Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) was a Spanish artist most celebrated for his cubist paintings, although he was prolific in many other mediums, including sculpture, printmaking and collage. He was also known to produce plays and write poetry. Living in France for most of his professional life, he achieved great success in his career as one of the progenitors of modern art and one the most successful artists of all time.
Picasso was born to a middle-class family in the Andalusian region of Spain. He demonstrated an interest in art as an early age, and was subsequently taught by his father, Ruiz. Picasso’s father was a traditional artist, and believed that art instruction should involve copying the works of previous masters, rather than innovating new techniques or styles. Picasso’s talent was soon noticed by the local art academy, which offered to take on the young artist as a student when he was only thirteen years old. In this way, Picasso was a prodigy whose talents were quickly identified by his artist father.
By the time he was nineteen, Picasso had grown frustrated with traditional schooling and moved to Paris, where he came in contact with the poet Max Jacob. During this time, Picasso began to “experiment with numerous art forms” (PabloPicasso.org para. 2), inspired by the works of artists such as Edvard Munch. His time in Paris was a time of poverty, influencing a style of art known as Picasso’s Blue Period. Images from this time were stark and often featured street life, including portrayals of prostitutes and street beggars. This was followed by the Rose Period, characterized by cheerier colors and subject matter. By this time, his work had begun to be noticed by art collectors, most notably Gertrude Stein. Stein ultimately invited Picasso to meet other notable artists, one of whom was Henri Matisse. As he started to achieve both fame and success, he began to develop a cubist style, which had a transformative impact on modern art. Cubism is a style of art that challenges perspective, often showing multiple angles of an object or person in one view. The result is a highly stylized look composed of bold colors and strong angles, which became his signature look.
One of Picasso’s most well known pieces is an early modernist work called Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which was painted in 1907. The image features five women, in various stages of undress. From left to right, each figure becomes increasingly “distorted and abstract” (Biography.com para. 10): the figure on the left is given realistic proportions and angles, while the figure on the right is highly abstracted, with geometric forms representing different body parts, and a face that is nearly unrecognizable. The painting can be seen as a metaphor for how Picasso’s own artistic style would evolve, as it became increasingly abstracted over time.
By 1910, Picasso’s art was given almost entirely to geometric forms; the painting Girl with a Mandolin is a series of harsh angles that loosely resemble a human form holding an instrument, although the figure is entirely made up of geometric shapes. The figure also appears to be one with the background, which also is made up of similar patterns. At first glance, the image appears almost entirely abstract, although the specific figure of a girl holding a mandolin can be seen once the viewer knows what to look for.
Picasso ultimately went on to have a highly successful personal and professional career. He was married twice and had four children, and his fame as an artist only grew over time. Although his work would continue to evolve, his role as one of the founders of modern art placed his cubist work in the spotlight. Picasso died in 1973, at the age of 91.
Biography.com. Pablo Picasso, 2015. Web. Accessed 15 February, 2017. <http:// www.biography.com/people/pablo-picasso-9440021#synopsis>
PabloPicasso.org. Pablo Picasso Biography, 2009. Web. Accessed 15 February, 2017. <http:// www.pablopicasso.org/picasso-biography.jsp>