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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Authenticating Picasso     Period Gallery     Picasso Mysteries     Picasso's Legacy

Pablo Picasso Biography

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain where his father, Don Jose taught drawing at the local school of Fine Arts and Crafts. While Picasso later attended this school, he received most of his instruction from his father. His father recognized his talent early on and claimed him to be a child prodigy. In 1896 at the age of only 15, Picasso produced his first large "academic" painting "The First Communion" (1896) which exhibited in Barcelona. This piece shows his advanced talent and is very true to Realism, Classicism and the style of the old masters.

Pablo Picasso, The First Communion 1896

The First Communion, 1896

In the 1900s, in his late teens, Picasso began to make friends with Spanish Modernist painters of the time, such as Casagemas, Rusinol and Nonell. It was their influence that persuaded Picasso to say goodbye to Classicism. So began Picasso's different periods of painting.

One may notice by simply looking at Picasso's oeuvre that his styles range dramatically from chiaroscuro laden classical pieces, to impressionistic portraits to colorful cubist paintings and abstraction. He worked in several periods from his early works, to his blue period, a rose period, cubism, war influenced pieces and finally his late works. Each period in his career has a distinct meaning and history, which is vital in deciphering whether you indeed have an original Picasso or not.

Until his move to Paris with friend and artist Casagamas in 1900, Picasso's early works are strictly in the Classical hand. Work at this time was typically portraits or scenes depicting people, such as "Portrait of the Artist's Mother" (1896).

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of the Artist's Mother 1896

Portrait of the Artist's Mother, 1896

Once he befriended the Spanish Modernists and moved to Paris to engulf himself in bohemia, Picasso's work drastically changed. At this time, he was tired of the limitations that Classical painting inhibited, and tried the many new methods being introduced to him by his friends. Throughout his career, his personal life was often reflected in his painting, as we can see in the blue period. Shortly after his move to Paris, his friend Casagamas committed suicide after being rejected by a woman. For the next few years, Picasso heavily suffused blue into his paintings, which created a somber tone. Casagamas' visage is also apparent in many of his blue period pieces, such as "La Vie" (1903).

Pablo Picasso, La Vie (Life) 1903

La Vie (Life), 1903

From 1905-1906, the pain of his friends death began to subside, and Picasso took on a lighter and warmer color palate. His subject matter also became less depressing. At this time, Picasso also began to paint circus performers and clowns, which would appear in other various stages throughout his career, such as in "Harlequin with a Glass" (1905).

Pablo Picasso, Harlequin with a Glass 1905

Harlequin with a Glass, 1905

Picasso's work became truly revolutionary in 1907 when he began to include methods of Cubism into his work. He was highly influenced by Cezanne's use of space, as well as by African art. He used the African style of painting noses prominently and without a profile, as can be seen in "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907). This was his first true cubic picture, and fully embodies his studies of geometric figures and a flat plane. During this period, Picasso also produced his famous portrait of friend and fellow bohemian Gertrude Stein.

Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 1907

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907

In 1909, Picasso became more structured in his style, therefore working in what critics called "Analytical" Cubism. He ignores a central plane for these paintings, as can be seen in "Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table" (1909). He later moved on to use a more collage style of cubism, disassembling parts of his subject into cubes. This was known as his "Synthetic" period, and is illustrated in his piece "The Guitar" (1913).

Pablo Picasso, Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table 1909

Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table, 1909

Pablo Picasso, The Guitar, 1913

The Guitar, 1913

By 1918, Picasso had become friends with fellow artists and poet Jean Cocteau, which led him to work with the Russian Ballet. There, he met dancer Olga Koklova, whom he fell in love with and married. She became an influence to his work at this time, as did many women throughout his career. He returned to more traditional styles at this time, though still infused his work with Cubism.

By the mid 1920s, Picasso had become overbearingly famous. He did not like the fact that all of his work was always revered, simply because of his fame. He became frustrated and his marriage became strained, beginning a whirlwind of divorce, mistresses and illegitimate children. He took up sculpting at this time, and became highly influenced by newfound Surrealism after 1927. Surrealist influence can be seen in one of his better known paintings "Woman with a Flower" (1932).

Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Flower 1932

Woman with a Flower, 1932

Some of Picasso's most revered and controversial pieces were created between 1937 and 1945. During this time, a great deal of his work reflected the war. In 1937, he began this study with a commissioned mural piece for the Spanish government. He named it "Guernica" (1937), and it holds more significant symbolic value than people at that time could comprehend. He even mocked the Nazi regime by showing them pictures of it, and escaped being arrested because of his celebrity. The city of Guernica, located in the Basque region was nearly destroyed by the Condor Legion of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe in an air attack. The Germans were attacking to support the efforts of Francisco Franco to overthrow the Basque Government and the Spanish Republican government. Picasso painted his own version of this historical and horrifying scene, and still holds as a reminder of the terror and destruction that was set upon the old historic town. To prepare for this mural, Picasso produced many sketches and also created other works to accompany this piece.

Pablo Picasso, Guernica 1937

Guernica, 1937

In 1945, Picasso also lashed out against the reports of concentration camps with a painting similar to Guernica entitled "The Charnel House" (1945). This painting features the same triangular composition and monochromatic color scheme as Guernica. It illustrates some of the true horrors of concentration camps with anguished faces and bodies bound and piled upon one another.

Pablo Picasso, The Charnel House 1945

The Charnel House, 1945

In 1946, Picasso did an extensive study of bulls, creating numerous lithographs of them. He created them in many stages, starting with a very realistic looking bull, then slowly stripping away detail with each different lithograph. At one point, the bull looks almost Cubist in nature until he finally left the bull in a simple, linear and primitive caveman like drawing. After his death, footage of Picasso creating a one-line bull with paint on a piece of glass would be aired for children on Sesame Street.

Pablo Picasso, Linear Bull Study

Linear Bull Study

It was this influence of primitive, simple styling that led him to create more simpler pieces in his later years. He created a number of drawings in this style, using a one line method. Like the final print of the bull, Picasso would create a drawing consisting of only one line, putting his instrument to paper and not lifting it until the work was complete. He created a great many one lined works in many different mediums, which were often overlooked. It is highly likely that there are many of these one lined pieces in existence and not authenticated.

Much of Picasso's later work is overlooked, although they are indeed some of his most masterful pieces. One of his final works, a self-portrait (1972) completes his oeuvre, and shows the vast change in his styling from his original self-portrait (1896). Picasso died as the worlds most unconventional and famous artists, starting out as an old master in the body of a child, and creating more simple, primitive pieces in his golden years.

 Picasso Self-Portrait, 1973

Picasso Self-Portrait, 1973

Still wondering about a painting in your family collection? Contact could be by Pablo Picasso.