Pablo Picasso


1910 Before Cubism, the lifelikeness was the major problem in the European art. Art had been evolving several centuries without bringing this concept into question. Even the impressionists, who started a new chapter in the history of painting devoted to light and fixation of fleeting impressions, were faced with the problem: how to capture the world on canvas.

The impetus for the development of a new art language was the following question: why make paintings? By the beginning of 20s century, just about anyone could learn the basics of “correct” drawing. Photography was actively developing, and it became clear that its domain would be the capturing of reality. The following question arose before the artists: how would art remain alive and relevant in a world where visual images were becoming more accessible and easier replicated? Picasso’s answer was extremely simple: the battery of art consists of its specific means, such as plane, line, color, and light, and it is not necessary that these means are put at the service of nature. The outside world only gives rise to the expression of the creator’s identity. Rejection of a life-like imitation of the objective world opened incredible opportunities to artists. This process occurred in several ways. “Liberation” of color was headed by Matisse, whereas the founders of Cubism, Braque and Picasso, were more inclined towards shape.

Originally, under the influence of Iberian and African art, as well as the ideas of Cezanne, Picasso began roughening and simplifying the outlines of figures and objects (during the period of early Cubism, 1906/07-1909). Examples include the 1908’ works. The figures in "Farmer’s Wife", "Dryad", "Three Women" and "Friendship" are easy to distinguish in the context of paintings, but are reduced to a certain combination of volumes conveyed with color. Cezanne said: “Treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone. Using these simple basic elements you can do anything”. The work "Two Nudes" is very Cezannesque, in this sense; human bodies are likened to the shapes of the surrounding world, they almost merge with it.

Pablo in his studio, 1916 Many 1909’ still lives are playing with the viewpoint on the objects: for example, in the work "Bread and Fruit Dish" on a Table there is a topview on the dish and the fruits, whereas the inverted cup is seen from the side and slightly from the bottom up, as we do not see its bottom. Picasso was more freely manipulating the artistic means and was enabled to do all he pleased.

It was followed by Analytic Cubism (1909/10-1912). This style can be seen in "Portrait of Ambroise Vollard", on which Picasso worked in 1910. The merchant’s face is lit with a natural color, so it easily stands out from the blending of faces, fragmentary figures and lines (unlike it is with the Portrait of "Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler", where the face is not highlighted and the piece seems to be more formal and cold). The color in the works of this period underlines the dimensions and allows to reveal the sculpturesque essence of the object. Picasso on consistent object decomposition into heterogeneous details: “The viewer sees a painting in parts; one fragment at a time: for example, the head, but not the body, if it is a portrait; or eyes, but not the nose or the mouth. Consequently, everything is always right”.

Pablo Picasso. Nude, 1909
Nude, 1909

All works of cubism period