Picasso Argumentative Essay

This essay has a total of 3387 words and 11 pages.


Now is the time in this period of changes and revolution to use a revolutionary manner of
painting and not to paint like before. - Pablo Picasso, 1935. (Barnes) Undoubtedly Pablo
Picasso is one of the most famous and well-documented artists of the twentieth century.
Picasso, unlike most painters, is even more special because he did not confine himself to
canvas, but also produced sculpture, poetry, and ceramics in profusion. Although much is
known about this genius, there is still a lust after more knowledge concerning Picasso,
his life and the creative forces that motivated him. This information can be obtained only
through a careful study of the events that played out during his lifetime and the ways in
which they manifested themselves in his creations (Penrose).

As Rachel Barnes points out in her introduction to Picasso by Picasso: Artists by
Themselves, there seemed to be no doubt that Picasso would become a painter. In order to
better hone his prodigious abilities, Picasso attended the Academy in Barcelona for a
brief period of time. He spent most of his early years painting in Paris, where he
progressed through various periods - including a Blue period from 1900 to 1904 and a Rose
period in 1904 - before creating the Cubist movement that lasted until the beginning of
the First World War.

Picasso's development toward cubism reached its climax with the monumental justly
celebrated Demoiselles d'Avignon (1906). This painting, named for a brothel in Barcelona's
Avignon Street, depicts, in a highly stylized form, five angular nude or partially draped
women grouped around an arrangement of fruit. This final, condensed version, developed
through many preparatory works, was attained by gradual simplifications and eliminations
of an originally conspicuous subject matter. Picasso shows a rethinking of the human body
in Les Demoiselles.# This ranges from a simplified naturalism, (in the centre figures) to
an increased sense of fragmentation in to angular forms, each of which appears to have an
independent existence. Such disjunction of body parts challenged the standards by which
the human body had been constructed before. In synchronicity, the background elements of
draperies and wall were fragmented, aligned with the figural handling.

Picasso initiated Cubism at the age of twenty-six after he already had established himself
as a successful painter. According to Souch‚re, Picasso led the evolution towards cubism
in order to "escape the tyranny of the laws of the tangible world, to fly beyond all the
degradations of the lie, the stupidity of criticism, towards that total freedom which
inspired his youth." As Barnes notes, Cubism was an art that concentrated on forms, and an
artist's job was to give life to that form. Until this goal is accomplished, the Cubist
painter has not fully realized his purpose.

After his initial Cubist period, Picasso moved through various other stages. He
experimented with sculpture and still lifes, and by his death at the age of ninety-two,
could be considered "the most famous and talked about painter in recent history."
(Barnes). After progressing past Cubism, Picasso frequently came back to this style of
painting because, as stated by Souch‚re, Picasso felt liberated and powerful when
painting this way and believed Cubism to be the best way to speak out against the
scandalous outer world. As Picasso pointed out Cubism "is the attitude of aggression" that
could give him complete control over himself, his emotions, and his surroundings. This
logically leads to a brief discussion of what Picasso felt was art and what he considered
the duty of the artist to be. In a brief conversation with one of his biographers, Picasso
commented that he saw art as something not to be understood or interpreted. Everyone wants
to understand art.... In the case of a painting people have to understand. If only they
would realize above all that an artist works out of necessity, that he himself is only a
trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to
plenty of other things, things which please us in the world, though we can't explain them
(Barnes). Picasso painted for himself, as a release from the pressures of his society and
as a way to express his thoughts and problems in tangible form. For this reason, the
events happening around the time of any Picasso work must be understood before the true
meaning of any resulting art can be understood. In the time period directly before the
painting of Bull's Skull, Fruit, Pitcher, many hardships befell Picasso. As William Rubin
explains, during the winter of 1938, Picasso was bedridden with a severe attack of
sciatica. Two other tragic events happened to Picasso during the month of January 1939. On
January 13, Picasso's mother died. On the 26th, Franco's army completed its victory over
the Spanish republic and set up its fascist regime. These two events had a profound effect
on Picasso. He thereafter openly expressed his negative feelings towards Franco's regime
and used his paintings, especially his great mural Guernica to "clearly express [his]
abhorrence of the military caste which", he believed, had "sunk Spain [into] an ocean of
pain and death." (Barnes) The way Picasso set about painting has been well documented by
many people. Roland Penrose, in writing about a photographic study of the artist at work,
eloquently describes the conflicting influences seen in Picasso's method of creation. The
first is the positive clarity with which the idea is born. Picasso, particularly when he
begins to draw on a virgin surface, seems to trace the outline of a vision which is
already there but visible only to him. For a time he continues with complete conviction
but as the drawing materializes a second phase begins which is like a dialogue between him
and the image to which he has given birth. The image has already been given a personality
of its own which can provoke surprises that demand to be taken into account. Picasso 'the
finder' can now interpret the impatient demands of his offspring and with a parent's
insight he guides his child as it grows in stature or rescues it if it stumbles. The
artist and his creation during this time are inseparably linked; they reciprocate, and
rise or fall together. He is the product of his own work. (Barnes) Furthermore, as Picasso
pointed out to Christian Zervos: I see for others, that is to say, in order to put on
canvas the sudden apparitions which come to me, I don't know in advance what I am going to
put on canvas any more that I decide beforehand what colours I am going to use. While I am
working I am not conscious of what I am putting on the canvas. Each time I undertake to
paint a picture I have a sensation of leaping into space. I never know whether I shall
fall on my feet. It is only later that I begin to estimate more exactly the effect of my
work (Barnes). Many argue, among them Barnes, that Picasso was strongly and greatly
influenced by Paul Cezanne and, to a lesser extent, by his friend Henri Matisse. These
influences can be seen in some of his earlier Cubist paintings and their color schemes and
in others that concentrate on the African mask. But, as Picasso himself pointed out to
Zervos: It is not what the artist does that counts but what he is. Cezanne would never
have interested me a bit if he had lived and thought like Jacques Emile Blanche, even if
the apple he painted had been ten times as beautiful. What forces our interest is
Cezanne's anxiety - that's Cezanne's lesson... - that is the actual drama of the man. The
rest is a sham (Barnes). Although these artists did not stylistically influence Picasso,
they spiritually influenced him. It also shows that it was essential to the evolution of
his own style that Picasso preserve his independence and solitude so that his paintings
come from his own feelings. For this reason, too, Picasso built up many walls around
himself in order to protect his art; and, as a sign of his true genius, he constantly
changed styles and media because he refused to be satisfied with any of his achievements
and wished his art to be fresh, original, and uninhibited. This is the reason that Picasso
pushed the extremes in art. He constantly looked for new territory to explore, searching
for something that would better express what he wanted. This shows the true genius of
Pablo Picasso. Social Conscience: The Work of Pablo Picasso One must speak of problems in
painting!... I never do a painting as a work of art. All of them are researches. I search
incessantly and there is a logical sequence in all this research. - Pablo Picasso, 1956
(Barnes). In paintings typical of his work during the late 1930's, Picasso concentrated on
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