Art of the 20th Century




A Revolution in the Arts




 





Art Styles in 20th century Art Map



 


 

 

 

 
 

 
 


Pablo Picasso



The Image of the Artist  1881-1973
The Making of a Genius  1890-1898
The Art of Youth  1898-1901
The Blue Period  1901- 1904
The Rose Period  1904-1906
In the Laboratory of Art  1906-1907
Analytical Cubism  1907- 1912
Synthetic Cubism  1912-1915
The Camera and the Classicist  1916-1924
A Juggler with Form  1925-1936
War, Art and "Guernica"  1937
The Picasso Style  1937-1943
Politics and Art  1943-1953
The Presence of the Past  1954- 1963
The Case of "Las Meninas"  1957
The Old Savage  1963-1973
The Legend of the Artist



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appendix:

Pablo Picasso - Erotic Drawings 1968-1972
Pablo Picasso and his Women
 

 
 

 

 

 



The Presence of the Past
 1954-1963




 

 

Starting from a single original, he would produce entire series of variations. In a sense, this process began in 1947 with thevarious states of his lithograph after Lucas Cranach's "David and Bathsheba". In the winter of 1954, in his Paris studio in the Rue des Grands-Augustins, he established paraphrase as his new working principle. From 13 December 1954 to 14 February 1955 he did fifteen oil variations on Delacroix's "The Women of Algiers", accompanied by a number of drawings, etchings and lithographs. Picasso did not retain the composition, colours or style of the original, but drew freely upon its formal repertoire to suit himself. Delacroix's painting shows three harem women and a servant woman seen from behind. It is a striking picture, deriving its impact from the contrast of dark interior and highlighted figures bright against the dusk.

From the outset, Picasso made changes in this basic pattern, transposing one seated figure from the original right to the left side, placing the servant in the foreground, or introducing new figures. In January 1955 his concept was in place. He could go on. Now, the composition was dominated by the polarity between a clothed woman seated at left and a nude reclining at right. The servant, turning away, and a further nude at the rear completed the group. The changes were not entirely the product of caprice; Picasso had taken the foreground grouping from a picture of odalisques by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres.
 


Women of Algiers (after Delacroix)
1955

 


Women of Algiers (after Delacroix)
1955

 


Women of Algiers (after Delacroix)
1955

 

 

The seated figure at the rear was also taken from an Ingres, the "Turkish Bath", which Picasso had already been importantly inspired by in his work on "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon". He was deliberately juxtaposing Ingres and Delacroix in a new context, the combination attesting his considerable insight into art history. In their day, the two painters stood for the opposing aesthetic positions of Romanticism and Classicism, but met in their presentation of oriental subject matter. This common ground was introduced by Picasso, both formally and in terms of the motifs, into his series of paraphrases - to great and unifying effect. The series peaked in the picture painted on 14 February 1955. The exotic brightness of the Orient is handled contrastively and colourfully, the seductive eroticism of the two main figures nakedly presented. Picasso has combined subtle illusionist approaches with abstractive methods. His new articulation of a traditional theme also alludes to the odalisque paintings of Matisse.

Over the next few years he extended his paraphrase series considerably, but the quantity of output was not always matched by the quality. In 1957 he did over fifty variations on Velazquez's "Las Meninas". They were followed by over 150 sketches and drawings, and 27 paintings, done after Manet's "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe" from 1959 to 1962. Finally, he did a number of larger works adapting Jacques-Louis David's "Rape of the Sabine Women.

Manet's famous painting, which shocked its 19th-century audience and prompted a scandal when first exhibited, shows two naked or near-naked women with two clothed men in a country setting. Manet had painted his work as something of a pastiche, drawing on Giorgione's "Concert in the Country" (in the Louvre) and a detail from a copper engraving by Raimondi after a design by Raphael. The figure group of the "Dejeuner" had begun to interest Picasso in June 1954 because his own treatments of painters and models used a similar grouping. At that time he did a number of sketches after Manet, returning at the end of the Fifties to more concentrated work on the material. He did variations on the composition of the "Dejeuner" in oils, graphics and drawings, emphasizing the contrast between the female nudes and the male figures, which he subjected to greater or lesser degrees of deconstruction. In most of the pictures, he used only one man with the women - transparently a version of his own painter and model theme. He tried to harmonize form and subject by translating the motif's undisguised eroticism into an intensified expressionism of style, rendering the figures and the landscape as interpenetrating, dynamic equivalents. The range in his variations, the formal concentration, are slighter than in "Women of Algiers", without a comparable intellectual depth or unity. Most of the "Dejeuner" paraphrases repeat the same superficial version of the same scene. There was manifestly no rigorously thought-out concept underpinning Picasso's work on the series.

 


Study for "Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe" (after Manet)
1960

 


Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (after Manet)
1960

 


Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (after Manet)
1960

 


Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (after Manet)
1961

 


Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (after Manet)
1961

 


Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (after Manet)
1961

 


Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (after Manet)
1961

 


Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (after Manet)
1962

 

 

And the variations on "The Rape of the Sabine Women" are similarly one-dimensional. There was a pre-David treatment of the subject by Nicolas Poussin on which Picasso drew for his own work, borrowing the emotionalism of the figures and stressing the fight, the brutality, and the suffering of the women, as his principal factors in form and content. After trying out the poses in monochrome versions he tested colour contrasts in order to establish which intensified the emotional impact best before finally painting a simplified, cropped version in vertical format that uses only four figures: two warriors, a dead mother, and her screaming child. The allusions to Picasso's own war paintings, from "Guernica" through "Massacre in Korea" to "War" and "Peace", are unmistakable.

 


The Rape of the Sabine Women (after David)
1962

 


The Rape of the Sabine Women (after David)
1962

 


The Rape of the Sabine Women (after David)
1963

 

 

The difference to earlier periods in Picasso's work is striking, to say the least. Taking his bearings from the art of the past, for Picasso, always implied locating incentives and ideas - be it the odalisques of Ingres for early Cubism or ancient sculpture and baroque paintings for the late Rose Period and his so-called Classicism. This ongoing and extremely fruitful process peaked in Picasso's late years in his ceramic art of the Forties and Fifties. His ware, and the artwork with which it was decorated, was no imitation of a classical original. It was not a copy of ancient storage, cultic or drinking vessels, nor did the decorative style have anything in common with the technique or form of black and red vase paintings. Picasso varied the first principles and translated into a modern idiom whatever was capable of analogy. His thick-bellied vases with sheer conical necks were decorated with figures organically adapted to the shapes of the vessels. Maenads, nymphs and fauns, generously and tellingly outlined and economical in detail, people the surfaces of the ware. In its modernity, Picasso's ceramic art was one of classical harmony, in compositions of great beauty.

Picasso did other variations of old masters in the Forties. Even as the fighting was raging around Paris in 1944, he was at work on an adaptation of Poussin's "Bacchanal". In 1947, among other things, he modelled a lithographic series on Cranach's painting "David and Bathsheba". In 1950 he painted versions of Gustave Courbet's "Women on the Banks of the Seine" and El Greco's "Portrait of a Painter". These were followed between 1955 and 1957 by portraits of Jacqueline as "Lola of Valence" (after Manet's painting), an etching copy of Rembrandt's "Man in the Golden Helmet", an India-ink drawing after Cranach's "Venus and Cupid", and a painting after portraits of El Bobo, the court dwarf, by Velazquez and Murillo. Essentially these works remained within the parameters laid down in 1917 with "The Peasants' Repast" , after Le Nain's original, adapting compositions and subjects by concentrating attention on particular aspects of them. The variations are modern in that they bring the past works up to date, and in this Picasso was entering a tradition stretching from Delacroix's copies of Rubens to van Gogh's paintings after Gustave Dore: one early 20th-century masterpiece of this kind was Matisse's 1915 "Variation on a Still Life by Jan Davidsz de Heem". The paraphrases do, however, have the effect of highlighting the increasingly tautological and almost autistic tendency of Picasso's collage-guided art to repeat itself in the late Fifties. Simply to metamorphose a picture was not in itself invariably adequate as the informing concept behind hundreds of works. The high standard Picasso had set in matching form and content could not always be maintained. In many of the paintings and studies of the period, he was plainly satisfied with having filled the canvas. It was a trivial reversal of the priorities of the artist: what ought to have been the sine qua non had become the raison d'etre.

 


Bacchanal (after Poussin)
1955

 


Bust of a Woman (after Lucas Cranach the Younger)
1958

 


El Bobo (after Velazquez and Murillo)
1959

 


Woman with Hat (after El Greco)
1963

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