Pablo Picasso

August 22, 2011

Besides Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso is one of the most recognizable and prolific artists of the 20th century. The massive oeuvre of his work includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, theatre sets, costumes, prints, and ceramics. While studying art in Barcelona in 1899, Picasso became closely associated with modernist poets and artists at the café El Quatre Gats, including the poet Carlos Casagemas, whose suicide influenced his Blue Period paintings from 1901-1904, such as The Blind Man’s Meal (1903). Picasso moved to Paris in 1904 and immediately immersed himself in the popular medium of the time, posters depicting the Parisian cultural landscape. His paintings incorporate clowns, harlequins, and nightlife, subject matter similar to that of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, yet his subdued colors and focus on a single moment’s emotion foreshadow a distinct painterly style. In pre-WWI Paris, at the home of patrons Gertude and Leo Stein, Picasso fomented a new style of abstraction known as Cubism. After the war and into the 1920s, Picasso revisited earlier subject matter and themes with his Surrealist paintings, including Nude Standing by the Sea (1929). Inspired by the brutality and horrors of the Spanish Civil War, Picasso painted the expansive Guernica (1937), one of his most famous and enduring works. After World War II, Picasso enjoyed years of experimentation with new media, including printmaking and ceramics.

In 1946, while vacationing in the south of France, he visited Vallauris, a small village known for its collection of potters. Entranced by their annual exhibition, he abandoned his summer vacation to work side by side with the potters at the Madoura Pottery workshop. Enchanted by his summertime experiences, he spent the winter sketching designs of Greek mythology, and one year later, he eagerly returned to an open workshop. While learning the craft of the surrounding potters, he imparted his designs to them.  The results were beautifully rendered serving platters, pitchers, and vases depicting powerful images of mythological creatures and humans.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, he achieved international fame with major exhibitions in London, Paris, Venice, and Tokyo, as well as a hugely successful retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1957). Until his death in 1973, Picasso depicted imagery of mythological figures and his young lovers, while steadily amassing a fortune of over 20,000 works. Towards the end of his life, he famously admitted, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Ramie, Georges. Ceramics of Picasso. Barcelona: Ediciones Poligrafa, 1985. Print.
Voorhies, James. “Pablo Picasso.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.


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