Pablo Picasso

No other artist is more associated with the term Modern Art than Pablo Picasso. He created thousands of paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramics during a time span of about 75 years. For many Picasso is the greatest art genius of the twentieth century. For others he is a gifted charlatan. Undisputed is the fact that he influenced and dominated the art of the twentieth century like no other modern artist.

Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain, as the son of an art and drawing teacher. He was a brilliant student. He passed the entrance examination for the Barcelona School of Fine Arts at the age of 14 in just one day and was allowed to skip the first two classes. According to one of many legends about the artist’s life, his father, recognizing the extraordinary talent of his son, gave him his brushes and palette and vowed to paint never again in his life.
Blue and Rose Period

During his lifetime, the artist went through different periods of characteristic painting styles. The Blue Period of Picasso lasted from about 1900 to 1904. It is characterized by the use of different shades of blue underlining the melancholic style of his subjects – people from the grim side of life with thin, half-starved bodies. His painting style during these years is masterly and convinces even those who reject his later modern style.

On the Beach, 1937

During Picasso’s Rose Period from about 1905 to 1906, his style moved away from the Blue Period to a friendly pink tone with subjects taken from the world of the circus.
Cubism

After several travels to Paris, the artist moved permanently to the “capital of arts” in 1904. There he met all the other famous artists like Henri Matisse, Joan Miro and George Braques. He became a great admirer of Henri Matisse and developed a life-long friendship with the master of French Fauvism.

Les meninas

Inspired by the works of Paul Cezanne, he developed together with George Braque and Juan Gris developed the Cubist style. In Cubism, subjects are reduced to basic geometrical shapes. In a later version of Cubism, called synthetic cubism, several views of an object or a person are shown simultaneously from a different perspective in one picture.
Picasso and Guernica

Guernica, Exhibited in Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

In 1937 the artist created his landmark painting Guernica, a protest against the barbaric air raid against a Basque village during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso’s Guernica is a huge mural on canvas in black, white and grey which was created for the Spanish Pavilion of the Paris World’s Fair in 1937. In Guernica, Picasso used symbolic forms – that are repeatedly found in his works following Guernica – like a dying horse or a weeping woman.

Guernica was exhibited at the museum of Modern Art in New York until 1981. It was transferred to the Prado Museum in Madrid/Spain in 1981 and was later moved to the Queen Sofia Center of Art, Madrid in 1992. Picasso had disallowed the return of Guernica to Spain until the end of the rule of Fascism by General Franco.

Pablo Picasso and Women

Picasso changed his companions at least as often as his painting styles.

The relationships with women influenced his mood and even his art styles. The shift from the “blue” to the “rose period” was probably a result of meeting Fernande Olivier, his first companion. The artist made numerous portraits of his wives and companions and of his children.

During his early years in Paris, he lived with Fernande Olivier for seven years. During World War I, from 1914 to 1918, Picasso worked in Rome where he met his first wife, Olga Koklova, a Russian ballet dancer. In 1927 he met Marie Therese Walther, a seventeen year old girl and began a relationship with her. In 1936 another woman, Dora Maar, a photographer, steped into his life. In 1943 he encountered a young female painter, Francoise Gilot. In 1947 she gave birth to Claude, and in 1949 to Paloma, Picasso’s third and fourth child. The artists’s last companion was Jacqueline Roque. He met her in 1953 and married her in 1961.

Pablo Picasso. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. 1907

In 1965 Pablo Picasso had to undergo a prostrate operation. After a period of rest, he concentrated on drawings and a series of 347 etchings. In spite of his health problems, he created a number of paintings during his last years. On April 8, 1973 he died at the age of 91.

* “I think about Death all the time. She is the only woman who never leaves me.”

Picasso as a Printmaker

Picasso was not only a very prolific printmaker, but also a very diverse one in the use of a great variety of different techniques. He created lithographs, etchings, drypoints, lino cuts, woodcuts and aquatints. Always on the search for something new, he experimented a lot with these techniques. Some of Picasso’s graphic works are combinations of several techniques.

Picasso created his first prints in 1905 – a series of 15 drypoints and etchings, Les Saltimbanques, published by the art dealer Vollard in 1913. More graphic works were produced in the early 1930’s. But it was in the years after World War II that most of Picasso’s prints were created.

Like Chagall, also Picasso worked with the Atelier Mourlot, a renowned art publisher and print workshop in Paris. Pablo Picasso created about 200 lithographs from 1945 to 1949 in close cooperation with Henri Deschamps, a professional printmaker from the Mourlot studio.
Was he a Charlatan?

There are numerous books and articles with anectodes, citations and interviews by Picasso. It is hard to figure out what is real and what are inventions or fakes. Picasso did not seem to care too much what the press wrote about him as long as they wrote about him at all. Whether by intuition or carefully planned, he was a marketing genius, spinning his own legend at lifetime.

Pablo Picasso/I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar
(Live 2002)

Picasso had an excellent business sense. He paid even small amounts by cheque: “People rather keep the cheque for my famous signature than to cash it.” He enjoyed being famous and rich. He was charming and witty and he liked to confuse, to provoke and to have his fun with the public.

After visiting an exhibition of children’s drawings: “When I was their age I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them.”

About art: “You expect me to tell you what art is? If I knew it, I would keep it for myself.”

About abstract art: “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality.”
Collecting Picasso Prints

Picasso had created a total of more than 20,000 art objects during his lifetime – enough to keep the art market for his works in continuous movement.

Picasso prints are a wide hunting ground for art aficionados. Prices vary widely, depending on edition size, whether a print is signed and numbered, on age and on the attraction of the subject. In 1999, an aquatint called La Femme au Tambourin, signed in pencil and numbered 30/30 was sold for US$376,500 at Christie’s in New York. But you can also buy an original Picasso print for a few hundred dollars from a large and unsigned edition or an edition that was made by a skilled printmaker after Picasso. These prints were often produced after drawings of the great master and with the approval or at least his knowledge. Some have his signatures on the plate, some have no signature at all. Such prints are by no means of any minor artistic value. They may not be the first choice from an investment value aspect. But they are a great way for art lovers who want to own an original piece of art by Picasso without having to spend a fortune.

Pablo Picasso Official Website

Artist’s Birthdays

This page I will include some of the artists mentioned with their birthdays. You can match them with your own and see which talent you were born with. If you are an artist or not and you were born on the same day, please include a photo of your work and include it in your comments. It can be funny or serious.

Jackson Pollock, January 28th, 1912

Adolf Gottlieb, March 14th, 1903

Arshile Gorky, sometime between 1902 and 1905

Clyfford Still, November 30th, 1904

Willem De Kooning, March 14th, 1904

Franz Kline, May 23rd, 1910

George Braque, May 13th, 1882

Jankel Adler, July 26th, 1895

Jean-Paul Riopelle, October 7th, 1923

Mark Rothko, September 25th, 1903

Philip Guston, June 27th, 1913

Robert Motherwell, January 24th, 1915

Pablo Picasso, October 25th, 1881

Robert Delaunay, April 12th, 1885

Marc Chagall, July 7, 1887

Salvador Dali, May 11th, 1904

Barnett Newman, January 29th, 1905

Henri Matisse, December 31st, 1869

Helen Frakenthaler, December 12th, 1928

Jean-Michel Basquiat, December 22nd, 1960

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, February 23rd, 1878

Max Ernst, April 2nd, 1891

Wassily Kandinsky, December 4th, 1866

Joan Gris, March 13, 1887

Jankel Adler

Jakub Adler was born on 26th July 1895 in Tuszyn (Poland). Jankel, as he was called by his parents and later also by himself, grew up near the textile city of Lodz which had a large number of Polish, German and Jewish inhabitants. His family were Chassidist Jews, the emotional and mystical branch of Judaism that believed in the presence of God in nature rather than in the Decalogue.

Composition, Oil and sand on card laid down on board

This image of God seems to have strongly influenced Adler’s pictorial world with its unworldly, ethereal figures. He began an apprenticeship as an engraver with his uncle in Belgrade in 1912 and then travelled through the Balkan states. During the First World War Adler, the “suspicious foreigner”, began studying under Prof. Gustav Wiethüchter at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Barmen. This was followed by sojourns in Poland, Berlin and Paris. In 1922 he moved to Düsseldorf where he taught at the Kunstakademie together with Paul Klee. Both artists were a member of the Düsseldorf artist group “Junges Rheinland”. From 1931 Adler had a studio at the Düsseldorf Academy, which he gave up in 1933 when friends recommended him to leave Germany. His departure from Germany followed an active political campaign together with fellow artists and intellectuals during the elections for the Reichstag in 1933, “urgently propagating” Communism and against National Socialism. Adler first fled to Paris where he continued fighting the German Fascist regime. At the outbreak of the war in 1939 he volunteered with the Polish army, was released two years later because of bad health and moved first to Scotland and shortly afterwards to London. During the 1940s he was honoured with significant exhibitions in London, Paris and New York. Jankel Adler, whose œuvre is mostly figurative – Cubist-organoid, often with harsh contours -, was stylistically strongly influenced by Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger. He frequently worked in a mixed technique, employing thick layers of paint – unlike Picasso and Léger – so that the surfaces seem sgrafitto-like. Jankel Adler died in 1949 in Albourne near London.

Tremblinka

George Braque

Georges Braque was born on May 13 in 1882. He grew up near Paris, and in 1902 he settled there to study painting. He really liked pictures by the fauves who painted with bright colors and unstructured forms. He painted in those styles until 1908. In 1908 Braque began to paint in the cubist style. Between 1908 and 1913 he began to study light and perspective. He used his studies to use shading of a cube to make it look both flat and three-dimensional at the same time.

Georges Braque “Violin and Pitcher”

Houses at L’Estaque
In 1909, Braque began to work with Pablo Picasso . They both began to use neutral colors and complex geometric patterns. This style of art is now called analytic cubism. Between 1910 and 1912, Braque began to use a collage. Collage is when an artist take things from everyday life like newspapers, fabric, rope, etc… and uses them is his art.

The Fruit dish
In 1914 he enlisted in the French army and was injured. After the war, Braque used more bright colors and textured surfaces. He also painted more still lifes. He died on August 31, 1963.

Jean-Paul Riopelle

Jean-Paul Riopelle (7 October 1923 – 12 March 2002) was a painter and sculptor from Quebec, Canada.

“Echo d’Horizon”

Born in Montreal, he studied under Paul-Émile Borduas in the 1940s and was a member of Les Automatistes movement. He was one of the signers of the Refus global manifesto. In 1949 he moved to Paris and continued his career as an artist, where he commercialized on his image as a “wild Canadian”. His life and artistic partner was the American painter, Joan Mitchell. They kept separate homes and studios near Giverny, where Monet had lived. They influenced one another greatly, as much intellectually as artistically, but their relationship was a stormy one, fueled by alcohol. At times their styles were remarkably similar.

Riopelle’s style changed gradually from Surrealism to Abstract expressionism, in which he used myriad soft cubes of color, applied as flat planes with a palette knife, on large canvases to create powerful atmospheres.

Tête de sanglier, eau-forte

In 1969 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, and began to spend more time in Canada. He was specially recognized by UNESCO for his work. One of his largest compositions was originally intended for the Toronto airport, but is now in the Opera Bastille in Paris. In 1988 he was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec and was promoted to Grand Officer in 1994. His relationship with Mitchell soured badly, and he returned to Canada permanently. He was the grand old man of 20th century Canadian painting and enjoyed the role.

There was a bitter legal dispute over his will between his survivors, pitting his children against his life partner. Another controversy involved the disposition of his work La Joute, a public sculpture in Montreal.

In 2000 Riopelle was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

In June, 2006 the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts organized a retrospective exhibition which was presented at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the Musee Cantini in Marseilles, France. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a number of his works, spanning his entire career, in their permanent collection.

Robert Motherwell

Robert Motherwell was born on January 24, 1915 in Aberdeen, Washington. Motherwell is one of the most recognized of the American Abstract Expressionist painters.

Elegy to the Spanish Republic #34, 1953-54

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Stanford University, and beginning graduate studies at Harvard, Motherwell set out in 1938 for a year of travel in Europe. It was during this trip that he began painting in earnest, holding his first one-man show at the Raymond Duncan Gallery in Paris in 1939.

Motherwell moved to Greenwich Village in 1941, abandoning his academic studies to paint full time. In 1942 he met abstract artist William Baziotes, and was introduced to many of the abstract expressionists of New York. In abstract expressionism the “act” of painting becomes the “content” of the painting. Through gestural movements the artist is attempting to unleash their raw emotions, not paint pretty pictures.

Motherwell created his first collages at Jackson Pollock’s Studio in Greenwich Village and, along with Pollock and Baziotes was invited to exhibit at the Peggy Guggenheim “Art of This Century” gallery in New York City. For the next fifteen years he traveled extensively, taught art, and developed his style of painting, drawing and collage. Motherwell also participated in one-man and group exhibitions at galleries including The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“Redness of Red,” 1984-85

In 1961 Motherwell began making limited edition prints of his work. He was the only one of the original abstract expressionists to enthusiastically embrace printmaking. Motherwell worked with numerous print workshops in the United States and Europe. These collaborations between the Motherwell and the printmakers were a source of great satisfaction to the artist. He synthesized his unique abstract style, and the materials and technical characteristics of printmaking to create over 200 editions over the next 30 years. Robert Motherwell died on July 16, 1991.

Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still was something of a maverick in the art world. In many cases, he disdained or was infuriated by anyone who tried to interpret his work, including art critics, art historians, patrons, and museum curators. His attitude about art and artmaking was romantic and passionate, and he did not believe that most people understood or properly appreciated his work.

Clyfford Still, No. 1 

Born in North Dakota in 1904, Still spent time in California and New York before settling in Maryland to live and work. In so doing, he rejected the politics of the New York art scene, which for the first time in history had become the international center of the art world.

Still painted large abstract canvases with much impasto (thick, textural paint) and vertical, jagged bolts of colors. The flame-like patches of color are often cut off at the canvas edges, making viewers think that the forms continue beyond what they can see. Although his early work includes figurative paintings and landscapes, Still has denied that these have any connection or relevance to his mature, signature images. Instead, he has said, “Each painting is an episode in a personal history, an entry in a journal,” and “My work in its entirety is like a symphony in which each painting has its part.” The titles of his paintings, which contain dates, letters, and numbers that signify the order in which they were created, support this explanation.

Still wanted his paintings to be under his own personal control, and did not like them separated from one another or exhibited with other artists’ work. He felt that his paintings could only be understood as part of a whole, with the whole being the evolution of his entire life’s work. This obsession with maintaining absolute control resulted in his rejection of offers to buy his paintings, refusing awards and honors, and declining invitations to exhibit both in individual and group shows.

Clyfford Still, 1947-J 

Gordon Smith, who was the director of the Albright Art Gallery (renamed the Albright-Knox Art Gallery when the 1962 addition was completed) from 1955-1973, along with the Gallery’s important patron Seymour H. Knox, worked hard to win Still’s trust and finally convinced him of their sincere interest in his work. Still allowed them to purchase two paintings, and agreed to a rare retrospective exhibition that opened at the Gallery in 1959. Pleased with Buffalo’s reception of his work, in 1964 Still donated thirty-one paintings to The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, the parent organization of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. According to the terms of the gift, the paintings must be shown in their own room, all of the time, and never loaned to other museums. (This latter condition was set aside on one occasion by Still’s widow.) The Clyfford Still Room at the Gallery is an awe-inspiring experience that foreshadows the art form known as installation, where the artist creates an environment for the viewer to enter.

Currently, 750 oil paintings and more than 13,000 works on paper by Clyfford Still are in storage in Maryland, awaiting an individual or institution to fulfill the terms of his will. It stipulated that they be installed in a museum built to his specifications and exhibited under his terms, never to be “sold, given, or exchanged.”


SUGGESTIONS FOR HANDS-ON AND RELATED ACTIVITIES

  • Make a diary without using words–use only colors and abstract shapes. Draw the way you feel today or something you did today. On the back of each drawing, write about what you were feeling or experiencing that day. Do the same thing for a whole week, or a whole month. Put the drawings together in a book.
  • Hang up the drawings from the above activity and have each student select one and write what it means to him or her or how it makes him or her feel. Come up with a system so that every picture is chosen by somebody. Compare what’s written by the artist on the back to the viewer’s interpretation. Do the two ever match? Which writing is “right”? (This is a question with no right answer, but students may discover some of the issues that artists face when confronting their critics.)
  • Clyfford Still often used dark colors in his work. Sometimes he used two, three, or more different looking blacks, or dark blues. Have the students collect markers, pencils, paints, and crayons–anything that can make a black or dark blue mark (even a charcoal briquet!). Then have them use a large sheet of paper and create an abstract drawing or painting like the one above, using only the colors they have collected. You could even try adding different substances to parts of the drawing after it is finished, such as Elmer’s glue, to make some parts shinier than others. Talk about matte as opposed to shiny, opaque as opposed to transparent. Try to classify all the different blacks in the students’ drawings using these terms. Finally, let students look at the works and describe how they make them feel.