Art critics and historians typically break Pablo Picasso's adult career into distinct periods, the first of which lasted from 1901 to 1904 and is called his "Blue Period," after the color that dominated nearly all of his paintings over these years. At the turn of the 20th century, Picasso moved to Paris, France — the cultural center of European art — to open his own studio. Lonely and deeply depressed over the death of his close friend, Carlos Casagemas, he painted scenes of poverty, isolation and anguish, almost exclusively in shades of blue and green. Picasso's most famous paintings from the Blue Period include "Blue Nude," "La Vie" and "The Old Guitarist," all three of which were completed in 1903.
"The Old Guitarist",1903
By 1905, Picasso had largely overcome the depression that had previously debilitated him, and the artistic manifestation of Picasso's improved spirits was the introduction of warmer colors—including beiges, pinks and reds—in what is known as his "Rose Period" (1904-06). Not only was he madly in love with a beautiful model, Fernande Olivier, he was newly prosperous thanks to the generous patronage of art dealer Ambroise Vollard. His most famous paintings from these years include "Family at Saltimbanques" (1905), "Gertrude Stein" (1905-06) and "Two Nudes" (1906).
Cubism was an artistic style pioneered by Pablo Picasso and his friend and fellow painter, Georges Braque. In Cubist paintings, objects are broken apart and reassembled in an abstracted form, highlighting their composite geometric shapes and depicting them from multiple, simultaneous viewpoints in order to create physics-defying, collage-like effects. At once destructive and creative, Cubism shocked, appalled and fascinated the art world.
In 1907, Picasso produced a painting that today is considered the precursor and inspiration of Cubism: "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." A chilling depiction of five nude prostitutes, abstracted and distorted with sharp geometric features and stark blotches of blues, greens and grays, the work was unlike anything he or anyone else had ever painted before and would profoundly influence the direction of art in the 20th century.
"It made me feel as if someone was drinking gasoline and spitting fire," Braque said, explaining that he was shocked when he first viewed Picasso's "Les Demoiselles." Braque quickly became intrigued with Cubism, seeing the new style as a revolutionary movement. French writer and critic Max Jacob, a good friend of both Picasso and painter JuanGris, called Cubism "the 'Harbinger Comet' of the new century," stating, "Cubism is ... a picture for its own sake. Literary Cubism does the same thing in literature, using reality merely as a means and not as an end."
Picasso's early Cubist paintings, known as his "Analytic Cubist" works, include "Three Women" (1907), "Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table" (1909) and "Girl with Mandolin" (1910). His later Cubist works are distinguished as "Synthetic Cubism" for moving even further away from artistic typicalities of the time, creating vast collages out of a great number of tiny, individual fragments. These paintings include "Still Life with Chair Caning" (1912), "Card Player" (1913-14) and "Three Musicians" (1921).
Picasso’s works between 1918 and 1927 are categorized as part of his "Classical Period," a brief return to Realism in a career otherwise dominated by experimentation. The outbreak of World War I ushered in the next great change in Picasso's art. He grew more somber and, once again, preoccupied with the depiction of reality. His most interesting and important works from this period include "Three Women at the Spring" (1921), "Two Women Running on the Beach/The Race" (1922) and "The Pipes of Pan" (1923).
"Three Women at the Spring" (1921)
From 1927 onward, Picasso became caught up in a new philosophical and cultural movement known as Surrealism, the artistic manifestation of which was a product of his own Cubism. Picasso's most well-known Surrealist painting, deemed one of the greatest paintings of all time, was completed in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War: "Guernica." After German bombers supporting Francisco Franco's Nationalist forces carried out a devastating aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica on April 26, 1937, Picasso, outraged by the bombing and the inhumanity of war, painted this work of art. In black, white and grays, the painting is a Surrealist testament to the horrors of war, and features a minotaur and several human-like figures in various states of anguish and terror. "Guernica"
remains one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history.
"Guernica" April 26, 1937
In contrast to the dazzling complexity of Synthetic Cubism, Picasso's later paintings display simple, childlike imagery and crude technique. Touching on the artistic validity of these later works, Picasso once remarked upon passing a group of school kids in his old age, "When I was as old as these children, I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them."
In the aftermath of World War II, Picasso became more overtly political, joining the Communist Party. He was twice honored with the International Lenin Peace Prize, first in 1950 and again in 1961. By this point in his life, he was also an international celebrity, the world's most famous living artist. While paparazzi chronicled his every move, however, few paid attention to his art during this time. Picasso continued to create art and maintain an ambitious schedule in his later years, superstitiously believing that work would keep him alive. Picasso created the epitome of his later work, "Self Portrait Facing Death," using pencil and crayon, a year before his death. The autobiographical subject, drawn with crude technique, appears as something between a human and an ape, with a green face and pink hair. Yet the expression in his eyes, capturing a lifetime of wisdom, fear and uncertainty, is the unmistakable work of a master at the height of his powers.The paintings he painted during this period contained a lot of rose colours, and became known as his ‘Rose Period’. By 1909 Picasso had come up with a completely new style of painting called Cubism. In Cubism the subject of a painting is broken into sections and then put back together again, but not in the correct order. Picasso produced over 1,800 paintings, some of which have sold for over £100 million. Picasso died in France in 1973.