Picasso's 5 Most Famous Paintings
Guernica is a blue, black, and white anti-war mural showing the emotional ravages of war. The painting refers to the German and Italian bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War; most of the men were fighting in the war and not in the town, and therefore most of the victims were women and children.
It is a chaotic scene showing the pain and suffering of people and animals, and was commissioned by the Spanish government for the 1937 World Fair in Paris to show the rest of the world the effects of the war. Later on, while living in Paris during World War II, Picasso suffered much harassment from the Nazis for his creation of this painting.
Even as recently as 2003, this painting has been the subject of controversy when the Bush Administration had a tapestry copy of the painting covered up during press conferences covering the Iraq War, as the anti-war ideals of the painting clashed with the subject being discussed.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was a highly controversial painting that effectively replaced Matisse with Picasso as the leader of the Modern Art movement; afterwards, they continued to be bitter rivals.
This painting shows five masculine prostitutes in a brothel with highly distorted and fragmented figures, broken down into simple geometric shapes. This distortion of perspective and form paves the way for cubism, which continues to further abstract images into an unrecognizable image. Two of the women’s’ faces are influenced by African masks, while the other three are influenced by native Iberian art.
Picasso was also influence by El Greco, Paul Gaugin, and Paul Cezanne in this painting. In 1937, the MOMA purchased Les Demoiselles for $24,000- it is unimaginable how many millions of dollars the painting would sell for today!
Gertrude Stein was an important and influential supporter of Picasso, along with many other artists and writers of the time. The monumental quality of her figure in the painting shows the extent of her influence on Picasso.
Her early support of Picasso was instrumental in his development as an artist. Gertrude Stein posed for this portrait 90 times, and Picasso grew so frustrated with trying to portray her face that he completely departed from realism and ultimately painted the face separately.
In fact, the face does not represent a likeness of Gertrude Stein, but is instead influenced by the style of African masks, which was an enormous influence on Picasso in this period, most especially seen in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
The Two Saltimbanques painting is representative of Picasso’s Blue Period. Many people are unaware of Picasso’s pre-cubist work, in which he created paintings that were not yet abstract, even if not naturalistic.
In this painting of two harlequins, the forlorn looks on their faces and the overall color tones portray an overall sense of gloom. The Blue Period was a four year range of paintings early in Picasso’s career that was influenced by the suicide of his close friend and was characterized by hazy blue tones and an overall sense of despair.
Many of Picasso’s paintings at this time featured harlequins or musicians, such as The Old Guitarist, another influential Blue Period painting.
Weeping Woman was part of an important series late in Picasso’s career; this painting in particular was the last and most complex of the series. The subject of the painting, a woman crying, is intended to continue the emotional response of Guernica.
Although the woman’s face is highly abstracted and fragmented, the pain of the woman comes through clearly. The model, Dora Maar, is also Picasso’s mistress at the time. It is well known that Picasso thought her to be highly emotional, thus explaining his choice of model.