Spanish painter, printmaker, sculptor and ceramicist Pablo Ruiz Picasso is one of the most recognisable names in the art world.
Born in 1881, Picasso is known for co-inventing the collage, co-founding the Cubist movement, inventing constructed sculpture, and using a wide range of styles in his artwork.
Picasso’s art spans numerous stylistic movements, from the Modern Period to Surrealism. Read on to find out more about the art styles Picasso adopted and for a comprehensive timeline of Picasso’s work.
1899 – 1900: Early Picasso
Picasso was born in 1881 into the art world, as both his parents were artistic. He was taught formal drawing techniques by his father and created quality oil paintings by the age of eight.
He began his art career at the young age of 13 – working in a realist style. He painted his subjects true-to-life, using natural palettes. During this time, he produced portraits of his family members, and also referenced the Catholic faith in his work, with church-inspired pieces.
Some of Picasso’s earliest artwork has been categorised as being his ‘Modern Period’. The artwork Pablo Picasso produced between 1899 and 1900 typically had a Symbolist influence. His landscape paintings often featured unnatural tones, for example – green and violet tones.
1901 – 1904: Blue Period
Picasso’s Blue Period was characterised by blue and blue-green shades, heavily influenced by Picasso’s trip through Spain. These Blue Period paintings have a sombre feel to them, with figures being depicted as gaunt with distant expressions.
This period spanned the early years of the twentieth century, prior to Picasso’s return to Paris. The period also shows Picasso’s transition to his figurative style – for example, Picasso’s experimentation with space and form is clear in ‘The Blue Room’ from 1901.
1904 – 1906: Rose Period
Pablo Picasso’s Rose Period shows a deep contrast to his Blue Period, with a lighter tone and style. Picasso utilised orange and pink tones in this time of his career, and his art was much more ‘alive’.
He brought his subjects to live through the use of a warmer palette, which also increased the sense of intimacy. Picasso’s Rose Period paintings were also thought to have a stronger feeling of intimacy as this is when Picasso met his first muse, French artist Fernande Olivier.
Pablo Picasso’s work at this time featured circus performers such as harlequins and acrobats – for example, Family of Acrobats with Money, 1905. This piece is perceived as classical in style – however, the line is an indication of his abstract work to come.
1907 – 1909: African Art
Picasso’s African-influenced period came between 1907 and 1909. The artwork he produced during this time was heavily inspired by the African artefacts he saw at the Palais du Trocadéro.
Likewise, Henry Matisse showed Picasso a wooden Kongo-Vili figurine, which also sparked Picasso’s interest in African art. The African-inspired artwork Picasso created paved the way for his Cubism period.
1909 – 1919: Cubism
Picasso’s Cubist period coincides with his African period – a piece that Picasso painted in 1907 ultimately spearheaded the Cubism movement. The painting, The Ladies of Avignon’ is held today in the New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Picasso began to experiment with perspective, introducing several vantage points within the same painting. The Ladies of Avignon depicts the female form as a series of different planes of colour – a unique, shallow plane image.
His two Cubism periods have been defined as Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism – read on to learn more about each of these styles.
1909 – 1912: Analytic Cubism
Analytic Cubism is the first stage of the Cubist movement, characterised by the breakdown of colour, and the dissection of forms. Picasso’s Analytical Cubism pieces feature various vantage points within one space – allowing Picasso to experiment with the composition of his subjects.
George Braque helped to develop this using neutral colours, typically a monochrome brown palette. Essentially, Picasso and Braque took apart their subjects and analysed their shapes, and how they could be reconstructed and represented on canvas.
1913 – 1925: Synthetic Cubism
Synthetic Cubism followed the Analytical Cubism movement – and involved the first use of collage in fine art. It involves paper fragments shaped into compositions, creating unique and eye-catching pieces of art.
Synthetic Cubist paintings, much like Analytical Cubist paintings, involved the dissection of forms – however, Synthetic Cubism brought together different media. This groundbreaking technique shaped the art world forever, exposing viewers to the potential of using different materials in art for artistic expression.
1919 – 1929: Surrealism
Picasso took his first trip to Italy in 1917, which saw a shift in his work. He began painting in a neoclassical style, when many artists of the 20’s were reverting back to classicism.
The subjects of Picasso’s paintings around this time were often sporting classical attire, with full, renaissance-like figures. His ‘Two Women Running on the Beach’ painting is a perfect example of this.
During the 1920s, Picasso’s work began to be influenced by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis – a rebellion against the constraints of the rational mind.
However, Picasso didn’t completely embrace the ideals of Surrealism – but was simply influenced by the movement. The Surrealism movement drew Picasso to eroticism, violence and primitivism, which became clear in his artwork at this time.
1930 – 1939: Civil War
We mentioned previously that the harlequin from Picasso’s Rose Period became a common motif in his work – but throughout the Spanish Civil War, the minotaur replaced the harlequin.
Around this time, Pablo Picasso painted the famous Guernica. Guernica, 1937 is a large oil painting and arguably the most famous of Picasso’s paintings.
In fact, it is widely regarded as one of the most powerful anti-war paintings in the history of art. The painting depicts the German bombing of Guernica, Northern Spain – where one-third of the town’s inhabitants were killed or wounded. Although Picasso didn’t fight in World War I, he watched his French friends go to war.
Ultimately, the black-and-white painting evokes feelings of horror, highlighting the inhumanity of war. It embodies Picasso’s disgust over the war. Currently, Guernica is exhibited in Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.
Pablo Picasso’s Legacy
Throughout Pablo Picasso’s life, he produced over 20,000 works of art – and his genius continues to inspire art lovers and artists around the world.
Blue-chip artist Picasso helped to invent collage and Cubism and completely revolutionized the idea of constructed sculpture. The ideas that Picasso brought to the world of art are being used today and will continue to be used for years to come.
Picasso’s paintings sell for millions of pounds, and are framed around the world in prestigious museums and galleries. In fact, Les Femmes d’Algers broke records around the world in 2015 after selling for a staggering $179.3 million. Picasso’s art is an attractive art investment for investors across the globe.