25 October 2016 by Laura
It was on this day 135 years ago that Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain. A prodigious artist from the start, he went on to become the most influential European artist of the 20th Century.
So, in honour of the great man’s big day, here are five reasons why Picasso is still an artistic force to be reckoned with.
1. One of the most important stages in the development of modern art was Cubism. Created by Picasso himself, along with fellow artist Georges Braque, at the start of the 20th century the movement provided an entirely new way of looking at the world. By attempting to depict the whole subject and its position in space, Cubism represented a huge leap in artistic thought which, against the backdrop of monumental societal changes, was a revolutionary force.
2. Guernica, a mural-sized protest painting was Picasso’s response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by Nazi German and Fascist Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalists. The painting was a cry for the loss of innocent lives and a harsh spotlight on the human propensity for cruelty and horror. To this day the painting has not lost its power to shock and in a fractured world which sadly still has so many violent divisions, its message feels more relevant than ever.
Tate Liverpool’s 2010 exhibition Picasso: Peace and Freedom explored the artist’s life as a tireless political activist and campaigner for peace.
3. Picasso was until his old age an innovative artist. Picasso Linocuts from the British Museum, on display at the Lady Lever until 8 January, explores his life-long drive to seek new forms of artistic expression.
Picasso had been experimenting with various types of printing since 1939 but it wasn’t until the late-1950s, when Picasso was in his 80s, that he fully embraced linocuts.
The exhibition at the Lady Lever highlights Picasso’s method which dispensed with the need to cut a separate block for each colour, instead progressively cutting and printing from a single block. The technique saved huge amounts of time, but also presented tremendous challenges. It required the artist to be able to visualise the completed image at an early stage. It also made it impossible to reverse any mistakes made during the cutting procedure.
The exhibition features 17 prints; three linocuts and the progressive prints which led to the final image. By showing the steps to get to the final stage the exhibition provides a thrilling insight into Picasso’s thought-process.
The proofs are extraordinarily rare and the complete set is unique. ‘Still Life under the Lamp’, is perhaps the most reproduced of Picasso’s linocuts and appears in nearly every survey of 20th century printmaking.
4. Picasso was not just a painter. He was also a sculptor, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, playwright, and print writer. The following poem is one I’ve known since a child. I love the slow build up of images culminating with the name of the vivacious city, which Picasso knew so well. Like a cubist painting it seems as though it is sharing a view of a place from many different angles.
be quiet say nothing
except the street be full of stars
and the prisoners eat doves
and the doves eat cheese
and the cheese eats words
and the words eat bridges
and the bridges eat looks
and the looks eat cups full of kisses in the orchata
that hides all with its wings
the butterfly the night
in a cafe last summer
5. Picasso is the source of some of the most insightful quotes about art and being an artist:
‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’
‘To draw you must close your eyes and sing.’
‘The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?’
But my favourite, which sums up not only Picasso’s maverick nature but also his formidible self-belief, is:
“When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
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