Art of the 20th Century




A Revolution in the Arts




 





Art Styles in 20th century Art Map



 


 

 

 

 
 

 
 


Pablo Picasso



The Image of the Artist  1881-1973
The Making of a Genius  1890-1898
The Art of Youth  1898-1901
The Blue Period  1901- 1904
The Rose Period  1904-1906
In the Laboratory of Art  1906-1907
Analytical Cubism  1907- 1912
Synthetic Cubism  1912-1915
The Camera and the Classicist  1916-1924
A Juggler with Form  1925-1936
War, Art and "Guernica"  1937
The Picasso Style  1937-1943
Politics and Art  1943-1953
The Presence of the Past  1954- 1963
The Case of "Las Meninas"  1957
The Old Savage  1963-1973
The Legend of the Artist


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appendix:

Pablo Picasso - Erotic Drawings 1968-1972
Pablo Picasso and his Women

 

 
 

 

 

 



The Camera and the Classicist
1916-1924



 

 

In the USA, photography was soon an art form in its own right. The line of pure photography is linked with Edward Steichen, Walker Evans and Edward Weston. But painters such as Charles Sheeler also tried to use photographic forms in their art. The nearest European equivalent was Germany's "Neue Sachlichkeit" (New Objectivity). From 1920 on, Dadaists, Surrealists, Soviet Constructivists and artists at the Bauhaus were all trying to bring new ideas to visual art with the help of experimental photography.
And Picasso was trying to do the same. All of his figure drawings after 1916 were constructed according to the basic principles of photography - and for that reason they lack something we usually find in an art drawing: variability of line. Lines can be thick or thin, deep black or pale grey, and the gradations chosen can make the visual rhythm of a picture by emphasizing certain portions and not others. Not so in Picasso. From his portraits of composers Satie and Stravinsky to his copy of Renoir's portrait of "Sisley and His Wife", the lines are almost mechanically even. It is an astonishing effect, at once cold and utterly stylish.

Picasso was not only adopting the photographic contour. His paintings and drawings also borrowed the characteristic overemphasis of light-dark contrasts in defining volume, the juxtaposition of the linear and the spatial, even the distortions of perspective. He still used the visual artist's conventional methods, thus often mixing forms. In the Stravinsky portrait, for example, the composer's limbs are outsize, combining photographic distortion with the cartoonist's technique. In such works as "The Reading of the Letter" or the great nudes of 1921-22, photographic harshness in the contrast of light and shadow is combined with a sculpturally modelled three-dimensionality, adding a slight distortion of perspective.

 


Portraot of Igor Stravinsky
1920

 


The Reading of the Letter
1921

 


Seated Nude Drying Her Foot
1921

 

 

These massive figures with dark eye sockets and seemingly machine-made bodies are the result.

Other pictures present linear figures seen against neutral, non-representational areas of colour. In these, Picasso blended the techniques of Synthetic Cubism with the kind of mimesis he was borrowing from photography. The combinations produced new formal modes such as we see in "The Lovers". Paintings such as this represent an intermediate position which the artist tested for its functional values by using it in his theatre designs -for instance, in his work for the 1924 ballet "Mercure". But Picasso was a man to test his results over and over again. This he did by copying from photographs once more. In 1923 he painted "Paul, the Artist's Son, on a Donkey". The accentuation of different textures in the photo prompted a delightful composition. Picasso runs the gamut of visual methods, opposing lines to surface areas, smooth surfaces to textured ones, spatial depth to depthless zones. The shaggy fell of the donkey is a continuous fabric of dark and light greys with white and black brush-strokes too. The boy's clothes are an irregular linear outline that defines a patch of colour and is economically detailed with a few more lines for folds.

 


The Lovers
1923

 

In 1919 Picasso had already used a 1916 Ballets Russes publicity photo in order to combine dancers' poses and various techniques of creating three-dimensionality. In the first of these works he rendered the photo's shadow areas as hatching of the kind commonly used in engravings and etchings. In others he changed the photo's horizontal format into a vertical, tightened up the composition, even cut the number of figures and changed their poses. A dreamy gaze, fingers to chin, or upraised arms to keep a balance - to Picasso the attitudes were interchangeable.

In 1923 Picasso returned to the use of emphatic linear outline together with hatching for his portraits of the painter Jacinto Salvado in a harlequin costume Cocteau had handed on. In the unfinished version we can see how Picasso was aiming to unite the linear elements and the colouring of areas in a new synthesis. It was an experimental phase in his work, as the range of subjects indicates. He was using almost exclusively motifs drawn from his stock repertoire: harlequins, mothers with children, nudes, still lifes, studies of bullfights, portraits. New motifs were the beach scenes and bathers. These gave Picasso the chance to test his nudes in contexts of action.

 


Seated Harlequin (The Painter Jacinto Salvado)
1923

 


Seated Harlequin (The Painter Jacinto Salvado)
1923

 


Seated Harlequin (The Painter Jacinto Salvado)
1923

 


Seated Harlequin (The Painter Jacinto Salvado)
1923

 

 

He was also looking back to art history. Since his youth Picasso had copied from other originals. This predilection now peaked in multi-layered visual quotations and variations, copies, and borrowings. In 1917 he painted "The Peasants' Repast", conspicuously using a stylistic device he had been highly interested in during his earliest real period of artistic identity: the multitudinous dots and dabs of pointillism. But "The Peasants' Repast" is a product of combination, of synthesis, the composition not the artist's own but taken from a painting by the French artist Louis Le Nain, done in 1642 and now in the Louvre. As in the variations on the Ballets Russes publicity photos, Picasso altered his original, transforming the wide format into a concentrated vertical and adapting the proportional relations of the figures as he chose.

 


The Peasants' Repast (after Le Nain)
1917

 

 

Similarly in "Three Women at the Spring" he has adopted the technique suggested by photographic three-dimensionality, as the preliminary studies plainly show. On the other hand, though, his composition of figures clad in the garb of ancient statues is a variation on a portion of a work by the French baroque artist Nicolas Poussin.Picasso's arresting motion study, "Women Running on the Beach", uses motif details from Raphael's Vatican frescoes and from an ancient Medean sarcophagus in the National Museum in Rome, both works Picasso saw in 1917. In "Three Dutch Girls", painted in 1906, Picasso had already done a variation on the ancient sculptural group of the Three Graces, and he now did a number of etchings based on the same famous original. He stepped up his work in printed graphics because the medium suited his new linear style. As well as doing illustrations for books by his friend Max Jacob - "Le Cornet a Des" in 1917 and "Le Phanerogame" the following year - which continued what he had begun in 1913 with three etchings for Jacob's "Le Siege de Jerusalem", he mainly did variations of motifs he had drawn or painted, such as "Three Women at the Spring".

 


The Women at the Spring
1921

 

 

The range of different techniques Picasso was using all shared a concern with identity of craftsmanship and form. As well as painting in oil on canvas, he painted on wooden panels as in centuries gone by. He even transferred pastel to canvas and combined it with oils: the "Country Dance (Dancing Couple)" and "The Reading of the Letter" are fine examples. The textural effect of pastel chalk on a rough canvas ground curiously reinforces tonal contrasts. As in earlier periods, the experiments were all subsumed into one major work recapitulating his experience throughout this period: "The Pipes of Pan" (1923).
 


Country Dance
1921

 


The Pipes of Pan
1923

 

 

Over fifty studies in sketchbooks and on single sheets have survived, but the number, of preliminary studies for the painting must have been far greater, for Picasso also used his 1920-1921 pencil and pastel drawings of bathers on the beach for his new purpose. The variously posed women, most of them naked, were clearly originally meant to be part of an ambitious composition using a merely hinted-at landscape setting. But the artist broke off his work without managing to bring his ideas together satisfactorily. However, he had settled on the idea of tightly ordered groups of standing and seated figures. He returned to this idea in 1923, linking it to bacchanalian motifs from antiquity. The figure of a faun playing the Pan-pipes, in particular, was based on ancient sculpture. Little by little his physical posture evolved - a kind of compromise between sitting, running and squatting. The youth is half-kneeling on his left leg while his right is bent at the knee too. With both hands he is holding the pipes to his lips. At an intermediate stage in his work on this composition, Picasso added a woman to the scene, and a boyish Eros, doubtless with a historical picture of amorous content in mind. But then he tautened the compositional concept, dropped the erotic content, and again accentuated the motif of bathing, admittedly not entirely jettisoning the erotic suggestiveness.

The result was the final big painting completed in summer 1923. The Pan-pipes player is posed as in the preliminary studies. Beside him, in a frontal pose turned slightly to the right, also in bathing trunks, stands another youth. His right leg is casually bent at the knee. Between them we see the vast blues of sea and sky. The different shades emphasize the spatial depth. Rough brown, beige and sandy areas provide a backdrop to the youths, foregrounding them through the contrast, accentuating the spatiality, and rounding out the centripetal composition. The two figures illustrate Picasso's methods of three-dimensional modelling: darker and lighter shades, variously contrasting, to indicate a range of volume qualities from flat to round, together with the natural proportions of the bodies, heighten the picture's evocativeness.

 


Three Bathers
1920

 


Reclining Bather
1920

 


Three Bathers
1920

 

If Picasso seems to have eased off the violation of natural proportion seen in other nudes from this time, this is due to a more subtle approach to the problem. Like classically-minded 19th-century artists such as Ingres or Anselm Feuerbach, he combines an arbitrary elongation of bodily proportion with questions of posture and bearing, so that his figures balance each other out and establish a strong sense of harmony. The noticeable departures from ideals of beauty underline this; for in reality the violations are considerable - the pipes player, if he were to stand upright, would be taller than the other youth and would occupy the entire height of the canvas.

Like Picasso's entire output from 1916 to 1924, this picture was a variation on others, uniting in one place subject-matter with shades of antiquity, classical models, a classicist mode of composition, and a style derived from photography and blended with Synthetic Cubism.

 


Guitar
1916

 


Man Leaning on a Table
1916


 


Woman in Spanish Costume (La Salchichona)
1917


 




Olga
1917


 


Bowl of Fruit
1917

 


Figure with Bowl of Fruit
1917

 


View of the Columbus Memorial
1917

 


Seated Woman in an Armchair
1917

 


Harlequin and Woman with Necklace
1917

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