Pablo Picasso is one of the best known, most prolific artists in history, and had a heavy hand in shaping the movement of art through the 20th century. So vast is his portfolio that it is traditionally discussed in periods of its own, though even within a tight time period his subject matter and media were remarkably diverse. The son of an art professor, he began making art as a child, and showed such promise that he was admitted to the Barcelona School of Fine Arts at age 14, 3 years earlier than was typical. He continued study in Madrid, and then moved in 1900 to Paris, the arts capital of the western world. He met other artists, writers, and composers in Paris, and was extremely productive in the studio he set up for himself there.
Picasso’s first masterpiece, the proto-Cubist painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, was completed in 1907, depicting a group of prostitute-models with fragmented forms and faces abstracted to mask-like simplicity. The shattered, reduced-to-parts figures and allusion to African masks would become staples of Picasso’s Cubism. He was utilizing subject matter to a communicative end, abstracting and distorting to suit his message, rather than attempting realism. This extreme abstraction of still-recognizable form may have been a necessary step between realistic depiction of the world and the Non-Objective Abstraction that came a few decades later.
While Picasso is best known for his development of Cubism and its effect on abstraction thereafter, he worked, through his long and prolific career, in a variety of media and subject matter. He carved into clay tablets and plates and sculpted both in relief and in the round in clay, metal, wood, and found materials, in addition to painting, drawing, and printing. Throughout his work, distortion and fragmentation of form affect a wordless, emotional message; he uses his materials and subject matter as a means to that end.
2016 Masters Exhibit
(note: more works available)