sexual postures was novel. Picasso's studies of Iberian and tribal art is most evident in the faces of three of the women, which are rendered as mask-like, suggesting that their sexuality is not just aggressive, but also primitive. Picasso also went further with his spatial experiments by abandoning the Renaissance illusion of three-dimensionality, instead presenting a radically flattened picture plane that is broken up into geometric shards, something Picasso borrowed in part from Paul Cézanne's brushwork. For instance, the leg of the woman on the left is painted as if seen from several points of view simultaneously; it is difficult to distinguish the leg from the negative space around it making it appear as if the two are both in the foreground.

The painting was widely thought to be immoral when it was finally exhibited in public in 1916. Braque is one of the few artists who studied it intently in 1907, leading directly to his Cubist collaborations with Picasso. Because Les Demoiselles predicted some of the characteristics of Cubism, the work is considered proto or pre Cubism.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

More Pablo Picasso Artwork and Analysis:

Still Life with Chair Caning (1912) Maquette for Guitar (1912) Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle (1914) Ma Jolie (1911-12) The Three Musicians (1921) Three Women at the Spring (1921) Large Nude in a Red Armchair (1929) Guernica (1937)

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Pablo Picasso
Interactive chart with Pablo Picasso's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart
Show influences

Artists

Francisco GoyaFrancisco Goya
El GrecoEl Greco
Paul GauguinPaul Gauguin
Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Henri MatisseHenri Matisse

Personal Contacts

Guillaume ApollinaireGuillaume Apollinaire
Gertrude SteinGertrude Stein
Georges BraqueGeorges Braque
Daniel-Henry KahnweilerDaniel-Henry Kahnweiler
Ambroise VollardAmbroise Vollard

Movements

ImpressionismImpressionism
Post-ImpressionismPost-Impressionism
ExpressionismExpressionism
Art NouveauArt Nouveau
African ArtAfrican Art
Influences on Artist
Influences on Artist
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Years Worked: 1892 - 1973
Influenced by Artist
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Amedeo ModiglianiAmedeo Modigliani
Arshile GorkyArshile Gorky
Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
Jasper JohnsJasper Johns

Personal Contacts

Alfred H. Barr, Jr.Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Clement GreenbergClement Greenberg
Meyer SchapiroMeyer Schapiro
Robert RosenblumRobert Rosenblum
Leo SteinbergLeo Steinberg

Movements

Primitivism in ArtPrimitivism in Art
CubismCubism
Abstract ArtAbstract Art
SurrealismSurrealism
Pop ArtPop Art

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 22 Nov 2011. Updated and modified regularly. Information
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