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Dora Maar Biography

On December 28th, a visitor at the Tate Modern attacked Pablo Picasso’s original work Buste de Femme (Bust of a Woman), 1944, valued at $26 million. The 75-year-old oil painting, created by one of the most influential and prolific artists in history, has now been removed from public view and awaits word from conservation experts.

The Tate Modern in London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK and one of the most influential art galleries in the world.  The gallery has an extensive collection of works, including several by Pablo Picasso. His Buste de Femme (Bust of a Woman), 1944 was created in the artist’s studio at Rue des Grands-Augustins during the closing months of the Nazi occupation in Paris. The painting illustrates the artist’s ex-lover, Dora Maar, the woman credited with documenting the process of Picasso’s Guernica in 1937. Maar, a French photographer, painter and poet well-known is Surrealist circles, met Picasso in 1936 and is, to her dismay, famously depicted by him as a woman in perpetual sorrow.

In the work housed by the Tate Modern, Dora Maar is portrayed in a similar fashion in this work to that of another prominent representation of her entitled The Weeping Woman; pieces of color are juxtaposed together to create a scintillating portrait in an explicitly cubist manner. In Buste de Femme, 1944, the image that Picasso creates is one of both beauty and consternation. The composition is devised of geometric forms in purple, green, yellow, blue and red which collectively produce the portrayal of the artist’s muse. The woman that Picasso illustrates is beautiful in her rendering, though she exhibits a morose fear in her expression. Despite her talent and success as an artist, Picasso has often regarded Maar as a sorrowful pitiful woman; this depiction of her reflects such sentiment. The woman sits wide-eyed in the center of the work with a fearful look on her face. Her gaze draws the viewer in to an intimate moment of vulnerability.

The celebrated work of art was tarnished on Saturday, December 28th by 20-year-old Shakeel Ryan Massey of North London. Museum security quickly apprehended him, but not before he managed to tear a rip in the $26 million canvas. Because of the damage, the work was removed from public view. Massey was taken into custody, though he denies any responsibility in damaging the painting. He has been denied bail and is being held in police custody until January 30th when his pre-trail hearing will take place.

Representatives of the Tate Modern have declined giving a statement on the severity of the damage inflicted on the work. However, the work is being assessed by conservation experts in an attempt to eventually restore the work to its former glory.

What was Picasso’s inspiration?

By on 30 Dec 2019

Pablo Picasso, born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain, and died in 1973 in Mougins, France, was an active artist for most of his long life. His father was an artist himself, was Picasso’s first and most formative art teacher. Picasso has one of the most prolific creative careers in history, and his work was not only loved by art lovers around the world, but it was also incredibly influential for artists everywhere. But what was Picasso’s inspiration? What inspired these famous works? 

Picasso went through many creative phases in his career. These phases have been labeled as “periods” and show the different styles and mediums he was experimenting with during that time in his life. Picasso’s “Blue Period” started in 1901 and lasted until 1904. During this period, Picasso painted mostly in cool blue and green tones, sometimes using a warmer color to accent his works. These pieces have a melancholy about them, and are quite somber, featuring scenes of poverty and desolation. What was Picasso’s inspiration to start painting in this way? In the spring of 1901, one of Picasso’s dear friends, a painter and poet named Carlos Casagemas, committed suicide in a cafe in Paris. Picasso was deeply affected by his death, and sank into a depression that lasted several years. Picasso’s journey through his grief and depression is clearly reflected in his “Blue Period.”  

 

picasso blue period
Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903, Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1904, Picasso moved to Montmartre in Paris, and settled into the community of bohemian artists and creators there. Coming out of his depression over his friend’s death, Picasso moved on from dark and serious subjects in his paintings to more lighthearted compositions featuring harlequins, clowns and carnival performers. His color palette warmed up as well, with his paintings now bathed in reds, oranges, pinks and earth tones. This period would be known as Picasso’s “Rose Period” and it lasted until 1906. So what can be credited with this major shift in his work? Picasso met a woman named Fernande Olivier in 1904 and they began a relationship that lasted seven years. Olivier would be the first of a long line of women who were muses and lovers to Picasso over the years. This relationship and the end of his bout of depression signaled a more positive phase of Picasso’s life. The overall tone of his work during this period is much more carefree and less somber.

picasso rose period
Pablo Picasso, 1905, Acrobate et jeune Arlequin (Acrobat and Young Harlequin), oil on canvas, 191.1 x 108.6 cm, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia.

Citing beautiful women as inspiration would become a theme in Picasso’s life, all the way up until his death. Picasso has been quoted saying: “For me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats.” He often became obsessed with a young woman and she became an artistic muse for him, inspiring many works. All of the women Picasso took as either wives or lovers were painted by the artist. His second wife Jacqueline Roque was the subject of over 400 portraits by Picasso, and was a great source of inspiration to him.

picasso jaqueline roque at the easel
Jacqueline à l’Atelier (Jacqueline at the Easel), 1956.

From 1906-1909 Picasso was heavily inspired by African art, after he was exposed to traditional African masks and other art objects coming from Africa into French museums in Paris. This phase has been called his “African Period,” and was a precursor to his most famous period, “Cubism.” Influenced by Paul Cezanne’s experimentation with three-dimensional spacing and perspective, Picasso and Georges Braque pioneered the artistic movement known as Cubism. This way of breaking down a form to its most basic forms and reconstructing them in an abstracted way is what Picasso is most known for. 

picasso girl with a mandolin
Pablo Picasso, Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier), c. 1910.

So what can we say was Picasso’s inspiration?

Throughout his life, Picasso’s inspiration came in many different forms. Whether it be working through his emotions, responding to a difficult life event, meeting a beautiful young woman, an intense love affair or the work of his fellow artists, Picasso took inspiration from everywhere in his life. In turn, his life’s work has inspired and influenced millions of people around the world and forever changed the history of art. There is no denying the power of Picasso’s creative mind, and the effects of his stylistic experimentation in Cubism shaped the artistic movements that followed him. As an artist who would come to influence so many artists himself, Picasso is a pillar in the modern art world with a fascinating life full of inspiration. 

 

Pablo Picasso: Sylvette

By on 22 Oct 2019

 

Pablo Picasso, one of the most prolific and well-known artists in history with nearly 50,000 known works, is famed for his recalcitrant invention of Cubism alongside Georges Braque. The artist was also known as it happen for his, often controversial, chronicles with women. Picasso had several muses over the course of his lifetime which appeared in his work. One notable young woman who Picasso chose to immortalize in more than 60 works is Sylvette David.

Pablo Picasso Sylvette David Lydia Corbett
Andre Villers, Sylvette David, model de Pablo Picasso, 1954

 

David and Picasso first met in Vallarius in 1954 at an exhibition where her fiancé, Toby Jellinek, was showing. Picasso had one of Jellinek’s chairs delivered to his studio where he presented a portrait of the 19-year-old drawn from memory and asked her to pose for him. This meeting would inspire several drawings and sculptures as well as 28 paintings over the course of just a few months.  Life Magazine referred to this interval as his “Ponytail Period,” and it imparted instant fame to David. High ponytails fashioned after the artist’s depictions of Sylvette gained immense popularity in France during the summer of 1954. One of the most memorable works that likely sparked this development was his Sylvette, 1954. The work features the model from the waist up posed in profile and rendered in the classic Picasso Cubist style with great emphasis placed on the elegance of her polished hairstyle.

 

Andre Villers, Sylvette, Vallarius (Picasso’s Model Sylvette David), 1954

 

At the time of their meeting, Picasso’s personal life was in shambles; at 73, his wife Francoise Gilot had just left him. In his old age he seemed to have found comfort in the shy youthfulness of Sylvette. However, she did not succumb to the charms of the renowned artist and they maintained a purely professional relationship for the duration of their time together. The portraits of Sylvette flamed out after Picasso met his next love, Jacqueline Roque. The women who Picasso claimed as muses are legendary for losing their minds following their respective relationships with the artist. Sylvette, however, survived unscathed and went on to pursue her own artistic career.

 

Pablo Picasso, Portrait de Sylvette 23, 1954

 

Contemporary critics tend to discount this body of work because of its ephemerality; the high ponytail and the button down coats which Sylvette often sports in Picasso’s depictions of her were French trends of the 1950s and therefore, according to some, lack the qualities of notable work in the course of art history. However, the series of works that David modeled for is often regarded as Picasso’s only successful attempt at drawing from a model, and the beauty of the work is undeniable. The legacy of the works featuring the 19 year old endures in the work of Sylvette, now known as Lydia Corbett, herself. Though she was able to avoid the so-called madness which so tragically afflicted the other women in Picasso’s life, his influence is still clear in her oeuvre today.

 

Pablo Picasso, Portrait de Sylvette David 26 sur fond rouge, 1954

 

Similar portraits of women by Pablo Picasso

 

pablo picasso femme assise dora maar for sale
Pablo Picasso, Femme Assise (Dora Maar), 1955

 

Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon), 1955

 

 

Pablo Picasso's Cubism on the Catwalk: Picasso's Unparalleled Style Inspires Moschino's 2020 Fashion Show

By on 22 Oct 2019

The worlds of fashion and fine art collide in Moschino’s spring 2020 Milan fashion show. Milan’s fashion week took place on the 17th – 23rd of last month in September. Moschino, the fashion power haus made a tasteful attempt to commemorate the modern master Pablo Picasso ( Málaga, 1881- Mougins, 1973). The show featured supermodels such as Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls, Cara Taylor and more strutting down the catwalk, breathing life into some of Picasso’s most recognizable works. The Moschino creative director did not limit himself to one specific moment in Picasso’s artistic career, pieces in the show reflect all periods it.

Head creative designer and owner of the Moschino label Jeremy Scott was inspired by Picasso and the muses in his work, he was quoted saying “Muses inspire artists and artists inspire the world.” The muses that Scott refers to are the abounding female cameos that function as subjects in many of his paintings, prints, ceramics, etc. Unarguably, Picasso’s consistent reference to the female subject alludes to the major role that the feminine had in Picasso’s lifetime. The female models in this show would be intended to embody this vision. In preparation for this show, Scott spent a great deal of time researching these women of Picasso’s life. He states: “He painted so many portraits of the same women over and over again,” Scott adds, “His wives, his lovers, even his daughters. It got me thinking about the Picasso woman.”  The women that drew most of his attention were painter Françoise Gilot and surrealist photographer Dora Maar. These women were two among a profuse amount of women featured in the work of Picasso, but what made them special to Scott were their own personal successes as artists and the exemplary way in which Picasso illustrated them. Both Gilot and Maar were illustrated in Picasso’s cubist style which seemingly defies reality. Jeremy Scott attempted to emulate this in the garments featured in this spring 2020 show.

Ensembles from the show defy reality. Symmetry, angles, and shapes are distorted in respect to traditional cubist principles. This fractured and geometric style can be seen worn in one piece that is a rendition of his famous sculptural collage, Guitar (1912-1914). This dress encompasses many of the elements that Picasso utilized in his own collage work. Found materials such as wood linoleum and newspaper clippings as seen in collage works like Au Bon Marché (1913), are represented in this dress. Although impressive, Scott was cautious when creating this line. Many of these garments go against all practicality, making them difficult for the average consumer to wear on a day-to-day basis. To overcome this, the creative team at Moschino fashioned more minimalist elements to these ensembles that would make these designs more accessible. Subtle trouser sets and simple black dresses accompany some of the larger and more extravagant pieces like this wearable painting complete with a frame. This piece was regarded as the highlight of the show, and it is clear why as it brings a new sense of dimensionality to Picasso’s work. Scott turns a conventionally two dimensional work of art into something that is three dimensional and can be worn. This wearable frame, Guitar dress and like others in this collection combine all of Picasso’s signature cubist elements in a nuanced way that is able to reach a greater audience. This collection is set to release and hit Moschino retailers in Spring of 2020.

Pablo Picasso in Vallauris, a Place for Invention: Linocuts, Ceramics and Love

By on 12 Jul 2019
Picasso in his studio in Vallauris, France. 1953

 

In 1946, while visiting the annual pottery exhibition in Vallauris, Pablo Picasso had the good fortune to meet Suzanne and Georges Ramie. The Ramies owned the Madoura workshop, a ceramics studio in Vallauris, where Picasso, who was eager to delve into a new medium, made his first venture into ceramics. He became so enthralled with ceramics that he decided to move to Vallauris to pursue his new passion.

 

Vallauris, France

 

Picasso lived in the small, scenic town of Vallauris from 1948 to 1955. He bought and transformed Les Fournas, a former perfumery in Vallauris, into his studio, where he worked prolifically. Located in the south of France, Vallauris was renowned for its pottery. During his time in Vallauris, Picasso worked extensively, creating many ceramics, sculptures, linocuts, and paintings, including his masterpiece “War & Peace”, a diptyque that was installed in the chapel of the Château de Vallauris in 1959. It was also in Vallauris where Picasso first developed a fascination with two mediums: ceramics and linocuts.

Picasso “War and Peace”, 1952

 

Picasso loved the malleability of clay and the fiery firing process, which transformed clay into stunning works of ceramic art. He experimented with varied shapes, forms, textures, enamels, and glazes, innovating the ceramics medium. Picasso’s approach was anything but conventional- he would melt clay like bronze, fashion mythical creatures directly in the glaze, and tirelessly decorate plates and dishes with his favorites subjects, such as bullfights, women, owls, goats, fauns, and fish. He incorporated surprising and innovative materials into his craft and invented white paste, which is a ceramic that has not been glazed and decorated with pieces in relief.  These white paste works are amongst the most stunning and desirable Picasso ceramics to date.

Picasso went on to create thousands of ceramics in the Madoura ceramic studio. Incollaboration with Suzanne and Georges Ramie and the skilled ceramicists at the Madoura studio, Picasso shaped plates, dishes, vases, jugs, and other earthenware utensils and then painted and decorated them with enamel and metal oxides. Picasso was particularly fascinated by the use of metal oxides, as their very nature meant that he never quite knew how the end product would look.

Just as Picasso collaborated with master printers to create editions of his printed works, Picasso collaborated with Suzanne and Georges Ramie to create set editions of his ceramic works. Today, these Picasso ceramics are amongst the most valuable and desirable works of Picasso’s entire artistic oeuvre. The diversity of form and range of subject matters found within Picasso ceramics lend them a rareness and unique charm that contributes to their increased demand in the art market.

 

Picasso creating linocuts in his studio

In addition to ceramics, Picasso also became fascinated with the linoleum cut (or linocut) medium while living in Vallauris. Printer Hidalgo Arnera introduced Picasso to the linocut medium, initially suggesting linocuts as a suitable medium for producing posters. However, in his trademark fashion, Picasso pushed the boundaries of the linocut medium, creating astounding linocuts that remain amongst his most renowned and valuable prints to date. While Picasso’s first linocuts were used as posters to advertise the bullfights and ceramic exhibitions in Vallauris, he quickly transformed the linocut medium into a unique form of expression unlike anything the world had every seen, predominantly by placing increased emphasis on color and form.

Linoleum cuts (or linocuts) are a type of relief printmaking in which the artist-engraver cuts into a linoleum block to form a design. The remaining negative surface is then inked and printed.  Desirable for their boldly graphic compositions, delightful use of ornamental patterns, expressive treatment of color, and superior handling of line, Picasso linocuts are collectible for their vibrant imagery and as relics of Picasso’s cherished time spent in Vallauris.

Picasso was an iconic and important figure in Vallauris’ history. He became a freeman of Vallauris and greatly contributed to the renaissance of the Vallauris pottery industry in the 1950s. Picasso also demonstrated his commitment to civic duty by creating linocut posters for Vallauris’ annual ceramic fairs and bullfights.

 

Musée National Picasso in Vallauris, France

 

Following Picasso’s departure from Vallauris in 1955, Vallauris remained an important part of Picasso’s life. He retained fond memories of his time spent living in Vallauris, where his lover Francois Gilot and their children Claude and Paloma Picasso often accompanied him. Picasso would return to Vallauris at later points in his life to revisit the bullfights, exhibitions, and old friends and acquaintances.  In fact, Vallauris was so dear to Picasso that he married his second wife Jacqueline Roque in great secrecy at the Vallauris town hall in 1961.

Picasso’s presence in Vallauris shaped the town’s history. Following his move there, other artists, such as Victor Brauner and Marc Chagall, rushed to work in the ceramic studios in Vallauris. Today, the Musee National Picasso in Vallauris pays homage to the artistic inspiration and personal happiness that Picasso found in Vallauris.

 

REFERENCES:

Pablo Picasso: A Family Affair

By on 13 Nov 2018

When Pablo Picasso passed away without a will, he left behind more than 45,000 works which have become the center of personal and financial struggle between his heirs. The artist was survived by 4 children from 3 different women. They are as follows: Paulo (with Olga Khokhlova), Maya (with Marie-Thérèse Walter), and Claude and Paloma (with Francoise Gilot). Paulo, the artist’s only legitimate son, passed away in 1975. His children Marina and Bernard Picasso now join Claude, Paloma and Maya as official heirs to the estate.

ARCHIVES MAYA WIDMAIER PICASSO (WALTER); FRANCK RAUX/RMN-GRAND PALAIS/ART RESOURCE (MAAR); CORBIS (GILOT, 'JACQUELINE WITH A BLUE SHADOW'); ASSOCIATED PRESS (ROQUE, PABLO PICASSO, MAYA, PALOMA); RMN-GRAND PALAIS/ART RESOURCE ('OLGA READING', 'WOMAN IN AN ARMCHAIR', 'MAYA WITH A DOLL', 'CLAUDE DRAWING, FRANCOISE AND PALOMA'); BRIDGEMAN-GIRAUDON/ART RESOURCE ('PORTRAIT OF DORA MAAR SEATED'); GETTY IMAGES (10); ALL ART © 2013 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK

The heirs at the center of the estate negotiations are Claude and Paloma. The relationship between them with their father has been challenging. Their mother, Francoise Gilot, left Picasso after a ten year affair, and is the only lover to ever leave the artist. In 1964, she published a book titled Life with Picasso which infuriated Picasso and led him to bar Paloma and Claude from his home. Despite this severed relationship, the two children were eventually able to gain shares of the estate through a 1972 law which protected illegitimate offspring.

Picasso with Claude and Paloma
Picasso with Claude and Paloma

Since then, Claude Picasso has been named legal administrator of Picasso’s estate and is now the head of the Picasso Administration, an organization that manages the licensing of Picasso’s name. The administration oversees a huge variety of legal concerns. Each year, an annual report is largely dedicated to court cases that have been settled or are pending.  Given the wide variety of objects (automobiles, pens, lingerie) which have acquired Picasso’s name, it is not surprising that the administration is constantly enmeshed in legal battles. Despite their persistence in protecting the artist’s name, there still remain hundreds of illegal brands titled “Picasso” around the world. In regards to Picasso’s artworks, Claude remains the official authenticator and receives on average almost 1000 requests for authentication annually. The verification process can be complicated, given the scholarship required and the necessity for Claude to view the works in person.

We can only imagine the Picasso Administration will strengthen its authority as the market for Picasso works continues to soar. The range of Picasso collectors has grown exponentially to include regions such as Asia and the Middle East. Just last year, there were 34 Picasso exhibitions in total around the globe. One recent exhibition which generated great excitement was MOMA’s Picasso Sculpture. The exhibition was well received for revealing the lesser known aspects of the artist’s expansive oeuvre. As such, Picasso’s name also retains its value in the commercial art market.  In May, 2015 Picasso’s 1955 painting Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) was sold by Christie’s for the astounding price of $179 million. This marked the record as the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

sculptures picasso.
Photo from Picasso Sculpture Exhibition
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”), 1955
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”), 1955

Evidenced by the popular museum exhibitions and the high auction prices, the wealth and renown of Picasso and his family will continue to grow. Given their status within the art world, the family has been incredibly philanthropic. For instance, the majority of the heirs have donated Picasso’s works to museums. Several works have also been auctioned in order to support various charities. Recently, it was announced that Picasso’s studio in Paris would be transformed into a research and educational center of the arts. This project is headed by the Maya Picasso Foundation for Arts Education and you may find more information here:

http://observer.com/2015/07/picassos-parisian-studio-becomes-a-monument-at-long-last/

Without a doubt, the heirs place their father’s legacy and career above personal conflicts. Their contributions will surely provide for the next generation of artists and scholars who will continue to expand our knowledge of the modern master.

More on Pablo Picasso:

Pablo Picasso and his Women, Picasso’s artistic style thru the years

Dora Maar Biography

By on 12 May 2018

Dora Maar was born Henriette Theodora Markovitch in Paris on November 22, 1907. She was the daughter of a Croatian architect, Joseph Markovitch, and a French woman named Julie Voisin. When Maar was three, the family moved to Buenos Aires following her father’s business prospects. While in Argentina, Maar fluently spoke Spanish and French, while learning to read in English.

In 1926 her family moved back to Paris where Maar attended the Academie Julian. It was around this time that she shortened her name to Dora Maar. Her main forms of art making were photography and painting. Dark humor filled her art and her life as she became part of a group of prominent Surrealists. Maar was involved in activist groups during the rise of fascism in Europe including one called Appel a la lutte (Call to the Struggle).

Dora Maar, Portrait of Ubu
Dora Maar, Portrait of Ubu

Maar first encountered Picasso in 1935 when she was a photographer on the set of Le Crime de Monsieur Lange. The pair were introduced by Paul Eluard, who would be a close friend of both. Picasso was 54 years old at the time and involved in an affair with Marie-Thérèse who had recently given birth to their daughter Maya. Maar remembered this first interaction, though it is said that Picasso did not. They met again in 1936 allegedly in a restaurant, where Picasso was with Paul Eluard. Maar was sitting at a nearby table wearing black lace gloves and playing with a knife. The tale goes that she would accidentally cut herself and a drop of crimson blood would spill over the lace. Picasso was entranced both by her appearance and her actions. He asked Eluard to introduce them and approached Dora in French – he was completely smitten when she replied in his native Spanish.

The two entered into a fully-fledged romance later that year when they spent an extended amount of time together at the house of mutual friend and Surrealist Lise Deharme in Saint-Tropez. Back in Paris, Maar moved into an apartment around the corner from Picasso’s new studio. The political and social climate of the time created an intense environment for a romance. What is more, Picasso was still seeing Marie-Thérèse  and his daughter Maya frequently – a reality that was hard on both Marie-Therese and Maar. It is also during this time that Picasso created one of his greatest works of art, Guernica. Dora Maar was very involved in politics, and was certainly responsible for some of Picasso’s interest in them around this time. Maar took up painting while she was involved with Picasso – but there is little influence  he had in her work.

Picasso Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937

Picasso Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937By 1942 there was trouble in their relationship. Both were disheartened by current events and by the natural difficulties of a romance between two strong willed people. Maar became very jealous when Picasso met François Gilot, and did not handle their budding romance well. In 1946 Maar’s affair with Picasso ended for good. She suffered a nervous breakdown which put her in a psychiatric hospital where she endured three weeks of electric shock treatment. Luckily, she was removed from the hospital and placed into a private clinic with the help of friend Paul Eluard. After two years in the clinic and getting heavily involved in the Roman Catholic Church, Maar resumed a more steady life.

Ten years after the end of their affair, Picasso continued to embarrass Maar and negatively impact her life. The two also exchanged a number of twisted gifts up until his death in 1973. Maar continued to paint and near the end of her life she sold some of her personal Picasso paintings in order to support herself. She died in 1997 at age 89.

References

Caws, Mary Ann. ‘A tortured goddess,’ The Guardian. October 6, 2000. Accessed November 10, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2000/oct/07/features.weekend

Freeman, Judi. Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Thérèse & Dora Maar. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1994.

Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period (1901-1904)

By on 24 May 2019

Pablo Picasso, La View, 1903 Pablo Picasso, La Vie, 1903.

Pablo Picasso Blue Period (1901-1904) and his Paintings:

Hailed as a defining moment in Pablo Picasso’s artistic career, The Blue Period (1901-1904) was inspired by Picasso’s own emotional turmoil and financial destitution. Following a journey through Spain and the suicide of his close friend and confidant Carlos Casagemas (1881-1901) in February 1901, Picasso’s work took a dramatic turn. Casagemas, a poet, fell victim to unrequited love and ultimately took his own life after attempting to kill his scorned lover. His suicide had a deep and profound affect on Picasso, who was struggling as an unrecognized and poverty-stricken artist living in Paris at the time.

Beginning with several paintings memorializing Casagemas in late 1901, Pablo Picasso’s themes grew solemn and dark. He adopted a nearly monochromatic palette of blues and blue greens and began to convey somber scenes of misery and misfortune. The monochromatic use of blue was commonly used in symbolist paintings in Spain and France, where it was often affiliated with the emotions of melancholy and despair, suggesting that Picasso drew inspiration for The Blue Period from his time spent in Spain observing these symbolist works.

“Picasso metaphorically allows his subjects to escape their fate and occupy a utopian state of grace. Some are afflicted with blindness, a physical condition that symbolically suggests the presence of spiritual inner vision.”

The Blue Period also directed Picasso’s attention to subjects of misfortune: beggars, drunks, prostitutes, and the crippled, hungry, sick, and destitute. However, rather than show the specific circumstances of their misfortune, Picasso elongated his subjects’ forms, endowing them with a unique sense of haunting beauty and supernatural grace. As the National Gallery of Art (2014) suggests, by idealizing these figures, “Picasso metaphorically allows his subjects to escape their fate and occupy a utopian state of grace. Some are afflicted with blindness, a physical condition that symbolically suggests the presence of spiritual inner vision.”

Pablo Picasso, The Soup, 1902 Pablo Picasso, The Soup, 1902.

Throughout the Blue Period, Pablo Picasso produced many works addressing symbolic, philosophical, and humanitarian themes. La Vie, one of Picasso’s most iconic and mysterious works, has been interpreted (and disputed) by historians as an allegorical reference to birth, death, and redemption, the responsibilities of daily life, sexual incompatibility, and the struggles behind artistic creativity. A nude couple and a robed woman cradling a baby stand ominously before two paintings that depict figures crouched over in despair. The composition is stilted, the space compressed, the gestures stiff, and the tones predominantly blue – features characteristic of works from Picasso’s Blue Period. La Vie began as a self-portrait, but Picasso soon found his own features transforming to those of his lost friend Casagemas (the male figure on the left), perhaps suggesting the very personal nature of this work.

Pablo Picasso, The Tragedy, 1903 Pablo Picasso, The Tragedy, 1903.

While Picasso worked predominantly as a painter during The Blue Period, he also created phenomenal prints in the style of The Blue Period. These marvelous prints are often created after the image of renowned Picasso paintings, such as The Embrace and The Two Saltimbanques (Harlequin and his Companion). Picasso also incorporated pochoir, or hand-applied watercolor, to the majority of these prints, further contributing a sense of texture and emotion. Picasso’s journey into the dark depths of The Blue Period transformed his career as an artist. As a result, these prints, created in the style of The Blue Period, are amongst Picasso’s most valuable and desirable prints in today’s market. While The Blue Period ultimately defined Picasso as a modern artist, it serves as a reflection of Picasso’s own melancholy nature during a difficult period in his life. Furthermore, it highlights Picasso’s immense ability as an artist to channel his own misery and hardship into a revolutionary form of artistic expression.

REFERENCES:

Related Artists

Pablo Picasso (140 available works)

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