Pablo Picasso Essay, Research Paper
Picasso – Cultural Expression
Essay By: , Art 1010
Picasso was arguably the most influential artist of the twentieth century. He had some degree of
influence in all styles of painting which were used during his time, and was known and respected by almost
every art enthusiast on the face of the planet. Pablo Picasso, born Pablo Ruiz y Blasco, came into the world
on the 25th of October 1881 in the southern Spanish town of Malaga. Pablo was an artist from early in his
life he was a child prodigy. He began his career as a classical painter. He painted things such as portraits
and landscapes. But this style didn t satisfy Picasso, he was a free man and wanted to express himself and
ultimately leave a lasting mark on art as we know it.
From around 1901 to 1903, Picasso began his first truly original style, which is known as the blue
period. During this time Picasso depicted figures whose clothing and body language speaked of the
lowliness of their social status. One of his pieces during this time was The old Guitarist s (pic 1). I believe
that by outlining the guitarist with a black line, it shows how he is cut off from his environment. The
guitarist is also left very little room for movement, especially his head. This may have been done to show
his helplessness. While the color blue was the dominant color of this period, the reason has yet to be
During 1904 to 1905 Picasso s style shifted to what is known as the rose period. Also referred to
as the circus period. Although Picasso s paintings still concentrated on the social outcasts, his pieces were
lightened up with no heavy dark lines, and different shades of color. During this time Picasso focused on
the circus people and. I believe that Picasso had much sympathy for these performers. Forms of artists
themselves, they were paid to provide entertainment for society. But their lifestyle as circus performers
made them possibly feel alienated from society. One of Picasso s pieces from this time was Two acrobats
and a dog (pic 2). In this figure the two acrobats are physically close, but their is no emotional attachment
showing. Their eyes are gazing in different directions. During this period Picasso made the sad clown a
figure that exists today throughout performing industries. It shows how clowns are paid to make laugh, he
must keep his real existence and true feelings hidden.
Picasso s classical period (1905) and Iberian period (1906) were marked by experimentation and
rapid style changes. With lightened beishes and browns being the predominant colors, Picasso ventured into
sculpting, and more joyful pieces of art. Picasso also became interested in the Iberian sculptures. The
Iberian influence is easily visible in self portrait ( pic 3). Picasso reduced the image of his head to an oval,
and his eyes to almond shapes, which revealed his fascination with the simplification of geometric form.
Picasso turned his attention to cubes. He invented Cubism a radical art form which used harsh
lines and corners to display a picture instead of the usual soft curves. Picasso won a lot of fame for his
Cubist paintings, but was criticized for it also. He designed and painted the drop curtain and some giant
cubist figures for a ballet in 1917. When the audience saw the huge distorted images on stage, they were
angry, they thought the ballet was a joke at their expense. Cubism lived on despite this. Other artists
mimicked Picasso s Cubism, and it took hold. Picasso had only just begun his one-man art revolution.
In the late 1920s, Picasso fixed himself upon an even more revolutionary art form Surrealism.
Surrealism emphasized the role of the unconscious mind in creative activity. Surrealists aimed at creating
art from dream, visions, and irrational impulses. Their paintings shocked the world particularly Picasso s
it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. Picasso saw his newly found art form as a kind of
painted literature or sign language. He took advantage of this fact and also the fact that he was extremely
famous, to make a few political statements, statements that would go down in history.
1936 saw the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Fascist revolutionaries, led by Francisco Franco
took hold of Spain and imposed a fascist dictatorship upon the country. Due to poor economic control and
disregard for the people on the part of the Fascists, the country went through hell. The unemployment rate
was phenomenal. The majority of the population were peasants and lived in appalling conditions.
Impoverished gangs scavenged in fields and rubbish heaps for anything they could find. A vast horde of
ragged, jobless people wandered around from town to town. On top of this the Fascists operated as a police
state and therefore anyone who opposed it would be executed. This incident sparked the most important
time in Picasso s life. On April 26 1937, Nazi German bombers flying under orders from General
Francisco Franco, laid waste to the town of Guernica, in the Basque part of Spain, killing many innocent
civilians. Guernica was not a military target and had no revolutionary significance what so ever. The
bombing of Guernica was an extremely cruel example to the rest of Spain of what would happen if the
Republican resistance continued. This action prompted Picasso to paint Guernica( pict 4); some say his
greatest masterpiece ever. It shows the suffering and destruction of the town, as well as Picasso s own
horror and outrage at what happened. The painting depicts death and carnage on a large scale. A grief
stricken mother is holding her dead child, a woman is burning, a severed arm holding a broken spear is
lying next to a dead man and a horse (Picasso s traditional victim) which represents the people has been
speared through the heart and is in agony. The bull (Picasso s traditional evil figure) stands alone, above
everything else. He is not himself responsible for the destruction but stands as an emblem of the powerful,
terrible forces that caused it. In other words, the bull represents Fascism. The painting therefore says that
Fascism, though not directly responsible, is the underlying cause for violence, death and destruction. The
painting shook not only the art world but also the political world. Guernica is Picasso s major political
expression of all his paintings. Even though it is a single painting, it did so much. And even though it is
painted using expressionism, it is still so powerful and (with no exaggeration) it made people realize what
was going on in Spain and struck up sympathy for the Spanish people, and hatred for the fascists.
Even though Picasso only aimed to express his own horror, outrage, suffering and sorrow of the
Spanish people. By unleashing Guernica on the world, Picasso achieved more than he set out to do.
Guernica struck up mixed emotions. The Nazis thought of his work as degenerate art not only
did it defy the rules of painting; his artwork was anti-Fascist and therefore anti-Nazi. On the other hand,
the British, Americans, French etc. loved his work because it expressed, as nothing else could, the horrors
and atrocities of Fascism (which is just the sort of message that the democratic countries tried to instill into
their own people). When Nazi occupation of Paris (Picasso s home city) came, Picasso s work was
prohibited from public exhibition. Picasso then took on a new role. He refused to leave Paris while the
Nazis were there his fame protected him. But Picasso s refusal to co-operate with the Germans also made
him, as a person, a symbol of freedom, of the unvanquished spirit .
Picasso was one of the greatest artists ever, but also a hero, and a figure of defiance against
Fascism. The reason that I spent so much time on Guernica is because it is my favorite piece of art. I think
Picasso was way ahead of his time. This piece had a huge impact on society at that time.
All 50,000 of Picassos pieces have impacted, and influenced people all over the world. The gift that he
received was actually a gift for all of us.