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Pablo Picasso


Born: 25.10.1881 in Malaga 
Died: 8.4.1973 in Mougins (Alpes-Maritimes)
Pablo Picasso painted many landscapes, depictions of animals, and still life’s, such as Still Life with Newspaper and Violin and Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, Marble Fist. Yet at the center of Picasso's many-facetted oeuvre stand human beings and all their psychological implications, depicted with an extraordinary formal and substantial diversity. Picasso's art is like a stage, on which the amateur players move just as convincingly as the familiar professional actors from the fields of drama, literature, mythology, or art. His teatrram mundi encompasses the whole range of human roles, from lovers to mourners and beggars, from acrobats and harlequins to musketeers, and - a very important subject - artists and their models. The small-format oil Cafe in Montmartre, like many works of the Blue Period that shortly ensued, reflects Picasso's observations and experiences in Paris. He concerned himself above all with the marginal groups of society, the homeless, the indigent, the blind or crippled, the despairing denizens of the big-city suburbs and slums. Picasso projected a view of humanity marked by a hopelessness of soul, a mood that seemed to figuratively reflect the Fate of the hungry and homeless he witnessed. The summer of 1910 saw him paint Woman with a Mandolin. At first sight a non-objective composition, it actually represents a highly abstracted human figure. Apart from Picasso's formal experiments, which manifested themselves in the development of Cubism, this approach to the figure possessed a certain logic with respect to the pessimistic image of humanity seen foremost in the Blue Period. Picasso's theme now became the dissolution of individual corporeality. Here the isolation and loneliness of the individual were manifested in a disintegrated pictorial structure in which human existence seemed to be annulled. According to Franz Meyer, the motif of the painting goes back to Gustave Corot's Girl with a Mandolin: "In works like Woman with a Mandolin Picasso attempted to bring the impression of enigmatic nobleness and dignity possessed by Corot's figures to life in a new pictorial idiom.." Inspired by a trip to Italy in 1917, Picasso made a radical break with the flatness of Cubism. He began to paint monumental figures and nudes in a style that employed three-dimensional modelling and warm colours. A picture such as Woman in a Green Dressing Gown stands near the end of this, his "neoclassical" phase. The palette is similarly reserved as in the still life Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, Marble Fist. Harlequin with Folded Hands also dates from this phase. Woman with an Artichoke is one of the most compelling Picassos in our collection. Painted in the midst of World War II, it depicts woman as the victim of physical and mental terror. The fragmentation of the figure becomes a symbol of humans subdued and broken by unimaginable suffering, humans forced to live in a world that robs them of their composure, their very outward form. Yet the gesture of Woman with an Artichoke seems to express resistance, even aggression, the artichoke mutating from a plant into a weapon, like a spiked club. The figure, depersonalised by the fragmented representation, stands as a symbol for the horror and cruelty of war. Another painting that reflects the war mood is View of Notre Dame de Paris - ile de la Cité. Even those who know Paris well will have difficulty detecting that the artist has depicted Notre Dame as seen from the quay, through one of the stone bridge arches over the Seine. The almost Cubist faceting of the objects, the waiver of local colour, and the reduction of spatial depth, all contribute to a certain visual irritation. Yet this was precisely Picasso's intention. "I didn't paint the war, because it is not my habit to go in pursuit of a subject like a photographer," he said. "But I have no doubt that the war is in these pictures. Later the historians may prove that my style changed under the influence of the war. I myself don't know." The same year as Woman with an Artichoke, but taking an entirely different approach to the human image, Picasso made Head of a Woman (Dora Maar). Here he dispensed with the fragmentation of the figure and the dissolution of form, to produce a head whose monumental calm once again seems almost classical. In 1950, leaving all artistic conventions far behind, Picasso created the assemblage Woman with a Baby Carriage, a provocative symbol of the most elementary of human relationships, that between mother and child. The theme had already played an important role in earlier phases of Picasso's work, but now he treated it for the first time in sculpture, producing what was also his first sculptural group. Questions of content or message were less important to the artist, however, than the chance to experiment in combining diverse existing objects, as may be seen in his use of the same contexts. It would be hard to name a single artistic technique which Picasso did not employ. He is as famous for his virtuoso drawings as for his inventive and vital etchings, lithographs, and linoleum cuts, In Vallauris, where Picasso lived from 1948 to 1955, he began working in ceramics, a technique that fascinated him and in which he became a master, as Bowl with Fauns' Heads shows. . Picasso also devoted himself to the study of other artists' paintings His involvement with Le dejeuner sur I'herbe, Eduoard Manet's painting of 1862-1863, began in August 1955, and did not end until 1962. In this version, as in most of the others, Picasso retained Manet's basic composition. But unlike Manet he placed great emphasis on the paintings sub theme of "painter and model." The figures dominate with respect. to the landscape. Picasso's aim was, as it were, to disassemble the original, exchange or rearrange the figures, and assign new roles to them. This is also true of his variations on paintings by Eugene Delacroix Diego Velázquez, and Gustave Courbet, to name only a few of the artists Picasso paraphrased. The role of these works should not be misunderstood as representing originals Picasso attempted to copy. Rather, they served him as points of departure, sources of inspiration. Picasso's formulations are neither imitations nor interpretations in the narrower sense. The artist's late work is characterized by painterly variety and an intoxicating lust for life. In addition to the major theme of "painter and model," Picasso devoted himself in smaller series of works to subjects like Melon Eaters and Musketeers. In Melon Eaters of 1967 the canvas is covered with sumptuously applied paint, and the nudes convey a sense of untrammelled joie de vivre and sensuality. By comparison to this image, the palette of Musketeer and Cupid of ig6g is brilliantly heightened. Picasso produced a bizarre combination of a mythological figure, Amor or Cupid, with the seventeenth-century musketeer, embodiment of masculinity, which had appeared in his work with increasing frequency since 1967. With the painting Reclining Nude with Bird of 1968 Picasso confronted the viewer with a classical motif treated in a quite manner. The motif of the woman playing with a bird became an occasion for Picasso to address, once again, his love of the female body. Very probably the composition represents a version of Rembrandt's Danae. In addition, Picasso's figure has an air of being larger than life, almost a giantess, recalling a goddess of antiquity in her combination of majesty with playful insouciance.
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