Pablo Picasso as a Cubist

Published 14 Feb 2017

Now is the time in this period of changes and revolution to use a revolutionary manner of painting and not to paint like before. – Pablo Picasso, 1935. (Chipp 488)

Although the remark was made in 1935, Pablo Diego Jose Santiago Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Crispin Cripiano de los Remedios Cipriano de Santisima Trinidad Ruiz Blasco y Picasso Lopez, or simply Pablo Picasso, started to paint in a revolutionary style, proving his own genius contribution to art already in 1906. Inspired by Cézanne’s flattened illustration of space and working alongside his friend Georges Braque, he began to express space in strong cubical terms. The terms of cubist style, this emphasizes the flat, two-dimensional surface of the picture plane, whose several sides can be seen simultaneously. The change in his work between 1906 and 1907, influenced by the primitive African sculptures and Cézanne’s flattened illustration of space, resulted in a famous painting “Les Mademoiselles d’Avignon”. All in all, it could be said that Pablo Picasso created the movement of Cubism which has ultimately been the forefather of many art movements.

Modernity caused Picasso to look at new methods and exploring the possibilities of art. Picasso ultimately believed in the artist as a genius and believed that art could be anything. Picasso is typically Modernist in his striving for originality and his seeking of new ways to express his ideas. Picasso’s present was immediacy, particularly his impromptu perfection of drawing was matchless. And yet this same man who could draw art like Raphael destroyed traditional beauty in his search for the new art form ( This opened the door to primitive art, and went through so many metamorphoses that Picasso is impossible to define. Whatever Picasso was dealing with, from nature or the work of another artist, he made it clear that he would do with it as he wished. Picasso clearly stated in his discovery of new art forms that there was no limit to his ability to transform anything he desired, giving us evidence of his belief of the artist as genius. The artist Picasso was influenced by modernity in his dealing with issues and what issues he dealt with. Besides like all followers of modernism, the goal of Picassos’ ‘cubism’ was to overthrow the traditional role of painting in depicting an illusion of reality. The traditional artist had to recreate the appearance of people and objects from one viewpoint, placing them in a deep space. Picasso aimed to form a new way of interpreting reality by looking from different viewpoints at once. This exploration was not for the sake of pleasing the public and audience, but to further the boundaries of art. Picassos borrowing of ideas from primitive cultures, such as African and Spanish, was rather radical at the time and was frowned upon. Picasso was particularly influenced by their bold times, simplified shapes and horrific expressions (Batterberry, 1986). The modernistic belief of looking into the future and coming up with new things are evident in the painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, which was a pivotal piece in Picasso’s myriad of artworks. In Les Demoiselles d’Avignon Picasso frees himself from ‘literary content’ and thereby paves the way for his experimentation with form that would generally characterize Cubism. Overall in the painting there are no empty zones, almost all sections of the work have been over painted. This work believed in the cumulative effect of beautiful things, in the improvement of the beautiful. This painting was seen as a disgrace and caused criticisms, as it broke all traditional beliefs and was new and therefore allowed a change in what art was. Cubism was thought to be one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century and considered to be the parent of all abstract forms (Artists Rights Society (ARS), 2000).

In 1908 – 1912, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque had developed “Analytical Cubism” into an entirely new means of pictorial expression. In “Analytical Cubism” which is the original stage, objects were deconstructed into their components. For instance, In “Girl with a Mandolin” (1910) Pablo Picasso begins the series. In the paintings produced during this period Picasso applied a rigid system and precisely structured figurative language to individual objects, and in reality to three different persons, each of whom are portrayed in an individual manner without the artist having to make the slightest sacrifice in his method of paining. The image of their person is constructed in a different way each time, with facets and superimposed planes that certainly do not represent space in the traditional manner, but give strong impression of depth. The goal of “Analytical Cubism” was to develop a conceptual image of an object, in opposition to a perceptual one. At its apogee, Analytical Cubism reached the level of expression that was close to passing beyond the comprehension of the observer. Another famous work of Picasso, a “Seated Woman”, was a result of that period. The aim of this portrait was to produce a conceptual image of an object as opposite to a perceptual one. All in all, it could be said that Pablo Picasso created the movement of Cubism which has ultimately been the forefather of many art movements (Artists Rights Society (ARS), 2000).

In 1912 – 1917, Pablo Picasso had developed “Synthetic Cubism”. Pablo Picasso was taking cubism to the level of complete abstraction and remained in the domain of tangible objects. Collage also a Synthetic Cubism phase. “Analytical Cubism” fragmented figures into geometric planes, “Synthetic Cubism” combined near abstract shapes to create representational forms, such as a human figure or still. For example, in “Still Life with Violin and Fruit” (1912); this technique had a double implication: firstly, it brought elements from actual reality into the otherwise closed unit of the Cubist composition, destroying what had become almost a code language; secondly, it now made objective the only part which had remained subjective in a Cubist painting – the brushstrokes are replaced by an appropriately objective way of applying colors. “Synthetic Cubism” also combines different textures, such as wood grain, sad, and printed matter. In some works, Pablo Picasso applied these textures as collage.

Anarchist ideas played a crucial role in Picasso’s use of newsprint in his Cubist collages of 1912-13, not only influencing his choice and placement of news items but also inspiring the original act of introducing into his art, in the most literal way, the issues and events of the current Balkan Wars. Picasso’s early encounter with anarchism in the artistic circles of Barcelona and Paris had a profound impact on his development as an artist, and is an intrinsic part of the social and aesthetic background necessary to an understanding of his work prior to World War I ( Picasso was not a doctrinaire anarchist with a program “hidden” in his work, but rather one of scores of artists of the 1890’s and early 1900’s inspired by the Utopian visions of the larger libertarian movement, as it meshed with the international Symbolist movement in art and literature. Anarcho-Symbolist ideas helped form Picasso’s view of himself as an artist in society, his ideas about spontaneity and the inspiration of the artist, and about the virtues of “unsophisticated” primitive art. The anarchists’ social critique and romantic revolutionism also exerted a discernible influence on Picasso’s early work – especially evident in the Blue Period – but was most articulately manifested in his early collages, both in style and, more surprisingly, in content (Batterberry 244).

Following World War II, Pablo Picasso’s works became less political and more gentle. He spent the remaining years of his life in an exploration various historical styles of art, making several reproductions of the work of earlier artist. Pablo Picasso left this world leaving a great amount of knowledge about art. Even though most of the world protested his radical ideas at first, he invented many differentt techniques and ideas to add to the ever-elusive art world. At the age of ninety-one, he passed away of heart failure. He died on April 8, 1973 and is buried in Notre Dame de Vie in Mougin, France (World Book Encyclopedia).

Works Cited

  • Batterberry, Ariane Ruskin. “Picasso, Pablo.” The New Book of Nowledge, Vol. 15, 1986 ed., pp. 243-244.
  • Chipp, Herschel. Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics. Los Angeles: University of California, 1968.
  • “Pablo Picasso.”
  • “Pablo Picasso 1881 – 1973.” Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2000.
  • “Picasso.” World Book Encyclopedia, Vol 15, 1995, pp. 448-449.
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