Five Famous Picasso Paintings that You Should Know
The artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in Spain but spent most of his adult life in France. The Spaniard started painting at the age of seven and continued to paint and create until he died, at the age of 91.
Picasso was also incredibly prolific in his lifetime. He created around 50,000 artworks. This included over 1,800 paintings, more than 4000 sculptures and ceramics, around 12,000 drawings and thousands of prints. In addition, Picasso created tapestries and rugs.
Pablo Picasso’s unique artistic style continued to change throughout his career. During his different periods, the Spaniard continued to push artistic boundaries, creating artworks like no other. Today, Picasso is recognized as one of the most influential and important artists of the 20th century.
Below is a list of five paintings that show how Picasso pushed artistic boundaries & created like no other!
1. The Tragedy (1903)
Pablo Picasso’s painted The Tragedy during his Blue Period. During this period, most of Picasso’s paintings depict somber scenes of misery and despair. He also painted predominantly in hues of blue.
During the Blue Period, Picasso himself was going through a difficult emotional time. He channeled his own personal suffering into a revolutionary form of artistic expression. The Tragedy is a perfect example of this.
The Tragedy depicts three figures huddled on a beach. There is no clue of the tragedy itself but rather a feeling of sadness that these figures feel. In this painting, Picasso has masterfully presented the human experience of tragedy and suffering. The emotion portrayed in this canvas is universal and resonates with everyone who views it.
You can view this painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
2. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) – The young Ladies of Avignon
Picasso finished painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907. The Spaniard’s original intent was to paint a typical brothel scene with prostitutes and their male customers. However as time progressed, (and in fact it took Picasso two years to complete this painting), Picasso moved on from his original idea.
The end result was a ground-breaking painting of five women in a cubist, abstract and almost collage-like style. This painting is in fact considered to be the starting point of the revolutionary Cubism art movement.
When Picasso exhibited this painting, the subject matter and the unique style created a huge amount of controversy and debate. The art world and his friends hated this painting.
Georges Braque, an artist himself and close friend of Picasso, claimed that Picasso must have drunk petroleum to spit fire onto the canvas. The art collector of modern art, Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin, said “What a loss to French art!” when he saw this painting!
However, we see throughout art history that it sometimes takes time for the art world to appreciate revolutionary art works. This was definitely the case with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon .
Today, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is hailed an important painting in the history of art. It still generates heated debates but it also demonstrates how art evolves over time, pushing boundaries of what is acceptable in the art world.
Like the impressionists before him, Picasso’s vision of art and his use of totally new styles and techniques, paved the way for other artists in expressing themselves.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is hanging on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
3. Ma Jolie (1912)
Picasso’s famous painting called Ma Jolie (in English: My pretty girl) was inspired by the chorus of a popular song that Picasso loved to listen to while living in Paris. The painting also depicts Picasso’s beautiful, young mistress, Eva Gouel, who he referred to as ma jolie.
Picasso started this painting in the winter of 1911 but completed it in 1912. He painted this piece in an analytic cubist style. Analytic cubism was the first phase in the evolution of cubism art. This style is characterized by a reduction of forms into basic geometric elements and the use of monochromatic colors.
The art world considers this painting revolutionary. Picasso combined language by using black lettering and symbolism through musical elements. He also laid the foundation for the beginnings of abstract form.
This painting is nothing like a traditional portrait. Picasso prefers to provide small, hidden & symbolic elements to portray his subject matter. Once again Picasso pushes his artistic boundaries to forms and styles not yet seen in the art world.
Ma Jolie painting can be viewed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
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Guernica is one of THE MOST famous of all the Picasso paintings. The art world considers it to be one of the most moving and powerful anti-war masterpieces ever made.
Picasso painted Guernica in reaction to the Nazis bombing and devastating the Basque town of Guernica during Spanish Civil War. When Picasso completed this painting, it went on an international world tour. The painting was an instant success and more importantly, helped to bring the Spanish Civil War to the world’s attention.
Even today, Picasso’s Guernica painting continues to draw millions of visitors. Unfortunately, Picasso’s themes of human suffering in the tragedies of war are timeless. This painting continues to powerfully resonate these themes to all who view it.
Les Femmes d’Alger (1955 – version O) – The Most Famous & Expensive Picasso Painting
Between the years 1954 and 1963, Picasso sometimes painted his own version of old masters’ paintings. One of the paintings that filled him with awe was Eugene Delacroix’s painting entitled: Les Femmes d’Alger (Women of Algier). Based on this Delacroix’s painting, Picasso recreated fifteen oil paintings during the winter of 1954-55 (versions A through to O).
Picasso’s fascination with Delacroix started as early as 1940 and throughout that decade. While in Paris, he regularly visited the Louvre and always gravitated towards Delacroix’s painting Les Femmes d’Alger canvas.
The Spaniard’s recreations of Delacroix’s Les Femmes d’Alger, were only loosely based upon the original. In typical Picasso style, he distorts the women’s bodies, paints with brighter colors and adds elements of cubism and abstract art.
The art critics loved version O in particular, the final painting in this series. They said the following:
American art critic Leo Steinberg wrote,
“Everything comes together in Canvas O … a synthesis on many levels“.
Jerry Saltz from the New York Magazine called Version O
“an epic master class on the ways of painting, art history, color, structure, and form.”
In 2015, Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (version O) painting set a new world record for the most expensive artwork ever sold at an auction. It sold for an astounding $160 million dollars.
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