Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Picasso

A Bit About Picasso

Realist and Surrealist Works.

During World War I, Picasso went to Rome, working as a designer with Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. He met and married the dancer Olga Koklova (1887–1955). In a realist style, Picasso made several portraits of her (1917), of their son (for example, Paulo as Harlequin; 1924, Musée Picasso), and of numerous friends. In the early 1920s he did tranquil, neoclassical pictures of heavy, sculpturesque figures, an example being Three Women at the Spring (1921, Museum of Modern Art), and works inspired by mythology, such as The Pipes of Pan (1923, Musée Picasso). At the same time, Picasso also created strange pictures of microcephalic bathers and violent convulsive portraits of women which are often taken to indicate the tension he experienced in his marriage. Although he stated he was not a surrealist, many of his pictures have a surreal and disturbing quality, as in Sleeping Woman in Armchair (1927, Private Collection, Brussels) and Seated Bather (1930, Museum of Modern Art).

Paintings of the Early 1930s.

Several cubist paintings of the early 1930s, stressing harmonious, curvilinear lines and expressing an underlying eroticism, reflect Picasso's pleasure with his newest love, Marie Thérèse Walter (1909?–77), who gave birth to their daughter Maïa in 1935. Marie Thérèse, frequently portrayed sleeping, also was the model for the famous Girl Before a Mirror (1932, Museum of Modern Art). In 1935 Picasso made the etching Minotauromachy, a major work combining his minotaur and bullfight themes; in it the disemboweled horse, as well as the bull, prefigure the imagery of Guernica, a mural often called the most important single work of the 20th century.


Picasso was moved to paint the huge mural Guernica shortly after German planes, acting on orders from Spain's authoritarian leader, Francisco Franco, bombarded the Basque town of Guernica on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish civil war. Completed in less than two months, Guernica was hung in the Spanish Pavilion of the Paris International Exposition of 1937. The painting does not portray the event; rather, Picasso expressed his outrage by employing such imagery as the bull, the dying horse, a fallen warrior, a mother and dead child, a woman trapped in a burning building, another rushing into the scene, and a figure leaning from a window and holding out a lamp. Despite the complexity of its symbolism, and the impossibility of definitive interpretation, Guernica makes an overwhelming impact in its portrayal of the horrors of war. It was on extended loan at the Museum of Modern Art from 1939 until 1981, when it was returned to Spain at Madrid's Prado Museum. In 1992 the work was moved to the city's new museum of 20th-century art, the Reina Sofia Art Center. Dora Maar (1907–97), Picasso's next companion to be portrayed, took photographs of Guernica while the work was in progress.

World War II and After.

Picasso's palette grew somber with the onset of World War II, and death is the subject of numerous works—for example, Still Life with Steer's Skull (1942, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany) and The Charnel House (1945, Museum of Modern Art). A new liaison was formed during the 1940s with the painter Françoise Gilot (1921– ), who bore him two children, Claude (1947– ) and Paloma (1949– ); they appear in many works that recapitulate his earlier styles. The last of Picasso's companions to be portrayed was Jacqueline Roque (1926–86), whom he met in 1953 and married in 1961. He then spent much of his time in southern France.

Late Works—Recapitulation.

Many of Picasso's later pictures were based on works by great masters of the past—Diego Velázquez, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix, and Édouard Manet. In addition to painting he worked in various media, making hundreds of lithographs in the renowned Paris graphics workshop, Atelier Mourlot. Ceramics also engaged his interest, and in 1947, in Vallauris, he produced nearly 2000 pieces. Important sculptures were also done during this time: Man with Sheep (1944, Philadelphia Museum of Art), an over life-size bronze, emanates peace and hope, and She-Goat (1950, Museum of Modern Art), a bronze cast from an assemblage of flowerpots, a wicker basket, and other diverse materials, is humorously charming. In 1964 Picasso completed a welded steel maquette (model) for the 18.3-m (60-ft) sculpture Head of a Woman (unveiled in 1967), for Chicago's Civic Center. In 1968, during a seven-month period, he created an amazing series of 347 engravings, restating earlier themes: the circus, the bullfight, the theater, and lovemaking.

Picasso died in his villa Notre-Dame-de-Vie near Mougins on April 8, 1973.

Throughout Picasso's lifetime, his work was exhibited on countless occasions. Most unusual, however, was the 1971 exhibition at the Louvre, in Paris, honoring him on his 90th birthday; until then, living artists had not been shown there. In 1980 a retrospective showing of his work, including pieces from collections around the world, was held at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1985 the Musée Picasso opened in the restored 17th-century Hôtel Salé in Paris. It contains the world's largest collection of his works and his private art collection. M.V., MICHELE VISHNY, M.A., Ph.D.

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