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The Fascinating Evolution of Pablo Picasso Paintings

Pablo Ruiz Picasso has left us with the most incredibly rich legacy. Picasso’s paintings, sculptures and illustrations are iconic.

Did you know that it is estimated that Picasso produced about 147,800 pieces, consisting of 13,500 paintings, 100,000 prints and engravings, 300 sculptures and ceramics and 34,000 illustrations?

All of this over a very impressive 78 year career as an artist.

Who Was Picasso?

Picasso the kid

Pablo Ruiz Picasso (October 25, 1881 to April 8, 1973) was born in Malaga, Spain and into a creative family. His father was a painter, and young Picasso quickly showed artistic signs as well. Picasso’s mother claims that his first word was “piz,” a shortened version of lapiz, or pencil.

His first known picture is called Le Picador (1890) which he produces when he is only 8 years old. It is fabulous!!!

Picasso’s father grooms the young boy to be a great artist by providing his son with the best artistic education the family can afford. The father and son visit Madrid to see works by Spanish Old Masters. And when the family moves to Barcelona, young Picasso continues his art education.

It is in Barcelona that Picasso first matures as a painter. Here in Barcelona, he is exposed to the avant-garde culture, in which young artists are encouraged to express themselves.

Picasso travels to Paris where he discovers the Impressionists & Post Impressionists

When Picasso first travels to Paris, the European capital of art, he soaks up the works of Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. He embraces their use of loose brush strokes and their bright palette of colors. This is enlightening for Picasso and a huge influence for the rest of his artistic life.

Over the decades, Picasso continually travels to and from, Spain, France and New York, soaking up the art world and developing himself as an artist.

Picasso – an eclectic artist of many styles

Picasso’s styles change throughout his career. Although his work is usually characterized by a dominant approach, he often moves interchangeably between different styles – sometimes even within the same artwork. Art historians have categorized his paintings into distinctive periods, each period displaying a unique style and use of colors.

Picasso Paintings from the Blue Period

The Blue Period dates from 1901 to 1904. Picasso’s paintings focus on outcasts, beggars, and prostitutes. These paintings are characterized by Picasso’s use of blue hues. It was in this period that he starts sculpting as well. The most poignant of Picasso’s paintings in this period, was  La Vie (1903), which he paints in memory of his childhood friend, the Spanish poet Carlos Casagemas, who commits suicide.

The Old Guitarist [1903]
Picasso’s Painting from the BLUE PERIOD
Nicho Design on Flicker License CC BY-SA 2.0

Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen Pablo Picasso

Picasso Paintings from the Rose Period

The Rose Period is relatively short (from the fall 1904 until the end of 1906). The pictures of this period display bright and cheerful colors, of predominantly red/pink tones. The subject matter also changes to topics more cheery like actors, acrobats and athletes. Picasso’s paintings are full zest for life as opposed to the paintings of the Blue Period.

Family of Saltimbanques [1905]
Picasso Paintings from the ROSE Period
Nicho Design on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Picasso’s Paintings in the African Period

Picasso’s African Period is from 1906 to 1909. In these years, African sculptures and traditional African masks strongly influence Picasso’s paintings. This period is known as the Negro Period or Black Period.

Picasso Paintings from the African Period
Nicho Design on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

“Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it.” Pablo Picasso Quote

Picasso’s Paintings from the Cubism Period

Picasso was also a co-founder cubism together with Georges Braque. In the Cubism Period, (1909 – 1912) the artists abandon perspective and they also turn away from the realistic modeling of figures. Picasso brakes down an image into it’s core components and then reassembles them with spheres, cylinders, rectangles and cubes. Picasso’s palette of colors in this period are predominantly earth tones, in stark contrast with the bright colors used previously.

“Cubism is not a reality you can take in your hand. It’s more like a perfume, in front of you, behind you, to the sides, the scent is everywhere but you don’t quite know where it comes from – Pablo Picasso”

Another interesting aspect of Picasso’s paintings during this time is that he focuses less upon the human form. He often paints common objects, such as a pipe or a bottle and transforms them into unique images.

Famous Picasso painting entitled: Violin and Guitar - Cubism art
Pablo Picasso – Violin and Guitar – Cubism style

Picasso’s Paintings in the Classism Period

After World War I, a strain of conservatism spreads throughout Europe – a motto popular among traditionalists was “the return to order.”

During these years of 1920 to 1925, Picasso starts painting more classically and his paintings follow the more natural forms. He allows people to think that he abandoned cubism. However, Picasso does not renounce cubism at all, but alternately paints both cubist and natural paintings (and sometimes combining the two). 

Portrait of Olga [1923]
Picasso Paintings from the Classism Period
Nicho Design on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Surrealism (1925-1932)

Following his classicism period, Picasso moves away from realism again. In 1925, he begins working in a surrealist manner. This style is characterized by figures with disorganized facial features and twisted bodies.

Picasso accentuates this “surreal” quality by using bright tones and clashing colors. He further confuses the viewer by skewing our sense of perspective and combining his subjects with organic and geometric forms.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
Pablo Picasso

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Weeping Woman [1937]
Weeping Woman [1937] – Picasso’s Painting from the Surrealism Period
Nicho Design on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Guernica (1937)

In 1937 the Spanish government commissions Picasso to create a mural for Spain’s pavilion at an international exposition in Paris.

Unsure about the subject, Picasso procrastinates. However after the Nazi’s bombed the Spanish town of Guernica in support of Spanish general Franco, Picasso decides to paint. Picasso’s painting is his response to, and condemnation of, that event. He paints this powerful picture in black and white-in keeping with the seriousness of the subject. Press here to see the picture and to read more about this powerful painting.

Bim Bom on Flickr

World War II (1939-1945)

Picasso, stayed in Paris during the German occupation of WW2. Some of Picasso’s paintings from this period show the anxiety of the war years.

Upon receiving news of the Nazi death camps, Picasso also painted, although he did not finish, a homage to the victims of the Holocaust (mass murder of European Jews during the war).

In this painting, called The Charnel House (1945), he restricts the color scheme to black and white (as in Guernica) and depicts an accumulation of distorted, mangled bodies.

During the war Picasso joins the Communist Party, and after the war he attends several peace conferences.

The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do? ” Pablo Picasso

Later Works (1945-1973)

Picasso remained a prolific artist even in the later years of his life.

Picasso’s later period did not receive universal acclaim from art historians or critics. However in this period, Picasso continues to paint portraits and landscapes. Picasso also experiments with ceramics, creating figurines, plates, and jugs. He thereby blurs the existing distinction between fine art and craft.

Woman on the Banks of the Seine, After Courbet [1950]
Photo taken by Nicho Design on Flickr License CC BY-SA 2.0

His Legacy for the 21st Century

Pablo Picasso bravely expresses through cubism and his surrealism the strangeness of human relationships. His art also portrays the mystery in the simplest experiences and the difficulty of understanding the world around us.

It seems that his themes of strangeness and complexity are becoming more and more relevant to us in today’s digital and technological world.

Just as we become more and more aware of the complexity of our reality, it seems that Picasso’s confusing art is aligned more and more to the reality of our modern world.

Where to see Picasso’s Paintings and Artwork?

All the most prestigious art museums around the world have Picasso on their walls and statues in their halls. Press here to see the list.

Are you traveling to France?

If yes, then there are two museums that YOU MUST visit that are dedicated to Picasso.

Firstly, you should definitely visit the newly renovated Musee Picasso Paris in the heart of the Marais district. Press here for more information about this museum and the current exhibitions.

Secondly, if you are traveling the French Riveria, the Musee Picasso Antibes in the old town of Antibes is a MUST. In 1946 Picasso spent a year in Antibes using the 2nd floor of this magnificent chateau as his workshop. Press here for details.

Are you traveling to Spain?

The Picasso museum Barcelona is “the” museum to visit in Barcelona. The museum in located in the charming Gothic area of Barcelona and the museum itself is made up of five medieval palaces linked together. The museum contains more than 3500 Picasso artworks. Press here for more information of this wonderful museum.

Pablo Picasso Famous paintings
Pablo Picasso Famous paintings

The Picasso Museum Malaga is an unmissable museum in the city of Picasso’s birth. The museum provides a solid overview of the great master and his work. The over 200 artworks in the collection were donated and loaned to the museum by Christine Ruiz-Picasso (wife of Paul, Picasso’s eldest son) and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso (Picasso’s grandson). Press here for more information.

Picasso Museum in Paris
Musee Picasso Paris [ Beckstet on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 ]

Are you traveling to Germany?

There is one museum in Germany dedicated solely to Pablo Picasso. It is called the Picasso Art Museum in Mün­ster.

This museum opened its doors to the public in the year 2000. Located in the medieval old town of Munster, the impressive Picasso museum uses its 600 square meters of wall space to display changing exhibitions related to Picasso and his contemporaries.

The museum today owns more than 800 Pablo Picasso prints, most of which come from the Huizinga collection. For more information about this museum, it’s opening hours and current exhibitions, press here.

The Münster Picasso Museum is located on the Picassoplatz. The tiles on the platz (square) actually make up a huge portrait of Picasso’s face. However, you can only get a proper view of his face when looking at the platz from above (which you can do from inside the museum). It is incredible!

Picassoplatz in Munster, Germany
Picassoplatz in Munster, Germany

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