When it comes to Picasso, there is always a long list of muses to thank for his inspiration.
What do secrets do you keep and which do you decide to share? Great artists leave behind precious clues in their canvas in the hopes that in the future someone may pick them out and unravel their deepest secrets. Pablo Picasso is one of those geniuses who left no stone unturned when it came to creating art. He began working at a very young age, his first painting, Le Picador, was produced at the age of 9 and he didn't stop working until the day he died. Given that he devoted his whole life to the art world, it is no wonder his life was an open book, we know how many lovers he had, the quarrels he took part in, and even his predilection for striped shirts. So, at a first glance, we might say there's nothing new to discover or unravel about Picasso, but when they uncovered the painting hidden behind The Blue Room I realized there's much that needs to be discussed and explored.
Scientists used infrared imagery to find a man wearing a bow-tie with his face resting on his hand. Some may say this kind of detective work rips away the mysticism surrounding the piece, but in my opinion, it sheds light on Picasso's creative process and adds even more mystery. Who was this man? Why did Picasso decide to erase him forever? We'll never know and not having that piece of the puzzle makes Picasso one of the greatest enigmas of the twentieth century. So, here are some facts that will help you understand his work and a little bit about his life.
The mystery man...
Superstitions drove him to work
As was previously mentioned, Picasso overloaded himself with work. Of the 91 years he was alive, he spent 80 creating art non-stop. Why? Well, he believed that working extremely hard would keep him alive. This led to an estimated 50 thousand produced artworks, of which more than 15 hundred are paintings, about one thousand are sculptures, more than two thousand are ceramics, and others are countless drawings.
The Women of Algiers (1955)
His love affairs served as inspiration, but were self-destructing
Besides being the most famous painter of the 20th century, Picasso was also known for being a womanizer. Over the course of his life, the artist married twice, had six known mistresses, and many, many other lovers, all of whom served as muses to create many of his most famous artworks. His last marriage was at the age of 79 with Jacqueline Roque, who was 35 years old.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)
His short term blue color preference was associated with depresion
Picasso didn’t favor one specific color palette, just as he didn't have one single muse. During his trajectory, experts noticed he gravitated towards a specific color for a while and this obsession would fade over time. For example, from 1901 to 1904, Picasso just painted with a blue palette. It was a suitable color for the loneliness and depression he suffered after losing his dear friend Carlos Casagemas. Some of the most famous paintings that were inspired during this period were Blue Nude, La Vie, and The Old Guitarist.
Blue Nude (1902)
He had a "Rose Phase" inspired by love.
Picasso moved to Paris in 1904, where most of Europe's artistic movements were concentrated. When his blue period ended, another phase took over and it could be said that it was his affair with the model, Fernande Olivier that spurred it on. He switched his palettes for warmer colors such as reds, pinks, and soft beiges. These hues brought to life paintings like Family at Saltimbanques, Gertrude Stein, and Two Nudes. Yet again, this period only lasted for a short while, starting in 1904 and ending in 1906.
Family of Saltimbanque (1905)
African masks inspired his cubism style
Without doubt, cubism is one of the most noted contributions of Picasso in art. Cubism was the innovative force behind abstract art, and was the cousin of other styles like constructivism and neoplasticism. Picasso and his friend Georges Braque’s (with whom he co-created cubism) paintings were described as a reduction of everything into geometric outlines to cubes. And apparently, Picasso got this idea from artist Paul Cézanne’s old work and African tribal masks, which he was a fan of.
Femme Assise (1909)
War and conflict changed his social views and artistic vision
Picasso lived though political and social upheavals, which made him hyperaware and involved in political movements. During the Spanish Civil War, he painted the aerial bombing of the town of Guernica. He captured the massacre of innocents in monochromatic colors that allude to a newspaper cover. The painting was also an outcry against fascism. During the occupation of France in 1939, Picasso was questioned by Nazis, yet, he was never arrested and he continued on with his work. After WWII, Picasso’s style became somber with angular shapes and chaotic themes.
During his last days, he turned to epitome works
A year prior to his death, Picasso drew a self portrait using pencil and colored crayon. This artwork is known as Self Portrait Facing Death. The wide eyes and flat mouth evoke a sense of anxiety and fear, which is why critics believe this particular self-portrait is an honest representation of Picasso's fears and worries.
Self Portrait Facing Death (1972)
There are many unconfirmed stories and rumors surrounding Picasso. My favorite is the one where German soldiers barged into his studio and one of them got distracted by one of the artworks Picasso had been working on, when asked "who painted it," Picasso replied, "you did." It is this irreverence and quick wit that is shown time and time again when studying Picasso and his lifestyle. Despite the many nuances we may uncover about his life and the relevance of his work, in many ways he will remain a cypher and an enigma.
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