Summarizing Picasso’s career in just ten artworks was quite a task! Multifaceted artist Pablo Picasso created an immense body of work that continues to inspire artists today. As a young prodigy, he painted his first canvas at just eight years old and remains the figurehead of modern art in the 20th century—an exceptional artist to whom we owe Cubism, among many other wonderful things.
Picasso’s Blue Period and Pink Period
The first period in Picasso’s work was characterized by a series of blue paintings, produced in an era known as his Blue Period which lasted from 1901 to 1903. Over a few short years, Picasso immersed his scenes in a blue tint to reflect his vision of the world.
He was particularly interested in ageing and the stress caused by death and poverty. This period was followed by his Pink Period, in which the artist used soft tones to depict a form of melancholy. In 1906, Picasso started to move away from figurative painting, focusing instead on paintings with more geometric patterns…
# 1 La vie, 1903
#2 Young Acrobat on a Ball, 1905
#3 Garçon à la Pipe, 1905
The birth of Cubism
It was at the age of 25 that the artist radically changed his style of painting. One could almost wonder if Picasso was really responsible for all his creations, given how much their style varies depending on the period! 1907 marked the arrival of a brand-new artistic movement, dubbed Cubism, when he revealed the painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. In it, Picasso used quite simple (but not simplistic) geometric shapes to create the bodies.
In the same year, he met Georges Braque, who he would work with for many years and form a close friendship. Picasso was the true leader of Cubism, a movement he nonetheless abandoned in 1915.
#4 Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907
#5 Girl with Mandolin, 1910
Picasso’s love of dancing
Picasso was a multifaceted artist and always involved in many different fields. Dance—one of his great passions—was a key inspiration for his paintings. Between 1916 and 1924, he returned to more classic and figurative painting. He also created décors and costumes for Diaghilev’s Russian ballets.
This was how he met Olga Khokhlova, who would become his wife and the mother of his son. This new life led him to paint family portraits—more structured paintings… that is, of course, until he discovered Surrealism in the 1920s.
#6 Olga in an Armchair, 1917
#7 The Three Dancers, 1925
The horror of war depicted in paint
The horror of the war led Picasso to create an artwork that would have a lasting impact on history. Guernica, the painting he is probably most famous for, was a way for the painter to exorcise his anger and disgust at the Spanish Civil War raging in the city of the same name in 1937. He denounced the bombings and violent clashes in this monumental artwork that measured 3.49 m by 7.77 m.
It was the first time the painter had taken a political stance. In 1951, another conflict caught his attention, the Korean War. Picasso never sought to hide his alliance with the Communist party and used the painting Massacre in Korea—which was heavily influenced by Francisco de Goya’s painting The Third of May 1808—to criticize the oppression of totalitarian states during the Cold War.
#8 Guernica, 1937
#9 Massacre in Korea, 1951
Women, women and more women
Throughout his life, Picasso was surrounded by women who inspired him. Often lovers, they helped him develop his style. Fernande Olivier, Eva Gouel, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar and Jacqueline Roque were all muses for the artist at different times in his life. Picasso was fascinated by the feminine form, and there is no doubt it had a profound impact on his art.
# 10 Le rêve, 1932
Other notable works:
#11 Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937
#12 Weeping Woman, 1937
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