There are iconic and famous names in any field, and in the art world of the 20th century, the name Pablo Picasso stands apart. In fact, the name Picasso on its own is familiar to many, and he has long been considered one of the most influential artists of the past 100 years, or more. Born in 1881, he enjoyed a long and successful career before passing away in 1973.
As one expert wrote, “His ingenious use of form, color, and perspective profoundly impacted later generations of painters, including Willem de Kooning and David Hockney,” yet, his influence was not limited to later generations alone. He was a close friend or direct competition to many of his contemporaries, including Cezanne, Modigliani, and George Braque among others.
The Artist is Born
Born with the impossibly long name of Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Crispín Crispiniano María de los Remedios de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz Picasso, he took the wise step of using only Pablo Picasso as he began to work in the world of painting. Inspired and nurtured by his father, the painter Jose Ruiz Blasco, he was sent to the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid and then moved to Barcelona for a very short time before heading to Paris in 1904.
It was then at the height of the Avant-Garde movement, and Picasso was inspired by the people he encountered to shift into Neo-Impressionism as the focus of his work. It was at this point that he entered two of the famous “periods” of his career – the blue and the rose periods. This resulted in one of his most famous works, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which he completed in 1907.
"Les Demoiselles d’Avignon"
Transitioning into a new style, inspired by his interactions with fellow artists and his search for solutions in his work, he created what would come to be known as Cubist work. He did not stick to paint and canvas alone, but began creating sculpture, working in collage, and even taking a turn at ceramics. However, this is also the era in which is famous mural Guernica was done, inspired by the Spanish Civil War.
The Artist Evolves
Evidence of his perpetually evolving style, it is a grayscale work that emphasizes line and emotion though done entirely in black, white, and grey. Yet, even after the creation of Cubism, he still altered his use of perspective and form, essentially reshaping art as it was known, and did so until his death. Picasso never said he painted in a Cubist style, though, and insisted he work was simply a continuum.
As one expert noted, many “attribute Picasso’s stylistic shifts to the presence of his various female companions. For each of the women Picasso brought into his life and bed, the figures in his art were visibly reinvented,” but the influences of tribal art, philosophy, and society cannot be ignored.
He would go on to create more than 40,000 works, becoming more and more famous as time passed. There are entire museums dedicated to his art in Paris, Antibes, and other parts of the world. Some of his pieces have sold for hundreds of millions, and artists as diverse as Jasper Johns and rap artist Jay Z reflect his influence and impact in their work.
Picasso proves to modern artists that they do not have to lock into a specific style but can seek their voice through expression and art. He said that “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up,” and as he was able to resist the pressures and labels of the art world and society, he inspires others to do so through their work.
Pablo Picasso and Artwork