Pablo Picasso's Early Art

by Lacy Nichols
Though most known for cubism, Pablo Picasso produced paintings in alternate styles early on.

Though most known for cubism, Pablo Picasso produced paintings in alternate styles early on.

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Pablo Picasso was a famed Spanish artist who helped to create and popularize the art style known as cubism. Picasso put forth thousands of pieces of art throughout the 20th century over seven decades. While Picasso is most famous for his cubist work later in his career, the artist produced countless paintings of different styles during the earlier stages of his life.

The School Years

Between 1892 and 1897, Picasso studied at several different art academies throughout Spain, including Barcelona and Madrid. During these years, Picasso painted using live models and remnants of Greek sculptures as inspiration. Picasso's paintings during his art school years were far more realistic than his later paintings would be. One of the more popular paintings from this time in Picasso's life is "The Old Fisherman," Picasso's depiction of an old sailor. Picasso also produced many religious paintings during this time, thanks to frequent visits to the Prado. In addition to religious and classic paintings, some of Picasso's work displayed his sense of humor, such as "Self-Portrait in a Wig," a painting showing Picasso as a nobleman.

Picasso and Modernism

In 1899, Picasso joined forces with a group of avant-garde artists and writers in Barcelona. At this time, Picasso began more modernistic paintings, employing the use of mood and symbolism. Picasso's paintings during this time incorporated simple lines, shapes and unrealistic colors. Picasso soon moved to Paris, a city where many avant-garde artists were living at the time. Many of Picasso's paintings during this phase were of night life in Paris and portraits of friends and locals. Picasso's work during this time was described as "passionate" by art critic Félicien Fagus.

The Blue Period

Shortly after his move to Paris, Picasso began creating art with a melancholy appearance. This period in Picasso's life is known as the blue period because many of his paintings contained blue hues, some being painted solely in shades of blue. The color blue was associated with pain and despair in the world of symbolic art. During this time, Picasso released "Crouching Woman" and "La Vie," both of which were paintings of idealized versions of depressing subjects. "La Vie" was originally supposed to be a self-portrait, but Picasso substituted a different model. "La Vie" is a somewhat mysterious work and is highly allegorical in nature.

The Rose Period

In 1905, Picasso's paintings took a lighter turn, and his choice in color shifted from blues to roses and beiges. This shift resulted in this period being referred to as the rose period. It was during the rose period that Picasso began to use circus and fairground performers as inspiration, a trend that would last through the remainder of his career. Some paintings from the rose period include "Two Youths," "Nude Boy" and "Harlequin Family." However, Picasso's most famed work of art from the rose period is "Family of Saltimbanques," a very large painting depicting a family from the circus. The painting shows a bleak background with a disconnected family in various costumes. One of the family members is dressed as a harlequin, which later became Picasso's alter-ego.

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