Picasso And Cubism


Picasso And Cubism Essay, Research Paper

In one blinding sweep, art as we know it changed – instead of making things look like they look, artists took it upon themselves to show things as they are, not how they look ( Koshevoy). Pablo Picasso was probably the most famous artist of the twentieth century. During his artistic career, he created thousands of works, not only paintings but also sculptures, prints, and ceramics, using all kinds of materials. Picasso was a man of many different abilities and attributes, which he contributed to the art community in numerous ways. Picasso had an extraordinary artistic ability, and the length of his career as an artist lasted more than seventy five years. His, productive, career left a lasting impact on the world. Famous for his pioneering role in cubism, Pablo Picasso s, work influenced art to such a degree that the art world never looked the same again.

Pablo Ruiz Picasso, son of Maria Picasso Lopez, and Jose Ruiz Blasco, was born on October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain. Picasso father, Jose, was an artist and a teacher, who quickly recognized that his child was a prodigy ( Picasso ). Picasso first studied art privately with his father. Picasso s early drawings demonstrated the high level of technical proficiency he had achieved by the age of 14 ( Picasso ). Then in 1891 his father was appointed a teaching job at the De Guarda art school in La Coru a, Barcelona. Picasso was admitted to the advanced classes at the academy after he completed, in a single day, the entrance examination the took applicants a month to finish. In 1897 Picasso left La Coru a, to study at the Madrid Academy in the Spanish capital. Dissatisfied with the training he quit and returned to Barcelona. In 1900 Picasso visited Paris, and moved back and forth between France and Spain until 1904, when he settled in the French capital. In 1913 his father died. Five years later, Picasso, met his wife Olga Koklova, and together they had a son named Paul. During this marriage. Picasso painted numerous mother-and-son paintings. In 1935 Picasso and Olga separated, and his daughter Maia is born to Miarie-Therese Walter. Together they lived at Boisegelop where he composed a number of poems. Picasso s mother, Maria Picasso Lopez, died in 1939 and Picasso returned to Paris. Picasso was a father to two more children, a son named Claude, born in in 1947, and a daughter named Paloma, born in 1949. October 25, 1971 was Picasso 90th birthday, he was commemorated with an exhibition in Granse Galerie of the Louvre, and on this day he became the first living artist to be honored. Only two years later on April 8th, Picasso died at his villa in Mougins, leaving the world with thousands of revolutionary works of art..

Pablo Ruiz Picasso, an article from Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, states:

From 1901 to 1903 Picasso initiated his first truly original style, which is known as the Blue Period. Restricting his color scheme to blue, Picasso depicted emaciated and forlorn figures whose body language and clothing bespeak the lowliness of their social status. In The Old Guitarist, Picasso emphasized the guitarist poverty and position as a social outcast, which he reinforced by surrounding the figure with a black outline, as if to cut him off his environment. . . . Picasso underscored the squalor of his figures during this period. ()

Neither the clothing nor the their environment conveyed a specific time or place. This suggests that Picasso intended to make a general statement about human life, rather than a statement about the lower class in Paris. Why blue dominated Picasso paintings during this period id sill unexplained. Possible influences may of been photographs with a blush tinge ( Picasso ), which were popular at the time, poetry that stresses blue in its imagery or the works of French artists who based their work around variations of a single color. Another explanation is that Picasso found color associated with melancholy ( Picasso ). Then in 1904 Picasso s style shifted to the rose period.

During the rose period, also referred to as the circus period, Picasso still focused on social outcastes, especially circus performers. This period lasted two years, form 1904-1905. During this period, his color scheme lightened, and changed significantly; featuring warmer, reddish hues, and the thick outlines of the blue period disappeared. The dog from the painting, Two Acrobats and a Dog, was present frequently in Picasso s work, and may have been a reference to death; as dogs appear at the feet of figures in many Spanish funeral monuments. Picasso may have felt an especially deep sympathy for circus performers. Like artists, they were paid to entertain society, but their itinerant lifestyle and status as outsiders prevented them from becoming an integral part of the social fabric ( Picasso ). Picasso himself was living in financial insecurity, and no doubt empathized with these performers. During this period Picasso met Fernande Olivier, the first of several women who shared his life and provided inspiration for his art. Olivier’s features appear in many of the female figures in his paintings over the next several years ( Picasso ).

Picasso’s paintings from late 1905 are more emotionally detached than those of the blue or rose periods. The color scheme lightens beiges and light browns predominate and melancholy and alienation give way to a more reasoned approach ( Picasso ). These changes lead him into the classical period, lasting from 1905-1906. During his time Picasso had also become more interested in sculpture from the Iberian peninsula dating from the sixth to third century BC. The Iberian influence is immediately visible in Self Portrait , in which Picasso reduced the image of his head to an oval and his eyes to almond shapes, thus revealing his increasing fascination with geometric simplification of form ( Picasso ).

Picasso s inclination for experimentation in drawing led him into a radical period: The African Period. This period lasted one year, 1907, and led him to his most revolutionary painting yet: The Demoiselles d Avgnon. According to, Pablo Ruiz Picasso, an article published by Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia:

The painting’s theme the female nude could not be more traditional, but Picasso’s treatment of it is revolutionary. Picasso took even greater liberties here with human anatomy than in his 1906 Self-Portrait . The figures on the left in the painting look flat, as if they have no skeletal or muscular structure. Faces seen from the front have noses in profile. The eyes are asymmetrical and radically simplified. Contour lines are incomplete….The representation of space is fragmented and discontinuous. ()

This painting is inspired by African masks, with striped patterns and oval forms. Because this particular painting had so many discrepancies, Picasso s fellow painters reacted negatively to it. A very important part of the painting, that was considered wrong by artists, in this time, was the head of the figure at the bottom right , . . . which turns in an anatomically impossible way ( Picasso ). For many scholars, The Demoiselles d’Avignon with its fragmented planes, flattened figures, and borrowings from African masks marks the beginning of the new visual language, known as cubism ( Picasso ).

According to, Cubism, an article published by Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia:

The Cubist, movement in modern art, especially in painting, invented by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and French artist Georges Braque in 1907 and 1908. Although the look of cubism and the ideas behind it evolved over time, cubism retained certain general characteristics throughout. Cubist paintings create an ambiguous sense of space through geometric shapes that flatten and simplify form, spatial planes that are broken into fragments, and forms that overlap and penetrate one another. . Art historians generally consider cubism to have been the most influential art movement of the first half of the 20th century. ()

Other historians feel that the influence of French artist Paul C zanne provided the primary catalyst for the new movement. For example, Mont Sainte-Victoire, a landscape painting by C zanne, was a crucial precedent for Picasso invention of cubism, because it allowed the mountain and sky to merge as one. [Cubism] defied the laws of our physical experience, and it indicated that artists were viewing paintings as having a logic of their own that functioned independently of, or even contrary to, the logic of everyday experience ( Picasso ).

To artist of this time this was going completely outside of the rules and extremely revolutionary. Scholars generally divide the cubist movement into two stages analytical and synthetic cubism.

Analytical cubism is when the artist fragments three-dimentional shapes into multiple geometric planes. For example in Picasso s painting Houses on the Hill, Horta de Ebro, he simplified every aspect of the painting by giving the structures a three dimensional cubic quality, but using no perspective. Picasso also used inconsistent light sources, with planes that interacted in many different ways. . . . He created a visually consistent painting, yet the consistency does not conform to the physical consistency of the natural world as we experience it ( Picasso ). The year 1912 marks another major development in the cubist movement: the invention on collage which lead to synthetic cubism.

In Pablo Ruiz Picasso, an article published by Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia, explains:

By inventing collage and by introducing elements from the real world in his canvases, Picasso avoided taking cubism to the level of complete abstraction and remained in the domain of tangible objects. . . .Whereas analytical cubism fragmented figures into geometric planes, synthetic cubism synthesized (combined) near-abstract shapes to create representational forms, such as a human figure or still life. ()

Unlike analytical cubism, which is working toward a consistent, unified surface, synthetic cubism combines a variety of styles, surfaces and visual language into one. Sometimes different textures were incorporated into the painting by collage; other times artist would paint an area to look like another surface, such as wood or newspaper.

The later work of Picasso and Braque underwent numerous stylistic changes, but a great deal of it continued to show the influence of cubism. However, the ways that they used cubism no longer fit neatly into the strictly defined categories of analytical or synthetic cubism. ( Cubism )

Picasso remained a productive artist until late in his life. During his life time he experimented with ceramics, creating figurines, plates, and jugs and he thereby blurred an existing distinction between fine art and craft ( Picasso ). After Cubism, the world never looked the same again: it was one of the most influential and revolutionary movements in art. Edward F. Fry writes:

[That] in certain respects cubism brought to an end artistic traditions that had begun as early as the fifteenth century. At the same time, the cubist created a new artistic tradition that is still alive today, for they originated attitudes and ideas that spread rapidly to other areas of culture and that to an important degree underlie artistic thought even today. (9)


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