The life & art of Cubist Pablo Picasso

Barb Toland Featured Artist

Today we're going to talk about an artist that EVERYBODY knows ... Pablo Picasso.

So let's get this party started, shall we?!

Picasso's work is so prolific, I can only hope to scratch the surface here today. With that in mind, I thought it might help to narrow the scope just a bit.

So today we're going to talk about his favorite subject of all ... women:)

Let's start with a painting of one of the most important women in any man's life, his mother. He created this painting of his mother in 1896 when he was just 14 yrs. old. Obviously he was gifted with an enormous amount of artistic talent at a young age.


Speaking of his mother, here are just a few highlights of his childhood:
  • He was born in Málaga, Spain in 1881
  • His baptized name was, "Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso". Whew, now that's a mouthful for sure!
  • Picasso's father was a painter & professor of art, and taught classical painting to his son from an early age.
  • According to his mother, his first words were "piz, piz", a shortening of lápiz, the Spanish word for "pencil".
  • His younger sister, Conchita died of diptheria at age 7 having a profound & lasting impact on his life.

So fast forward to the year 1900, the turn of the 20th century ... Picasso has just turned 18. During this time he starts to pivot away from the classical training of his childhood. 

He begins to explore the art concepts that surround him, and it's not surprising that 1900 also marks his very first visit to Paris, and by 1901 he's living there full time.

The early 1900's are about 2 distinct stages in his artistic progression ... first his "blue period" & then his "rose period".

His blue period paintings consist of blue tones, and are quite sad & sombre. Some historians say the paintings he made during this time are moodier partly because of his devastation at the loss of a close friend to suicide.

His rose period consists of rose & peach tones, and are painted when bohemian artist, Fernandes Olivier becomes his mistress.

Perhaps she was able to get him out of his blue funk;-)


He then goes on to explore African art, being exposed to it at a museum in Paris. He also meets artist Henri Matisse (later to become a lifelong friend & rival), who further sparks Picasso's interest by showing him an African mask he owns.

It's African art that begins to set the stage for his discovery & work in the art movement eventually known as Cubism...


It's at this point that Picasso really begins sinking his teeth into cubism as an art form in & of itself. A huge influence on his work at this time is his friend & fellow artist, Georges Braque.

Although Braque is every bit as progressive in his work as Picasso, his quieter more reserved nature is eclipsed by Picasso's charisma & charm.

The first painting below is all about exploring the cubist style of separating the subject into individual parts & from different angles, and then rearranging them so that the subject is viewed from several different perspectives at the same time.

And by the time Picasso gets to the second painting, cubism has vanished from his canvas, and he now returns (in a newer, fresher way) to his classical roots.


And in the following 2 paintings (both portraits of his first wife, Russian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova) he goes on to explore surrealism.

Surrealism pushes the envelope towards the distortion of reality.

Here you can see in both paintings he exaggerates certain body parts, especially the size of her hands, and her head.

(As a side note, isn't it fascinating that the first painting looks remarkably like ayoung girl from from today checking her cell phone?!)


During the last half of his life (1930's thru 60's), when he has increasingly matured as an artist, Picasso fluctuates between many different styles, and begins to find what specifically works for him.

For the most part (at least for a while) he settles on the use of saturated, vivid colors (again, perhaps the influence of Henri Matisse).


Sometimes pushing his art towards surrealism, and other times more towards cubism...



Then quite interestingly, he turns from bright colors, to a more muted palette in the last chapter of his life.

What a difference a decade makes...


Omgosh, this was only the very tip of the Picasso iceberg.

To sum things up, Picasso was prolific in the number of paintings & other art work he created. It's estimated that his body of work approached 50,000 paintings. This is in addition to his creations in ceramics, drawing, sculpture, prints, tapestries & rugs.

I'm tired just thinking about it lol.

Picasso was also interested in exploring & mixing a number of different movements & styles, giving his work an enormous diversity not typically seen in many other artists.

As always, if after this taste you've found you have enjoyed learning about Picasso's work, I encourage you to take a deeper dive by researching his art & life.

(If you want to see a high level, chronological view of his 80+ years of paintings this is a brilliant way to do so. Just scrolling thru the images reveals so much.)

In my research for this email I discovered that one of my favorite actors - Anthony Hopkins, played Picasso in the 1996 film, "Surviving Picasso". It's already locked & loaded on my Amazon Prime watchlist for movie night!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Fall has finally arrived here in the south ... yippee:) This girl is looking forward to an outdoor painting demo tomorrow, and a hike in one of my favorite places on Sunday.

Now go run & jump & play ... you've earned it!

As always, I would love to know your thoughts on this or any other creative matter you want to talk about! Leave your comment below, and let's chat art & creativity...

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