Friday, July 30, 2010

Did You Know? :: Pablo Picasso, "Musical Instruments and Fruit Bowl on a Pedestal," 1913

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso, known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso, was born October 25, 1881; he died April 8, 1973.

Pablo Picasso, Musical Instruments and Fruit Bowl on a Pedestal, Fall 1913. Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 inches. Private Collection. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Picasso was baptized Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad, a series of names honoring various saints and relatives. Added to these were Ruiz and Picasso, for his father and mother, respectively, as per Spanish law. Born in the city of Málaga in the Andalusian region of Spain, he was the first child of Don José Ruiz y Blasco (1838–1913) and María Picasso y López. Picasso’s family was middle-class; his father was also a painter who specialized in naturalistic depictions of birds and other game. For most of his life Ruiz was a professor of art at the School of Crafts and a curator of a local museum. Ruiz’s ancestors were minor aristocrats.

The Blue Period (1901–1904) consists of somber paintings rendered in shades of blue and blue-green, only occasionally warmed by other colors. This period’s starting point is uncertain; it may have begun in Spain in the spring of 1901, or in Paris in the second half of the year. Many paintings of gaunt mothers with children date from this period. In his austere use of color and sometimes doleful subject matter—prostitutes and beggars are frequent subjects—Picasso was influenced by a trip through Spain and by the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas.

The Rose Period (1904–1906) is characterized by a more cheery style with orange and pink colors, and featuring many circus people, acrobats and harlequins known in France as saltimbanques. The harlequin, a comedic character usually depicted in checkered patterned clothing, became a personal symbol for Picasso. Picasso met Fernande Olivier, a model for sculptors and artists, in Paris in 1904, and many of these paintings are influenced by his warm relationship with her, in addition to his increased exposure to French painting. The generally upbeat and optimistic mood of paintings in this period is reminiscent of the 1899–1901 period (i.e. just prior to the Blue Period) and 1904 can be considered a transition year between the two periods.


  • Arguably the seminal art movement of the twentieth century, cubism enjoyed only about 12-14 years of prominence before the events of World War I and its aftermath helped to extinguish the avant-garde spirit that brought Cubism into being.

  • Works in several different cubist styles (see below) are marked by visual abstraction, obfuscation, temporal disorientation, avant-gardist rejections of past values, and the breakdown of class and art hierarchies such as “fine” and “folk” art.

  • It is hard to overstate the extent to which Cubism developed in a period of rapid change and impending war, shaped by a coalition of artists committed to an idealistic conception of society opposed to war.

  • Cubism is generally broken into two categories, Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism (see below). However, the two were not distinct movements so much as an evolution of the experimentation of the avant-garde style.

  • 1907-1909 was a period of intense interest in all things “primitive,” especially children’s art, and art from the so-called “primitive cultures” of Africa, Oceania, and indigenous cultures, to which the Primitivist Modernists attributed an authenticity of vision and spontaneity of expression that they felt had been eroded from the contemporary styles of their art forms.

  • Between 1909-1912 Cubism was widely explored, and the avant-garde experimenters revolted against nineteenth-century academic techniques of perpectival illusionism and the related assumption that a painting must represent a single moment in time and be seen from a fixed point in space (or, for that matter, depict a single position in space). The works of this period experiment with multiple viewpoints, distortions of form, ambiguous spatial relations in part in response to new theories about space and time being developed concurrently.

  • 1907-1914 Cubism has a kind of cultural-political motivation in its subversion of nineteenth-century academic art styles, as well as the development of a kind of French artistic nationalism following the success of cubism.

  • 1912-1914 is the period during which Cubism explodes conceptions of art beyond painting, and reaches into fields of design, architecture, and beyond, through the advent of collage and assemblage sculpture. Collage represented another rejection of academic tradition (oil on canvas) and assemblage problematized traditional sculpture by exploding the dichotomy between “high” and “vernacular” art through the use of everyday materials.

Analytic Cubism (1909–1912) is a style of painting Picasso developed along with Georges Braque using monochrome brownish and neutral colors. Both artists took apart objects and “analyzed” them in terms of their shapes. Picasso and Braque’s paintings at this time have many similarities. Synthetic cubism (1912–1919) was a further development of the genre, in which cut paper fragments—often wallpaper or portions of newspaper pages—were pasted into compositions, marking the first use of collage in fine art.

Analytic Cubism is one of the two major branches of the artistic movement of Cubism, and was developed between 1908 and 1912. In contrast to Synthetic Cubism, Analytic cubists "analyzed" natural forms and reduced the forms into basic geometric parts on the two-dimensional picture plane. Color was almost non-existent except for the use of a monochromatic scheme that often included grey, blue and ochre. Instead of an emphasis on color, Analytic cubists focused on forms like the cylinder, sphere and the cone to represent the natural world.

During this movement, the works produced by Picasso and Braque shared stylistic similarities. Both Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque moved toward abstraction, leaving only enough signs of the real world to supply a tension between the reality outside the painting and the complicated meditations on visual language within the frame.

In Paris in 1907 a major museum retrospective exhibition of the work of Paul Cézanne opened shortly after his death. The exhibition was enormously influential in establishing Cézanne as an important painter whose ideas were particularly resonant among young artists in Paris. Both Picasso and Braque found the inspiration for Cubism from Paul Cézanne, who said to observe and learn to see and treat nature as if it were composed of basic shapes like cubes, spheres, cylinders, and cones. Some believe that the roots of cubism are to be found in the two distinct tendencies of Cézanne's later work: firstly to break the painted surface into small multifaceted areas of paint, thereby emphasizing the plural viewpoint given by binocular vision; and secondly, his interest in the simplification of natural forms into cylinders, spheres, and cones. However, the cubists explored this concept further than Cézanne; they represented all the surfaces of depicted objects in a single picture plane, as if the objects had had all their faces visible at the same time. This new kind of depiction revolutionized the way in which objects could be visualized in painting and art.

Synthetic Cubism was the second main movement within Cubism that was developed by Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris and others between 1912 and 1919. Synthetic cubism is characterized by the introduction of different textures, surfaces, collage elements, papier collé and a large variety of merged subject matter. It was the beginning of collage materials being introduced as an important ingredient of fine art work.

Considered the first work of this new style was Pablo Picasso's "Still Life with Chair-caning" (1911–1912), which includes oil cloth that was printed to look like chair-caning pasted onto an oval canvas, with text; and rope framing the whole picture. At the upper left are the letters "JOU", which appear in many cubist paintings and refers to the news-paper titled "Le Journal.” Newspaper clippings, sheet music, and like items were also included in the collages. Whereas Analytic Cubism was an analysis of the subjects (pulling them apart into planes), Synthetic Cubism is more of a pushing of several objects together. Less pure than Analytic Cubism, Synthetic Cubism has fewer planar shifts (or schematism), and less shading, creating flatter space.