Pablo Picasso until the Post-War Years

A part of the artistic avant-garde
Around 1900 Picasso (1881-1973) settled in Paris, where he would become part of the artistic avant-garde. In the years that followed his art was infused with the motifs prevalent in early modern painting: Performers and the poor, people whose lack of social status placed them in marginalised positions; such images can be viewed as expressions of how experimental artists also occupied positions of the outskirts of normal society.

Cubism with Braque
From 1908 towards World War I (1914-18) Picasso and fellow painter Georges Braque (1882-1963) jointly created a new style, Cubism, whose principles Picasso would subsequently abandon in favour of a more immediately recognisable, classic figure style or, in some cases, take further in the direction of the abstract.

The Surrealist connection
In the 1920s the artist became interested in Surrealism, and while he never claimed to be part of the movement he would show his works alongside surrealist artists and contribute illustrations for their journals. Picasso’s keen interest in Surrealism continued up into the 1930s when he created his main work within the realm of prints, the Vollard Suite; a series which André Breton, the surrealist theorist, praised for its combination of randomness and cohesion in the relationship between the individual images.

Political interest
The period leading up towards World War II (1939-45) was a time of political turmoil. In Picasso’s native Spain a democratically elected government was challenged by extreme right-wing forces that eventually introduced a new dictatorship in 1939. During the conflict, Picasso openly sided with the legally elected government and manifested his political views by creating the monumental work Guerníca for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 World Exposition in Paris. After the war he joined the French Communist Party.

Picasso said...

I also often hear the word evolution. Repeatedly I am asked to explain how my painting evolved. To me there is no past or future in art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was.

Art does not evolve by itself, the ideas of people change and with them their mode of expression. […] Variation does not mean evolution. If an artist varies his mode of expression this only means that he has changed his manner of thinking, and in changing, it might be for the better or it might be for the worse.

Go to the home page of Picasso. Tales from the Labyrinth

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