How to understand Picasso?
You know Picasso, you can recognize several of his most famous works yet when you are in the museum, standing right in front of one of his works for the life of you, you just can not seem to understand what it is you should be appreciating. Understanding Picasso is easy once you learn how to look at his works.
“I love art and art is the only purpose of my life. It brings me immense joy”
You know Picasso, you can recognize several of his most famous works. You know that he is considered one of the most important painters of the 20th century and that his works are sold by the millions. Also that Picasso had stages, that he had lovers and that he wanted to leave his mark, to influence art.
“Since I was a child I painted like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like a child”
During his childhood, Picasso began to imitate his father who was a drawing professor in Malaga. At the age of 17 Picasso obtained an impeccable command of realism, in a way that many artists will never achieve. Moving forward with his works, he dedicated himself to finding the childlike artistic spirit that he never experienced.
Not only with understanding Picasso, but with any painting it’s important to recognise what is the first impression that the work has on us and what are the feelings that the work evokes. Trying to understand the narrative of the image from our perspective and that of the artist. Noting the colours used, the characters and objects, and the structure of the image to decipher as a whole what the work provokes.
CONTENT AND CONTEXT
Most of Picasso’s works show scenes he captured in his memory. He often portrayed his wife and his lovers, as well as scenes he saw from a distance and concerns about the world he lived in. To better understand Picasso’s works, we must ask ourselves, who is portrayed, where is he, and why in that way? As for example in Night Fishing at Antibes, you can see two men on a boat fishing at night under the light of a gas lamp and two very different women waiting for them in the port. One of the women with an implicit grace greets the men and the other holds the bike and eats an ice cream and watches them. It is possible that the women represent Picasso’s lover and wife.
“The different styles I have used in my art cannot be considered as an evolution or as steps towards an unknown ideal of painting… I do not subject myself to rules, and that is why I have no style”.
Whether his famous cubism, surrealism, collage, or realism Picasso did not follow any style religiously; he was looking for a way to express his idea in the best way, with the style that would best suit him. To provoke different reactions and he could use mixtures of styles in a single work. In the same work, Night Fishing at Antibes, the hand of the fisherman holding the spear is made with a fine and delicate realism; from that point the realism expands towards cubism, from the real to the distorted.
One of the most important points for understanding Picasso, is the photography. When in the 20th century photography started to be used to make portraits and to replace artists with photographers, Picasso took it as an opportunity. By offering what a photograph couldn’t, Picasso managed to bring together different points of view in his paintings. Thus creating the portraits we all have in mind with one eye here and one eye there. One of his masterpieces, Guernica, shows how Picasso’s works were strongly influenced by the historical context he was living in. The 3.5 x 7.8 metre mural depicts the violent suffering of war victims.
Understanding Picasso being such an effervescent and colourful personality, he constantly included personal details and events and even himself. Finally, to better understand Picasso’s works, one must reflect on what he was experiencing. Going back to Night Fishing at Antibes, it’s possible that Picasso portrayed himself as both male figures; each one as a part of his being. One, as the man holding the spear tightly without having given the last blow to kill the fish, and two, as the distorted and wavy figure who is lost and tied to the foot with a rope. Both ends of a spectrum and both part of Picasso.
Learn more about Picasso, his life and artworks in the link below.Pablo Picasso