What Was the Most Important Thing Pablo Picasso Did?

by Buffy Naillon Google

Picasso's "Guernica" has been called the greatest work of art of the 20th century.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images News/Getty Images

With an artist as diverse as Pablo Picasso, it might come as a surprise that any one of his works could fit into the category of the most important thing he ever did. Picasso worked in every medium, including ceramics and sculpture, making thousands of pieces of art over his lifetime. However, his paintings stand at the forefront of his career with one art movement and giant painting in particular taking on special significance.


Pablo Picasso was born the son of an art professor and showed artistic promise very early in life. Although he was born in Spain, most of his adult life was spent in France, where he created some of the most important works of art not only in his career, but in the history of art. With the advent of Picasso's Blue Period in 1901, in which works such as "La Vie" were created, Picasso began to define himself as an artist. However, Picasso designed theater sets, curtains and interiors and dabbled in calligraphy and light painting as well in addition to more traditional art media.

Taking On Cezanne

Paul Cezanne was Picasso's predecessor and his work built the foundation on which Picasso would found an artistic movement. Cezanne painted with square, angular strokes, and throughout the course of his career embraced the structural elements that made up subjects such as landscapes. He combined the discoveries made by Renaissance artists concerning the picture plane space with a modern notion of objects on a flat surface. His paintings exposed the subject's geometric structure and redefined the notion of the picture plane. It was this structure that fascinated Picasso and set the stage for the development of what is arguably Picasso's most famous style of painting.


Many art scholars cite Picasso's work in Cubist art as his greatest contribution to movements in art. Working closely with French painter Georges Braque, Picasso extended the work done by Cezanne. Cubism breaks an object down into its geometric shapes, but it also reveals a subject from more than one vantage point. In this way, Picasso not only captured a person or object on canvas in two-dimensional space, but also showed them in three-dimensional space, much like sculpture. For example, Picasso's Cubist portraits showed a person's face from a number of different vantage points. Despite this, the person was still entirely recognizable. Cubism had two distinct periods---anaylitical Cubism and synthetic Cubism.


If Cubism was Picasso's most important movement, Picasso's painting "Guernica" is recognized as his single greatest work. The painting stands 11 feet tall and 25.6 feet wide and commemorates the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The town was bombed by the Nazis on April 26th, 1937. Its mysterious symbolism includes people falling from windows, a dying horse and a mother with a dead child in her arms. The piece has been called by art historians the greatest masterpiece of the 20th century and represents the most important single work of art Picasso ever created.

About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.

Photo Credits

  • Bruce Bennett/Getty Images News/Getty Images