Picasso was born on October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain. As a young boy he attended Barcelona's School of Fine arts. By the age of 15 he was a well- rounded figurative painter. He was inspired early on by the capital of art, PARIS, which was where he soaked up the sketchy style of works by Manet, Gustave Courbet and Toulouse- Lautrec.
He spent from 1899 to 1904 moving forth and back between France and Spain as France gave him so much inspiration during his time spent there. In his life he went through many phases and styles including realism, caricature, but more significantly the Blue period (1901-1904) and Rose period (1904-1906).
At the age of 22 one of the most significant period of Picasso’s life had begun, the Blue period. This period saw the diminish in his choice of colour and range of tones, to a single dark and oppressive blue. He painted everything in blue as a sign of sadness from when his best friend died. And instead of Picasso observing people ruthlessly and satirically as he had done previously before this period, he now treated his models with sympathy and dejected tenderness. He no longer painted café scenes but began to imagine mysterious, withered figures standing rigid and silent against a vague or empty background. ‘Child with a Dove’, painted at the end of 1901, is the first of the series of canvases that comprise Picasso’s Blue period.
Right after the Blue period came the Rose period, which was another significant period in Picasso’s life from 1904- 1906. He started to paint in brighter colors such as pinks and beige, which dominated the paintings along with the less significant colours being light blues and roses. His subjects were saltimbanques, harlequins and clowns who are mute and inactive. Thus he drew people doing happy things along with lots of circus scenes with circus animals. (Family of Saltimbanques 1905)
In 1905 his work took a turn as they became of large male and female figures, seen frontally or in distinct profile, somewhat like Greek Art. (La Toilette 1906)
He was also captivated by the caricature like artworks of French Painter Henri Rousseau.
What paved the way for Picasso to become well known for his technique of cubism, was ancient Iberian sculpture from Spain, which was African art. He slowly incorporated simplified forms of the source into striking...
An accurate depiction of a cruel, dramatic situation, Guernica was created to be part of the Spanish Pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris in 1937. Pablo Picasso’s motivation for painting the scene in this great work was the news of the German aerial bombing of the Basque town whose name the piece bears, which the artist had seen in the dramatic photographs published in various periodicals, including the French newspaper L'Humanité . Despite that, neither the studies nor the finished picture contain a single allusion to a specific event, constituting instead a generic plea against the barbarity and terror of war. The huge picture is conceived as a giant poster, testimony to the horror that the Spanish Civil War was causing and a forewarning of what was to come in the Second World War. The muted colours, the intensity of each and every one of the motifs and the way they are articulated are all essential to the extreme tragedy of the scene, which would become the emblem for all the devastating tragedies of modern society.
Guernica has attracted a number of controversial interpretations, doubtless due in part to the deliberate use in the painting of only greyish tones. Analysing the iconography in the painting, one Guernica scholar, Anthony Blunt, divides the protagonists of the pyramidal composition into two groups, the first of which is made up of three animals; the bull, the wounded horse and the winged bird that can just be made out in the background on the left. The second group is made up of the human beings, consisting of a dead soldier and a number of women: the one on the upper right, holding a lamp and leaning through a window, the mother on the left, wailing as she holds her dead child, the one rushing in from the right and finally the one who is crying out to the heavens, her arms raised as a house burns down behind her.
At this point it should be remembered that two years earlier, in 1935, Picasso had done the etching Minotauromaquia , a synthetic work condensing into a single image all the symbols of his cycle dedicated to the mythological creature, which stands as Guernica ’s most direct relative.
Incidents in Picasso’s private life and the political events afflicting Europe between the wars fused together in the motifs the painter was using at the time, resulting both in Guernica itself and all the studies and ‘postscripts’, regarded as among the most representative works of art of the 20 th century.
Paloma Esteban Leal