Sunday, October 25, 2015

ART BIZ | Oct. 25–Pablo Picasso Born, Commercial Genius

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
This day in 1881 was born Pablo [Ruiz y] Picasso in Malaga, Spain. He and Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp are the three artists who most defined changes in 20th century painting and related arts.

Picasso's Acrobat on a Ball inspired the symbol for Occupy Wall Street.

Among his most famous works are his early-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), and Guernica (1937), a portrayal of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German airplanes during the Spanish Civil War.

Picasso’s father was a professor of drawing and trained his son for a career in academic art. Picasso had his first exhibit at 13 showing extraordinary artistic talent. He was living in an artists'  enclave in Barcelona–painting portraits–when one of his paintings was selected for the 1900 World's Fair in Paris. He went to Paris for the exhibition at the Fair, saw paintings by Manet, Cézanne, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec, and decided to be an artist.

The following year got great reviews for an exhibition at a gallery on Paris’ gallery-rich rue Lafitte and decided to stay in Paris. He produced a series of paintings called the Blue Period (1901–1904), evoking the sadness of poverty. It includes The Old Guitarist (1903).

In sequence, Picasso tried different styles, from the Rose Period (1904–1906), in which he often depicted circus scenes such as the previously noted Acrobat on a Ball (1905), followed by the African-influenced Period (1907–1909). His Analytic Cubism (1909–1912) period was shared with the French painter Georges Braque, followed by his Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919) period, also referred to as the Crystal period.  The Cubist art has the subtext that art need not represent reality to have value, and brought collage to painting. Major Cubist works by Picasso included his costumes and sets for Sergey Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (1917) and The Three Musicians (1921). After Cubism, Picasso explored various themes that included images of violence, culminating in Guernica.

His work comprises an impressive collection of more than 50,000 paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures, and ceramics produced over 80 years.


My mother Hilda van Stockum stuck to traditional Dutch painting techniques and subjects, having gone to art school in Amsterdam and Dublin (she built a following in Ireland and is considered an Irish painter, having half-Irish mother). Her comment on Pablo Picasso is that he was one of many great painters but was a uniquely competent businessman. "A commercial genius," she said, because each of his artistic periods simulated his death.

My mother points to the many artists, like her cousin by marriage Vincent van Gogh, who were living either in poverty or in a situation where they relied heavily on a patron (in Vincent's case, his cousin Theo). She argues that Pablo Picasso, by killing off a subject matter or style of art, created scarcity in his art. This allowed his gallery promoters to consider the art produced in each period as having been capped, preventing dilution from subsequent paintings.

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