“I write pictures, like others – autobiographies. Completed or not, they are the pages of my diary and in this sense are valuable “
© Pablo Picasso
On a journey from the objective to the surrealist Pablo Picasso went the furthest. “Why multiply the reality, if the photographic lens can perfectly handle it?” He shrugged and returned to his canvases, at which realism, post-impressionism, cubism and surrealism dominated at different times.
For ninety-one years of life, the Spanish artist has created a truly great number of paintings: the Museum of Modern Art in New York claims that their number is approaching twenty thousand. However, the volume of plots and laid down meanings is uncountable. Paris – Mecca of all the young, ambitious and poor artists, hosted by Picasso when he was already twenty-two. It’s hard to believe, but then, in 1901, for critics, he was no more than a talented imitator with a good manner of impressionism, and he did not even have to talk about his own style. Full of discontent with his marginal position and lack of recognition, the artist took on the blue palette.
Four long and painful years spent on the conquest of the artistic capital, now referred to as the “Blue Period” and recognizable by gloomy subjects and piercing shades of shades. And, although many works of those years refer to the style of Edgar Degas and El Greco, the tragedies of one’s own life (especially the suicide of a best friend) begin to manifest and occupy the canvas on the canvases. Feeling hungry and cold in tiny studios, Pablo wrote out his total depressive characters: harlequins, drunkards and skinny ironers.
In search of characters as impoverished and gloomy as himself, Picasso visited prison hospitals, squalid pubs, and prostitutes’ homes. The lost people at a lonely cafe table, with not only empty glasses but also lives, appear with alarming frequency. The dramatic decline of life along with the “Blue Period” came to an end when Picasso met Fernando Olivier, his model and beloved, and decided on the final move to Paris.
The next two years, Picasso acquired friends among writers and circus artists, as well as patrons from among the owners of galleries and collectors. Invariably once a week the artist together with friends visited the circus in Montmartre, which was not far from the hostel. It’s no wonder that the whole “Pink Period” is full of bright acrobat costumes, ruffles, triangles and other attributes of circus performers.
If previously deprivation was of a melancholic nature, now the artist ironically portrayed himself in the role of Harlequin and mocked his surroundings to social outsiders. However, no one was against: the artists of that time saw in the comedians their alter-ego – the same free and romantic pilgrims.
It is difficult to overestimate friendship with influential people, especially when they become satellites of almost the whole life. Patroness and friend for Picasso were Gertrude Stein, a theoretician of literature and a high judge of new trends in art. It was she who arranged for Pablo solo exhibitions in his Paris apartment, indulging his selfish adamancy: he basically refused to exhibit his paintings next to others.
The most famous canvas of that period was her own portrait, literally ahead of time: Gertrude looked like this only after thirty years. More than ninety times the writer came to Picasso’s studio to give that opportunity to repeatedly and irritably rewrite her head. This part of the body has always been for the artist the most problematic, even years later and a lot of creative hypostases.
“Picasso was almost completely captured by the vision of things as they are seen by everyone, and to avoid this, he stopped writing for the first time in his life as he knew how to do it, that is, with drawing and color,” commented Gertrude Stein on the subsequent changes in the artistic style of his protege.
Gradually, Picasso began to move away from perspective and realistic forms: the influences of his influential friend and the fascination with African ritual culture affected. How can primitive forms of ancient sculptures carry such a strong energy charge? How can extraordinary power be expressed in simple forms? The image of primitive force magically fascinated Picasso, finally convincing that simple form-building conveys the essence of the subject immeasurably more than its detailed image.
1907 was a turning point in the whole history of art and the creative evolution of the artist himself. He created his magnificent “Avignon girls” (Les Demoiselles d’Avignon), letting the society understand that henceforth any connection between art and the classical tradition is torn.
The society itself, meanwhile, rebelled. Only rare and vanity-conscious artists recognized the “Avignon girls” and the “response” pictures that followed them, the beginning of a new era. Simplification and distortion, rejection of perspective and realism – all this was the first time to such an extent avant-garde, which shocked even Picasso himself. For many years, keeping a picture in his studio, he continued to develop this direction, drawing numerous “postscript” and creating the style that is known to us today as Cubism.
“When we discovered cubism, we did not have the goal of discovering Cubism. We just wanted to express what was in us, “ Picasso wrote later.
The very essence of cubism was that absolutely everything in the world – bodies, trees, water, air, objects – was molded by artists from the same material, from the same simple forms, thereby allowing them to be a natural continuation of one another friend. In cubism, there was no main and secondary, background and object – all represented as a single whole. With the advent of Cubism, whose founders were Pablo Picasso and his friend Georges Braque, art ceased to carry an iconic function, referring to the analytical.
Constantly meeting and exchanging thoughts, they both tried to “open” the shell of objects, and, gutting out inside, to reflect on the canvas itself its essence. And when it comes to the essence of a thing, what difference does it make, what is made of and wherein space is located?
“The picture can depict the impressions, memories, and feelings of the artist. The view of reality is multi-layered both in its image and in its thinking. In the picture, the object is decomposed into many angles of vision in an effort to bring to the viewer the fullest information. It unites different angles of view: for example, a straight line with a side view, a top view, a bottom, and explains the outlines hidden from the viewer, ” Georges Braque said about cubism.
That there was another “change of arms,” Picasso noted in 1912, just two years after the emergence of a new, invented by him, the direction. Too obvious connection with abstractionism was not at all flattering the artist, and he went on new tricks to stand out. The fight went to quite realistic details – pruning newspapers, cardboard, fonts, even aluminum spoons.
All these talking attributes restored the connection with reality and at the same time made for the spectators some rebuses. They only hinted at the meaning but did not disclose it completely. Sheet music, lemon wedges, wax drops – the unbreakable yet connected on the canvases of Picasso and produced a completely new artistic reality, but with small anchors in the reality of the present. The direction was named “Synthetic Cubism” and was also noted by the fact that for the first time in the art of art the font became an equal participant in the composition.
In 1914, the First World War broke out, but Picasso, still living in Paris and not having French citizenship, was not mobilized. For him, the end of the 10th was marked by a new hobby – scenography, and a new woman – ballerina Olga Khokhlova. The artist, who always gravitated toward new forms and expressions, quickly got involved in the work he proposed for Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet.
The more scandalous the performance promised to be, the more flared up Picasso’s curiosity, and when she fizzled out at the first show, he was exultant. Diaghilev was also delighted: nothing attracts attention as much as the demoralization of society during the war.
The artist himself turned to an uncharacteristic manner not only to create but also to live. Russian wife, accustomed to a way of life surrounded by crystal chandeliers and black frock coats, regarded Picasso as a fun accessory, which only needs to add a little gloss. He had to match: go to costumed balls, style his hair and straighten his posture for newspaper photos, attend social events and conduct conversations with figures of the ballet world. Olga turned her nose from the alien Cubism and demanded to draw it recognizable: art must be respectable, and nothing else. For the next decade, Picasso wrote in a classic manner – quite traditionally and figuratively for his wife’s society.
“Although he did not like social prejudices of this kind in his heart of hearts, they seduced him for a while, and marriage to Olga was, to a certain extent, a concession to this temptation,” one of Picasso’s women wrote in her autobiographical book.
In 1921, the couple had a son, and the theme of mother and child, familiar to the artist since the “Blue Period”, has acquired a new interpretation. Picasso was willing to compare the woman with the source of life, for the first time in his work he gave her magnificent forms of antique matrons and a beautiful face.
However, on this positive influence of Olga has exhausted itself. She spared no effort to force Pablo to lead a normal, that is, the more bourgeois way of life, and very soon he was disgusted.
With the disagreement of his relationship with his wife, Picasso’s paintings returned aggression, especially in relation to female figures. He portrayed Olga as a monster with twisted parts of his body, absolutely unrecognizable and certainly not at all beautiful.
The period of popularity of surrealism in Europe turned into a full hysterical time for Picasso: Olga screamed and threw accusations all day, the marriage swiftly slipped. Images in the pictures were bloated, formless, absurd, and the theme of love – cruel and violent. Sometimes only by surviving elements of reality can you guess what the artist wanted to show. Teeth must have been a testimony of a person, and a woman is almost always breast, although it is spread across different corners of the canvas.