The Personification of Genius: Pablo Picasso

“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility ”- Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso, also known as Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, stands as one of the pillars in the art world. He never gave himself a chance to copy or follow a particular style of painting for long. A true visionary, the artist was always reinventing from his early work through his Blue period, Rose period, Cubism, and until the end of his life.

Not only did he manage to become famous worldwide in his own lifetime, he inspired and invented, nearly every art movement in the twentieth century…. the most notable being that of Cubism.

Picasso’s father was an art teacher who quickly realised he had a genius son and wanted to teach his son everything he knew. At the young age of 14, Picasso passed the entrance exam to the Barcelona School of Fine Arts, in just one day. By the early 1900s, Picasso had moved to Paris, the heart of the Art world, where he befriended the poet Max Jacob.

Before, and shortly after, moving to Paris, Picasso’s painting was in its Blue Period (1900-1904), where he painted essentially monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue green, only occasionally warmed by other colors. This period was said to be triggered by the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas who shot himself in the right temple at the L’Hippodrome Café in Paris.

Picasso fell into a severe depression that last him several years. His until-then promising career began to slide. Besides his blue palette, the subjects of his works focused on the poor, drunk and prostitutes. People refused to display such depressing works of loneliness, poverty and despair and his financial situation worsened.

Pablo Picasso, ‘The Old Guitarist’, 1903,Art Institute of Chicago

It wasn’t until the end of 1904,that his depression began to ease and he entered the Rose Period (1904-1906). It was during this time Picasso met Fernande Olivier, a French artist and model who became his muse and mistress. The melancholy and blues of the earlier period gave way to joy and romance and happier tones of reds, oranges and pinks in his paintings. Clowns, circus scenes and harlequins would be seen frequently in his works.

The paintings during this time still show resignation, isolation and discontent but not mourning like his Blue period.

Pablo Picasso, Family of Saltimanques, 1905, Oil on Canvas, National Gallery of Art

 It was in 1907, though, that Picasso shook up the art world. His painting ‘Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon’ marked the revolutionary new style called Cubism. Cubism began as an idea and then it became a style. Based on Paul Cézanne’s three main ingredients – geometricity, simultaneity or multiple views and passage – Cubism tried to describe, in visual terms, the concept of the Fourth Dimension. Having shaken up the entire world, Picasso spent the next fifteen years seeing what, exactly, could be done with Cubism until he moved onto his next style.

Along with Georges Braque, Picasso played a great role in the development of Cubism. They literally took objects apart and analyzed them in terms of their shapes, using mostly neutral colours, until the final result was an exaggerated form. With this use of shape and colour in geometric figures, Picasso changed the direction of art for all future generations. A major innovation, in 1912, was ‘Collage’, attaching pieces of cloth, newspaper or advertising to his paintings.


Pablo Picasso, Le Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Picasso now moved from style to style, experimenting with painting and sculpture and becoming involved with the Surrealist movement. In 1937, he produced ‘Guernica’, one of the greatest works created as a social protest, against the destruction of the town in the northern Spain by German bombers during the Spanish Civil War. For the rest of his days, no one style could maintain a hold on Picasso. In fact, he was known to use two or more different styles, side by side, within a single painting.

Pablo Picasso, ‘Guernica’ (1937)

Picasso lived long and healthy. He grew fabulously wealthy from his creative talent which included ceramic sculptures in his later life. He took up with younger and younger women, entertained the world with his outspoken remarks, and painted almost right up until he died at the age of 91. During his last years, Picasso began incorporating all the styles he had come across in his life. He enjoyed examining Classical works that had influenced his style and produced several different variations of paintings of Old Masters like Francisco Goya, Edouard Manet which are still considered valuable in the art world. It was during this time, that his paintings marked the beginning of the Neo Expressionist Movement.

When he died in 1973, he left an impact on the world like no other artist ever had. His free spirit and original ideas together with a complete disregard of others opinions for his works and lifestyle, made him a role model for many around the world.

Till this day, no-one has achieved the kind of fame he had and he continues to hold the world captive and mesmerized with his paintings.

‘I do not seek…I find.” Pablo Picasso

Written by Reshma Jani

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