Picasso and Cubism

For Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, Cubism was the defining contribution of his illustrious career. While his entire body of work covers several styles and ideas, Picasso co-founded one of the most explosive and revolutionary art movements of the 20th century.

Picasso's Background
The son of an art teacher, Picasso entered art school in Spain at age 13 after showing promise and passing the admissions tests. At age 19, Picasso moved to Paris, where he met prominent people, such as Gertrude Stein and Igor Stravinsky. He also developed friendships with rising artists Henri Matisse and Georges Braque as his artwork became well received.

The Climate For Cubism
Many artists during the late 1800s and early 1900s were experimenting with painting techniques and expressions that did not exactly replicate nature. Several artists that influenced Picasso were dabbling in how natural shapes could be broken into geometrical ones. The Parisian art community of the early 1900s was also heavily into African art and sculpture and experimenting with creating heavy three-dimensional images on canvas. Picasso and Braque sought to present natural shapes from several viewpoints, revealing the parts of something at once rather than being limited to a single perspective. When Picasso unveiled several of his early Cubist works, there was both praise and criticism, but soon artists everywhere were embracing the newest art movement.

Analytical Cubism
From 1907 to around 1911, the Cubist movement was categorized by analytic Cubism, and Picasso's paintings from that time were generally of still-life subjects and some human subjects. He also worked with a rather monochromatic color scheme. A heavy influence from African art can also be seen in his early Cubist work, such as his definitive 1907 work, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." Other famous Picasso paintings include "Portrait of Ambroise Vollard" and "Woman Playing The Mandolin."

Synthetic Cubism
Picasso refined the Cubist art form starting around 1912 with the emergence of synthetic Cubism, characterized by more recognizable subjects and a brighter color scheme. More human subjects dominate this period, and subtle distinctions in brush strokes and textures make this subcategory of Cubism more decorative and appealing. Paintings such as "The Guitar" and "Still Life With Chair Caning" define this later period of Picasso's work.

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