During Picasso’s blue period, the time he lived in poverty in Paris (1901-1904), he makes somber paintings in dark and gloomy colors, mainly blue, green, black and purple. These colors symbolize the cold, death and vulnerability of existence. Examples of works from Picasso’s blue period are Desemparats (1903) and The Madman (1904).
Gradually Picasso became better known and he got his first successes. He also got a relationship with Fernande Olivier at the end of his blue period. Picasso became less gloomy, which was expressed in his paintings through the use of soft shades of blue and pink. Because of the many uses of pink colors in the work from this period, the period has been given the name ‘pink period’. The subjects of his paintings are often inspired in this period by the circus that Picasso and Fernande often visited together. Examples of works from the rose period are the Portrait of Señora Canals and Circus artist and boy.
In Paris Picasso came into contact with primitive African and Polynesian sculptures, which inspired him to depict totem figures and masks in his paintings. Picasso constantly experimented with new techniques and worked on a less naturalistic, more geometric style. By a harder and tighter expression and the use of more and thicker layers of paint, a completely new style was born: cubism. Together with Georges Braque, Picasso is seen as the inventor of this modern art movement. Some important works from the Cubist period of Picasso are Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), which is seen as the first cubist work and Blanquita Suárez (1917).
Because of the outbreak of the First World War many of Picasso’s friends had to be in military service, which made Picasso feel lonely and isolated. When his beloved ‘Eva’ died in 1915, these feelings became even stronger. Picasso could no longer concentrate on his work and became depressed. In 1917 Picasso was taken by Jean Cocteau to Rome, where he started designing back cloths, decors and costumes for a Russian ballet company called Les Ballets Russes. Picasso immersed himself in classical art and married a member of the ballet company. Picasso’s new wife made him an artist for higher circles. In this period Picasso mainly made paintings that are reminiscent of the style of the Renaissance and neoclassicism. Examples of classical works by Picasso are The Absinthe Drinker and Self Portrait.
Between 1925 and 1930, a new art movement emerged in Europe that eventually became as important as Cubism: surrealism. Picasso was influenced by this new style and experimented with shapes, styles and colors. In his surrealistic period Picasso made surrealistic paintings and iron wire constructions. An example of a surrealistic work by Picasso is De dans.
Picasso ended up with abstract works through surrealism. He continued to work in a more abstract way, but there was always a question of figuration. Examples of Picasso’s abstract works are Abstract Head and Abstract Portrait. This is the most famous period, also known as the Picasso style.
In the last period of his life, Picasso had become a celebrity. He withdrew from the publicity. He remained productive as a painter.