In the heart of Barcelona’s beautiful El Born, one finds themselves at the brilliant Museu Picasso, an extensive and informative gallery that allows one to understand and appreciate the journey of the renowned Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso.
Picasso’s earlier works were the subject of display, from whence he went to the La Llotja Fine Art School in Barcelona. At this point in time he was drawn to creating oil paintings, of which were dominantly taken from life drawings and models for sculptures and paintings. From 1896 onwards he focused on portraiture, intending to capture the essence of the form of the human figure. However, he also studied urban landscapes around him, creating splendidly ornate oil paintings. Evidence of this period and his fancies can be seen in his work ‘Mountains of Malaga’ (1896) and Aunt Pepa (1896).
Picasso practiced art for an entire academic year (1897-1898) in Madrid, as an apprentice at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Picasso felt he was learning nothing new though, and turned away from the established conventional artistic educational system in order to pursue his own interests and favoured subject matters, such as everyday scenes. He created one of his major works ‘Science and Charity’ (1897) at the age of just fifteen years old, showing his conventional and conservative subject matter and style at the beginning of his career.
In 1899 he returned to Barcelona and established himself as a fully fledged member of the Catalan avant-garde, meeting at the famous Café Quatre Gats with other artists and literary figures. His interests and influences are extremely obvious in his work for the next few years as the subject matters are dominated by the human figure. His piece of Joan Vidal in charcoal (1889-1900) is merely a prelude to the drawings that Picasso was about to embark on when travelling to Paris.
In the early 1900s Picasso went to Paris; here he discovered colour alongside avant-garde artists such as Van Gogh. Van Gogh saw life in Paris as an opportunity to create intricate pieces that revealed the social life and world there such as ‘Can Can Dancer’ (1901) and ‘Woman with Green Stockings’ (1902). Eventually Picasso moved to Paris permanently.
Between 1909-1912 Picasso found himself working closely with Braque, and together they came to develop what is known as Cubism. Picasso continued to breakaway from academic traditional practices dating back to the Renaissance, and founded a new, brilliant avant-garde movement. Perspective was shattered and instead figures and space were merged and fragmented together on the canvas to create illusionistic pieces.
Picasso’s piece ‘Blanquita Suarez’ (1917) is a perfect example of the Cubist revolution that he so valiantly led. Suarez was a famous comic singer performing at this time in Barcelonan theatres; he continued to depict social life just as he had done in Paris. The geometrical structure and fragmentation of the piece creates interesting shapes and the contrasting colours draw attention to the separate entities of the piece, channelling the fundamentals of cubist portraiture.
Alongside Picasso’s infamous paintings the museum hosted a multitude of his sculpture and ceramic works include many of his plate series. Many of the plates host a face as their main subject matter, such as ‘White Face’ (1955). Picasso used a wide variety of materials, though in truth, his sculptural works were really founded and appreciated after his death.
Interestingly, the temporary exhibition housed many photographs of Picasso himself, both posed and at work by notable photographers such as Adquisicio, Jaume Sabartes, David Douglas Duncan and Man Ray. This aspect of the exhibition indeed succeeded in reinforcing the impressive legacy of the artist, and the highly individualistic nature of his practice.