Mysterious Genius

Guernica en.wikipedia.org
en.wikipedia.org

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Although virtually everyone on the planet is familiar with his name, there is still a great deal of mystery shrouding this famous 20th century artist.

Born on the Mediterranean coast of Spain in the town of Malaga, Picasso had no interest in formal schooling and had already mastered a technique grounded in realism long before he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona. In fact, he created his own studio in Barcelona by the age of sixteen.

Shortly after his first trip to Paris in 1900, young Picasso began to form his unique style in an age known as his Blue Period, where pervasive blue tones became evident in his paintings. As the artist became more successful and well-known, his palette of blue gave way to terracotta shades of deep pinkish red, and experts began to notice less melancholy displayed in his work, replaced by images of dancers, acrobats, clowns, buffoons, and comic actors in tights and masks. He launched his Rose Period.

Perhaps no other persona of the twentieth century impacted the different artistic movements of the era more than Picasso. I believe he solely holds the honor. In a famous quote, he told his audience that to remain stagnant through repetition was to go against “the constant flight forward of the spirit.” With this philosophy, I can identify. Thus, before 1920, Picasso expanded his expertise to engraver, ceramicist, sculptor, and costume designer as he embarked upon his Classic Period. During this same time, the artist simultaneously developed his Cubist technique for which he remains quite well known, and continued to experiment with a variety of genres well into his 90s.

Of all the works of this most talented artist, Guernica (pictured above) remains my favorite. As a writer and teacher (and Hemingway fan), I believe the meaning it carries stands out as the singular example of a work of art sparking a human reaction and movement. In the work, Picasso expressed his vision of the tragedies resulting from the Spanish Civil War. The painter used only gray, white, and black, with abundant curves, to depict the 1937 bombing of the tiny town in the Basque region of Spain by Fascist forces testing the weapons for the upcoming world war. Though many experts believe this famous work exemplifies Surrealism, Picasso never considered himself a Surrealist.

It remains a mystery to me how one man could develop proficiency in so many unconnected genres, but it appears that Pablo Picasso was limited only by his lifespan. I consider him a genius.

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Comments

  1. I think that the greatest artists have absolutely no limit to their imagination. They also don't try to paint to sell. Sadly, many of them live in poverty during their lifetime. It is only after their deaths (many years later) that the art world recognizes their genius. Sometimes an artist gets stuck on a theme simply because he/she likes it and is trying to perfect it.

    I think that maybe Picasso didn't have that problem. Perhaps he didn't feel the need for "perfection" but embraced the beauty in imperfection and let things go. It allowed him to just keep going. Hence, bathe in the Blue Period. Lap it up. Then move on to the Rose Period. Languish in that and see what it gives up. So and so forth. Pull the beauty out of each thing and move on. If there are imperfections, they are beautiful and add to the piece. You get stuck on an imperfection and you simply get STUCK. Or maybe it was simply his curious nature that wouldn't allow him to stand still. Imagination cannot be tamed.

    Maybe his genius was simply that he was never afraid to let go of the past and move forward. Seeking out unchartered places in his own mind. Pretty brave considering that I am sure that the saying about success in all forms of art has remained unchanged through the centuries: "You're only as good as your last painting/movie/TV show/song."

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  2. Robin: Terrific analysis. Maybe those are some of the reasons I like him so much. Artistically speaking, he is an idol.

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  3. Picasso was really a genius and Guernica is one of many of his masterpieces. To see it live is an unique experience, that I had the privilege to enjoy a couple of years ago. It cuts our breath!

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  4. I have to admit that while Picasso is intriguing to me, I do not always 'get' what I am supposed to out of his works. But I am never bored by looking at his stuff either.
    I often work in a residence that is full of James Martin stuff that reminds me of Picasso type work in a way. The family that lives there is related to JM. Every time I look at the paintings I see something new. At first I have to admit I thought his work was kind of too weird for me.
    To see what Martins work is like check out: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thearts/2014256659_martin18.html

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  5. Although I am not a big fan of his art, I can appreciate genius where I find it. There are those beacons of creative light that shine into the darkness like a lighthouse beam.

    You mentioned all the different things he did. But you know, you are like that. I am always amazed by the variety of topics you address here and the breadth of your knowledge. You are a genius in your own right!

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  6. Guernica is one of my favorites too.

    And happy birthday to your wife - have a great celebration!

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  7. While I don't see too many Picasso fans responding, I notice that there is an overall respect for his art. That is a good thing.

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  8. You're wonderful JJ. I hope you're having a fabulous summer!
    Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

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  9. I have actually seen this painting in Madrid a few years ago, and was astounded by its size more than anything. His dark and blue shadows spoke of the brutality of war nearly as much as the horrific imagery of mutilation. Your article was an interesting outlook on the progression of his style.
    Mr. Botta, I sent you an email about my book, The Unseen Terror, a few moments ago. Have a fantastic summer! :)

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  10. I have actually seen this painting in Madrid a few years ago, and was astounded by its size more than anything. His dark and blue shadows spoke of the brutality of war nearly as much as the horrific imagery of mutilation. Your article was an interesting outlook on the progression of his style.
    I sent you an email about my book, The Unseen Terror, a few moments ago. Have a fantastic summer!

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  11. helencollin42: It is great to hear from you. I will check out the e-mail and get back to you.

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