Monumental in his impact upon modern art, Pablo Picasso’s name has become synonymous with artistic ingenuity for his work in the visual arts. Recognized from childhood as an artistic genius, Picasso strove throughout his career to break with aesthetic traditions. Picasso considered his own artistic brilliance to have few equals; one was Henri Matisse, whose approach to art provided a certain amount of stimulation to Picassoís creative thought. Evidence that both artists recalled and paraphrased the work of the other is seen in many of their art images, especially in their later years.
Born October 25, 1881, in Málaga, Spain, Pablo Ruiz Picasso was the first son of José Ruiz Blasco (a painter and art teacher) and María Picasso López (from whom he took his professional name). At the age of seven, Picasso – assisted by his father – began to paint, completing his first oil rendering one year later. Bolstered by his parentís support, Picasso began formal art studies at the age of 11 and continued until he was about 16. His formal art training ended in 1897 when the artist contracted scarlet fever and was forced to spend a great deal of time recuperating in the Spanish countryside.
By his twentieth birthday, Picasso had moved to Paris and had begun to develop new art styles, often turning the art world on its ear. In the early years of the twentieth century, Picasso embarked upon what has since become known as his Blue Period, a series of paintings emphasizing a blue palette and melancholy themes. This was followed by the Rose Period, with its emphasis on a warmer palette and cheerier ideas. It was during the latter period that Picasso met Matisse.
In 1907, Picasso painted Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, a precursor to cubism and a visual attack upon Matisse’s Le Bonheur de Vivre (Joy of Life). In response, Matisse decried Les Demoiselles as a mockery of avant-garde art. Such an adversarial beginning might well have set most artists on separate tracks never to merge again, but this was not the case between Picasso and Matisse.
In the late 1920s, when critics declared Matisse a “has-been,” Picasso provoked the older artist by painting his own version of Matisse’s ideas. Soon afterwards, Matisse returned to painting with a renewed vigor and inventiveness. During World War II, when modern artists under Hitler’s rule were not allowed to exhibit their so-called “degenerate” art, Picasso and Matisse could only recall the other’s work and sometimes incorporate those visual memories into their own art. In later years, the two artists developed a close relationship and considered each other as artistic equals. They often were seen at public events together, frequently met in private, and on occasion exchanged works of art.
After Matisse’s death in 1954, Picasso felt alone in the art world. Picasso’s series, The Studio at La Californie, 1955-56, pays homage to his relationship with Matisse.
Picasso died April 8, 1973 in Mougins, France.
“I have a horror of people who speak about the beautiful. What is the beautiful? One must speak of problems in painting! Paintings are but research and experiment. I never do a painting as a work of art. All of them are researches.”
– Pablo Picasso, 1956 Vogue magazine interview
MAN WITH A PIPE, Pablo Picasso, 1911 (© 2001 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)
Man with a Pipe, 1911, 35-3/4” x 27-7/8”, is a classic example of analytical cubism — the first of three phases of the art style known as cubism. Picasso is recognized as one of the founders of the movement that was greatly inspired by African sculpture, fauvism, and other art forms. Subjects in cubist artwork are first broken up, analyzed, and finally reassembled in an abstract way. Analytical cubism reduces subject matter to basic shapes and then reassembles the two-dimensional shapes into a seemingly three-dimensional representation.>Man with a Pipeis put together somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle, but with overlapping as well as interlocking pieces. Portions of an eye, a moustache, and a hand are recognizable in the painting. The oval shape of the canvas itself seems to emphasize the three-dimensional or sculptural qualities of cubism while the subdued brown colors remind the viewer of a dimly lit interior space. Although the cubist movement was short-lived, its influence was strongly felt in the development of twentieth-century painting.
CHILD PLAYING WITH A TOY TRUCK, Pablo Picasso, Dec. 27, 1953 (© 2001 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)
Child Playing with a Toy Truck, 1953, 51-1/4” x 38-1/4”, was completed only a few days after Christmas and seems to capture the feeling of wonderment that many young children experience during that season. A sense of energy pervades the painting through the innocent play of a child while an impression of awe is instilled by what appears to be stars or snowflakes falling. Framed by a mostly green background covered with black organic shapes reminiscent of pine branches, the child bends to play with a toy truck. Although the subject of the artwork lacks great detail, it is defined by a black contour line and is easily identified as a child and toy truck. Child Playing with Toy Truck is more figurative than many of Picasso’s earlier works, but it nonetheless maintains elements of the artist’s distinctive abstract style.
THE STUDIO AT ‘LA CALIFORNIE’, Pablo Picasso, March 30, 1956 (© 2001 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)
The Studio at La Californie, 1956, is from a series of paintings that Picasso created in the years 1955-56. The paintings, as the title implies, are of the artist’s studio. In 1955, Picasso purchased a villa in Mougins — a village on a hillside near Cannes on the French Riviera. The villa offered panoramic views of the surrounding hills, valleys, and the Mediterranean Sea. From his vantage point, Picasso painted scenes that showed both interior and exterior views of the studio and its site. The Studio at La Californie, painted during a time of mourning after Matisse’s death, is considered an homage to Matisse and recalls elements of Matisse’s Vence Interiors. Picasso was quoted as saying during this time, “In the end, there is only Matisse.”
1881: Born, October 25, Málaga, Spain
1889: Creates first oil painting
1892: Begins formal art studies
1897: Suffers scarlet fever; withdraws from school to recover
1904-1907: Moves to Paris; meets Matisse; paints Les Demoiselles D’Avignon
1911: Paints Man with a Pipe
1918: Exhibits with Matisse at the Paul Guillaume Gallery, Paris
Late 1920s: Picasso parodies Matisse’s artwork with his own
1931: Paints Woman with Yellow Hair
1939-1945: World War II in progress; modern art proclaimed degenerate; Picasso remains under Nazi watch in Paris
1942-1943: Picasso sends Matisse Portrait of Dora Maar as a get-well present; chooses Matisse’s Seated Young Woman in a Persian Dress in exchange
From 1946: Participates with Matisse in public events; meets in private with Matisse; exchanges artwork
1956: Paints The Studio at La Californie series in response to the death of Matisse
1973: Dies in Mougins, France