I have been fortunate, during the course of our travels, to have seen many different exhibitions of Pablo Picasso, one of the most famous and influential artists of the 20th century. During a fairly recent trip to Berlin (before we’d even heard the word COVID-19), we discovered the Berggruen Gallery, very close to the famous 17th-century Charlottenburg Castle of the Hohenzollern aristocracy. In the gallery, we were delighted to find an exhibition of some of Picasso’s artworks. But what struck us the most was a more traditional side to this artist, who is most known for his avant-garde art style, which became known as Cubism, founded together with painter Georges Braque beween 1910 and 1920. This art movement was based on the idea of taking objects apart and reanalysing them in terms of their shapes. Picasso once said, “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” Picasso, however, had the ability to move between both traditionalism and radical innovation. Born in Spain in 1881, his art career spanned a 78-year period, during which time he produced works in an astonishing range of styles, from the traditional to the revolutionary.
Picasso’s father was a painter and a professor of art, and, impressed by his son’s drawing from early on, started giving him formal training at age seven. His father believed in traditional academic training, and so had his son draw the human form from live figure-models and plaster casts, and copy works of the Old Masters.
Picasso’s lifetime body of work is divided roughly by periods of time, each period representing complex themes and feelings, such as the Blue Period, the Rose Period, and even Tribalism. At this time he was inspired by African influences, visible in figures that became highly stylised with flat, sharp planes. He moved on to Neo-classicism and Surrealism, from which the most famous painting is “Guernica”, full of angst and fear and pain, in which he condemned the horrors of war.
Then, nearing the end of his career, Picasso once again went back to examining Classical works that had influenced his development over the years. He did variations of paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Diego Velázquez, and Edouard Manet. Pablo Picasso died in April 1973 at age 91, having made an enormous impact on the art world. “Others have seen what is, and asked why,” he once said. “I have seen what could be and asked why not.”