Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain. Pablo was a child prodigy who showed passion and skill for drawing from an early age. Picasso was introduced to art by his father at an early age, where he demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent overshadowing his father. From 1891 to 1896 he studied arts under his father’s tutorship and the School of Fine Arts. He later joined the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid (Reeve, 2020). Picasso, however, dreaded the formal studies which focused solely on classical subjects and techniques. He differed with his father over the stifling school work and later returned to Barcelona in 1899, where he began to learn contemporary art. The radical artists he met in Barcelona changed his perception of fine arts, and he began experimenting with various designs different from the classical methods being taught. Picasso died aged 91 years in 1973.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
The painting Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon was revolutionary as it was considered to be the first cubist painting and reshaped primitive art in the 20th century. The painting depicts five nude women in a brothel gazing out at the viewer. The distorted female bodies are represented in a geometrical form with sharp curves, while two of the women’s faces on the right are covered in masks. Picasso uses deeper tones in the canvas showing an urban influence on the painting.
The painting was inspired by the Baroque period and African art (Dasgupta, 2019). Picasso focused on the formal properties of African art, which focused on abstraction, a strategy he used to reflect modernity. The masks used to symbolize the savagery associated with primitive art. The depiction of prostitutes in the painting shows his emphasis on the Baroque period art, which was influenced by everyday life activities such as prostitution, a common profession at the time. The integration of various styles into a single painting paved the way for the development of cubism. Cubism paintings are represented in geometrical forms and bring together different views of the subject; thus, the painting appears abstract.
The Old Guitarist
The painting The Old Guitarist was done during the blue period in his career in 1903. The painting is of an old, fatigued man playing guitar. The man is shown as a thin, skeleton-like figure who holds a large round guitar close to him. The upper part of the man appears to be reclined while the bottom torso appears to be cross-legged. The blindness of the man further highlights the sad state of the painting. The painting is done in blue shades except for the guitar, which is brown. The painting showcased Picasso’s Blue Period when he was impoverished and living in emotional turmoil.
The style used is expressionism, where the painting expresses pain, desolation, and outcasts in society by the use of a blue background (Langley, Muir and Sutherland, 2020). The subject matter in the painting shows people that were considered exiles and failures in society. This painting expresses Picasso’s life at the beginning of his career in 1902, where he was impoverished and sad. The painting highlights the life that lower-class individuals were subjected to at the time. The brown color of the guitar, which is different from the blue background symbolizes hope for the old man in surviving the hardships inflicted by the cruel world around him. Picasso highlights his life in poverty when he hanged on to his art with the hope that he will succeed in the end.
Pablo Picasso was one of the greatest artists in the 20th century and pioneered the development of the art movement, cubism. He did not conform to the standards and norms of western art but innovated methods that would inspire the viewer to look beyond the picture and internalize the hidden themes behind the paintings. He introduced primitive art and cubism culture to western audiences, which was used to critique European imperialism and the status quo.