In modern society, we can’t help but admire a rebel. Anyone who bucks the trend and swims against the tide, we very much look up to.
It’s, therefore, no wonder that, in the world of art, Pablo Picasso is such a popular figure. If there’s anyone who stands out from their surroundings, it’s this highly surreal artist.
Picasso was born October 25, 1881, in Malaga, Spain. He was endowed with a prematurely serious demeanour, as well as a pair of very dark, intense eyes- taken as a sign of future greatness. Clearly, that wasn’t a mistake.
He was never exactly a good scholar when he was at school, but his art was excellent from an early age. By 13, his skill had surpassed that of his father- Don Jose Ruiz Blasco, a painter and art teacher. The young Picasso’s artistic prowess earned him an early place at the School of Fine Art, Barcelona (1895) and later the Royal Academy of San Fernando (1897). Despite his clearly displayed talents in both institutions, he still struggled to fit in, often skiving off lessons to pursue his own artistic interests.
On returning to Barcelona in 1899, Picasso found a group of kindred spirits with a group of artists based in the café El Quatre Gats (The Four Cats). It was here that he rejected his previous classical training and his work took on the more experimental, innovative approach that art lovers today all know and adore.
Even in his private life, Picasso was something of a rebel. He was the most irrepressible of womanisers, having a long list of girlfriends, mistresses, muses and prostitutes, not to mention two marriages. He died April 8, 1973, Mougins, France, his reputation as a genuine (if oddball) talent very much cemented.
The timeline of Picassos’ eclectic output can be divided into distinct periods. The first, lasting from 1901 to 1904, has become known as the Blue Period. “Blue” sums up the dominant colour and tone used by Picasso in this period. Moved by the death of his close friend Carlos Casagemas, Picasso’s artwork captures this sense of depression, isolation and pain. The main examples include Blue Nude, La Vie and The Old Guitarist (all 1903).
Fortunately, this artist’s work was to take a more positive spin in the period lasting 1904-1906, termed the Rose Period. This was so named as a result of the warmer colours used, such as red, pink and beige- most likely inspired by Picasso’s finding of love with the beautiful model, Fernande Olivier. Examples of painting produced in this time include Family at Saltinbanques (1905), Gertrude Stein (1905-1906) and Two Nudes (1906).
As of 1907, Picasso began perhaps the most distinctive period of his career: the Cubist movement. It was during this period that his work took on a more surreal composition, due to artwork fitting into Cubism involving the deconstruction and reassembling of objects in unusual formats, similar in form to a collage. This is exactly what Picasso did, with perhaps his most recognisable work being Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), a piece depicting five nude prostitutes of distorted colours and features. Other examples of Picasso’s Cubist paintings include Three Women (1907) and Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table (1909).
Just because some people are different from those around them, that doesn’t make them any less likeable. If anything, it sees their popularity increase. This has definitely been the case for Picasso, who once observed of himself, “When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a solider, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
– Luke Mayo, Correspondent (Art)