Author: George Baxter

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality”. These were the words spoken by child prodigy Pablo Picasso – a Spanish painter, sculptor, graphic artist and ceramist who is considered by many to be the 20th century’s best art genius. No other artist of the modern period achieved the range of influence which Picasso reached over twentieth century abstract art. Picasso is in all probability best known for the part he played in pioneering and developing Cubism. Picasso entered into marriage twice and was the father of four children, three of which were born outside wedlock.

Born in Malaga, Spain on October 25, 1881, Pablo Picasso was the son of a painter by the name of Don José Ruiz Blasco. His mother’s name was Doña Maria Picasso y Lopez. From a young age Picasso showed an exceptional talent for drawing. His father, realizing Picasso’s outstanding talent handed over his palette and brushes to him and swore to never again paint as long as he lived. In 1895 Picasso’s family moved to Barcelona. Picasso – aged 14 – took only one day to pass the entrance examination for the higher class at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts.

Picasso had his first exhibition in 1900 in Barcelona. That same year, he went to Paris – where he settled in 1904 – and his creativity flourished. The period from 1900 to 1904 was known as his ‘Blue Period’. This period of Picasso’s art is characterized by the utilization of different blue shades. These shades underlined the miserable lives of his subjects; he portrayed beggars, prostitutes and alcoholics. The suicide of Carlos Casagemas, Picasso’s friend; and Picasso’s trip to Spain were the stimuli for his Blue Period. His abstract art works during this period included a portrait of Cassagemas after his death, The Frugal Repast (1904) and Portrait of Soler.

The years 1905 and 1906 saw Picasso shifting from the dark Blue Period to a cheery Rose Period, featuring pink and orange colours and with circus-associated subjects. Most of Picasso’s abstract art paintings during the Rose Period were influenced by the affectionate relationship he had with Fernande Olivier. Following numerous variations and studies, Picasso came out with ‘Les demoiselles d’Avignon’, – his first Cubist work in 1907. African artefacts were the inspiration for this painting which critics considered to be only a copy of African ethnic art. In the following years Picasso along with his new artist friend Georges Braque explored the prospects of Cubism.

Picasso’s abstract art phase from 1908 to 1911 was an Analytic Cubism phase. He and Braque created landscape Cubist paintings using neutral colours and monochromatic browns. The Analytic Cubism phase was followed by the Synthetic Cubism phase which lasted up to 1919. Picasso produced his most celebrated art work ‘Guernica’ during his surrealist and neoclassical phase. For many, this large work done while the Spanish Civil War was in progress; was a depiction of the inhumanity, despair and violence of war.

Picasso was one of the participants in a sculpture exhibition held in 1949, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His final works incorporated a variety of styles and were more expressive and colourful. Pablo Picasso passed away, aged 91, on the 8th of April, 1973 in Mougins, France.

About the Author:

George Baxter is a retired art teacher with over 25 years experience who takes great interest in the history of the pioneers of The Abstract Expressionism Movement and learning and teaching traditional art skills and techniques specifically in relation to oil painting and fine arts.