Pablo Picasso: Revolutionizing the Art


Christopher Rose

Pablo Picasso, 1903-4

Aadesh Khadka

“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain, to Don Jose Ruiz y Blasco and Maria Picasso y Lopez. His baptized name is much longer than the Pablo Picasso, and in traditional Andalusian custom honored several saints and relatives. At the age of seven Picasso began receiving formal training from his father. Because of his traditional academic training, Ruiz believed training consisted of copying of masterworks and drawing the human form from live figure-models and plaster casts. In 1891 at ten years old, the family moved to A Coruna where School of Fine Arts hired Ruiz to be a professor.

The key words to define the creative output of Picasso, one of the most famous artists in history – and whose art involves not only paintings, but drawings, sculptures, collages and pottery – are, among others: cubist, revolutionary, shocking, free, provocative, sinful, decadent, unique, striking, wonderful. Picasso has become a brand. Together with his close friend and rival, Matisse, Picasso is considered the greatest artist of the 20th century.


The art of Picasso and Matisse were always in constant dialogue. They were paying close attention to each other’s developing work, copying and referencing motifs and vocabulary to advance their own pieces. Unlike Matisse, however, whose work does not spell out clearly its relation with his personal life, Picasso’s works reflect a life well lived: his passions, his womanizing, his contradictions, his lovers, his wives, his friends, his loneliness, and his unorthodox, bohemian life style are all reflected in his art.

Besides, Picasso had a very clear notion of the arbitrariness of the various signs of representation from his own life experience: he was a Spanish national who lived in France for most of his life without ever dominating completely the local language.


By working mainly at night and usually painting directly from his imagination, without models, Picasso struggled and succeeded in exploring the inner life of things and people. He expressed in his work the way he felt about people, he let their personalities and attitudes manifest themselves through his masterpieces. He distorted and played with the objects of everyday life to make them convey aspects we are not used to noticing. He depicted reality in totally new ways by mixing styles, flattening perspectives, and thus confounding and broadening the viewer’s perception, painting the same scene as seen simultaneously from different angles.

But his work goes way beyond the mere exploration of his personal life and the attempt to exorcize his inner demons. He grew to express the whole dark atmosphere of the 20th century, the bloodiest period in human history, in some of his most violent and impactful productions – such as the painting Guernica, which conveys, in horrific and stylized detail, the violence of war and its effects on innocent people.

The lasting influence of this great artist will still be felt in many years to come. It was through Cubism, a movement that Picasso founded with the artist Georges Braque, that Picasso would go on to reach what is commonly regarded as his most abstract output, completely abandoning traditional view points. The first phase of the Cubist movement, Analytical Cubism, involved rearranging the compound elements of an object on the canvas, leaving behind an obscured, but nonetheless discernible image of the subject, such as in the work Seated Nude . As he developed Analytical Cubism, Picasso dissected his subject matter further and further, the movement reaching its peak in pieces such as Still Life with Bottle of Rum , in which the actual bottle is barely discernible. The still life has been abstracted to the point at which it has become a series of overlapping panes and spidery lines in a pallet of greys, blacks, and browns.


Cubism was this key 20th-century movement which extended the boundaries of what was considered art, paving the way for movements such as Futurism, Constructivism, Orphism, and Vorticism, and in a more general sense, revolutionizing art and laying the groundwork for the entire of 20th Modern art as we know it.

Nonetheless, as inextricably linked Cubism was with abstraction, for Picasso, there is no abstract art.” His works pursued abstraction but in a way that always took reality as a starting point, and worked in a way that always left an imprint of the real on the canvas, despite its abstract appearance.