The Artistic Diversity of Pablo Picasso

The Creative Process of Pablo Picasso

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” -Pablo Picasso

“Pablo Picasso’s insatiable curiosity and tireless urge to create art often led him to mediums beyond painting. He fully explored sculpture and drawing, as well as printmaking and ceramics. This exhibition looks at Picasso’s engagement with printmaking over the course of his long career, and the ways it fostered his creativity by encouraging a thematic approach to his subjects and by allowing for constant experimentation.

“As a young artist, Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) bought a small printing press, and prints became part of the ongoing development of his work. His first series of etchings and drypoints was devoted to themes of the Blue and Rose periods. Examples include Frugal Repast (1904), a well-known scene of a destitute couple at a sparsely-filled dining table. Others depict itinerant circus performers known as saltimbanques. As Picasso went on to forge his Cubist style, he made prints intermittently, cross-fertilizing related drawings and paintings. One series of his abstracted images was conceived in 1910 to illustrate St. Matorel, a book by poet Max Jacob, who was among his closest friends during the first years in Paris.

“While prints played a small but continuing role in Picasso’s early work, by the late 1920s and early 1930s, he became truly engaged in the medium, and remained so for the rest of his life. It was at that time that he grasped the narrative potential in his printmaking. He enjoyed propping up his copperplates and conjuring up compositions that led his invented characters from one scene to another. Later he would call this manner of printmaking his own way of “writing fiction.”

“Picasso created tales of the Minotaur, of fauns and satyrs, and of bullfighting. In Minotauromachy (1935), he combined the Minotaur myth and the violence of the bullfight in a highly symbolic, enigmatic scene that is considered a milestone of modern printmaking. Especially under the influence of Surrealism, such motifs became entangled with events in Picasso’s personal life, particularly those involving his relationships with women. These entanglements are also a factor in other themes he explored, from scenes of the artist in the studio, to portrayals of sexual aggression, to tableaux in which one figure watches the other sleep.

“Picasso’s focus on the women in his life also involved portraiture. Each time he became involved with a new woman, he absorbed her features into his artistic vocabulary, depicting her over time in a manner reflecting his own changing moods. The exhibition includes a range of prints inspired by these women, from the 1905 Head of Woman, which portrays Madeleine, a lover known only by her first name, to a late series of linoleum cuts presenting a complex and evolving portrait of Jacqueline Roque, the artist’s second wife and companion until his death in 1973. Also included are the young Marie-Thérèse Walter, whose face constitutes a mysterious presence; Picasso’s first wife, Olga, whose stirring portrait, which was recently acquired, exemplifies her role as muse of the Neo-Classical period; the Surrealist photographer Dora Maar, who served as model for the monumental Weeping Woman of 1937; and Francoise Gilot, the aspiring painter who spent the postwar years with the artist, and whose likeness evolves over time to show Picasso’s changing relationship to her.

“Picasso continued making prints with great enthusiasm until the last years of his life. During seven months in 1968, he created Suite 347, named for the number of prints it contains. It represents an intense period of printmaking in a range of etching techniques, exploring a variety of themes. Among the subjects is the artist’s reflection back on his long life, with figures of varying scale in compositions filled with spatial disparities that suggest a flood of memories.

“The master printers with whom Picasso worked provided not only technical expertise, but also stimulating collaborative partnerships. Roger Lacourière tutored him in intaglio techniques (etching, drypoint, engraving, and aquatint) in the early 1930s, as he reached a new level of complexity in such prints as Faun Unveiling a Sleeping Girl (1936). Fernand Mourlot championed Picasso’s work in lithography after World War II. The printers at Mourlot’s shop in Paris fostered Picasso’s seemingly endless experimentation with developing images, like those in the Bull series, which begins with a naturalistic rendering and ends with a few simple lines. In linoleum cut, Hidalgo Arnéra spurred Picasso on at his workshop in the South of France in the 1950s and 1960s. Picasso created masterworks like Portrait of a Young Girl in this medium, which until then had been considered secondary. Finally, in his last years, Picasso collaborated with Aldo and Piero Crommelynck, who set up an etching workshop near his residence in the Mougins to accommodate his demanding schedule.” -ArtDaily

IN DEPTH:

Picasso Black and White
by Carmen Gimenez and Dore Ashton
"Picasso Black and White examines the artist's lifelong exploration of a black-and-white leitmotif through paintings and a selection of sculptures and works on paper. Picasso continued the tradition of engaging the color black that had been employed throughout a centuries-long history of Spanish painting by fellow artists Jose de Ribera, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Francisco de Goya. Moreover, he made highly effective use of isolated black, white, and gray hues in a nod to monochromatic grisaille painting and to drawing, line, and form. As this volume attests, the recurrent motif of black and white appears throughout Picasso's oeuvre, including his blue and rose periods, his investigations into Cubism and Surrealism, his interpretations of historical subject studies for his celebrated painting Guernica, World War II, and an homage to old masters, as well as the powerful paintings of his last years. Featuring reproductions of more than 150 works, this book examines the extraordinary complexity and power of these expressive artworks, which purge color in order to highlight their formal structure. Including essays by leading Picasso scholars, this book is a unique and coherent perspective on one of the world's most innovative and influential artists."...(more).
FILM: Mystery of Picasso
starring Pablo Picasso
"Like a matador confronting a bull, the artist approaches his easel. As he wields his brush, the painting dances into being before our eyes. Pablo Picasso, the most influential artist of the 20th century, is making art, and famous French director Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique, The Wages of Fear) is making a movie. This entirely new kind of art documentary captures the moment and the mystery of creativity; for the film, the master created 20 artworks, ranging from playful black-and-white sketches to widescreen color paintings. Using inks that bled through the paper, Picasso rapidly created fanciful drawings that Clouzot was able to film from the reverse side, capturing their creation in real time. When the artist decided to paint in oils, the filmmaker switched to color film and employed the magic of stop-motion animation. By contract, almost all of these paintings were destroyed when the film was completed. Unavailable for more than a decade, "The Mystery of Picasso" is exhilarating, mesmerizing, and unforgettable; it is simply one of the greatest documentaries on art ever made. The French government agrees; in 1984 it declared the film a national treasure."...(more).
Picasso: A Biography
by Patrick O'Brian
"Everything about Picasso, except his physical stature, was on an enormous scale. No painter of the first rank has been so awe-inspiringly productive. No painter of any rank has made so much money. A few painters have rivaled his life span of ninety years, but none has attracted so avid, so insatiable, a public interest. Patrick O'Brian knew Picasso sufficiently well to have a strong sense of his personality. The man that emerges from this scholarly, passionate, and brilliantly written biography is one of many contradictions: hard and tender, mean and generous, affectionate and cold, private despite the relish of his fame. In his later years he professed communism, yet in O'Brian's view retained to the end of his life a residual Catholic outlook. Not that such matters were allowed to interfere with his vigorous sensuality. Sex and money, eating and drinking, friends and quarrels, comedies and tragedies, suicides and wars tumble one another in the vast chaos of his experience. he was "a man almost as lonely as the sun, but one who glowed with much the same fierce, burning life." It is with that impression of its subject that this book leaves its readers....(more.)"
FILM: Surviving Picasso
starring Anthony Hopkins
"World-renowned painter Pablo Picasso (Anthony Hopkins) is notorious for his infidelity, but his French lover, Françoise Gilot (Natascha McElhone), manages to weather her stormy relationship with him better than many other women. While serving as Picasso's muse and the mother of two of his children, Gilot -- an artist in her own right -- has to contend with his relationships with other women, including his wife, dancer Olga Khokhlova (Jane Lapotaire), and photographer Dora Maar (Julianne Moore)... (more)