From the beginning of his career until its end, Pablo Picasso’s prime subject was the human figure, and portraiture remained a favorite genre for the artist. Picasso’s portraiture reflected the full range of his innovative styles--Symbolist, Cubist, Neoclassical, Surrealist, Expressionist. Depicting people in his intimate circle rather than working to commission enabled Picasso to take an expressive, radically experimental approach to making portraits.
However extreme his departure from representational conventions, Picasso never wholly abandoned drawing from the sitter or ceased producing portraits of classic beauty and naturalism. He remained in constant dialogue with the art of the past, and his portraits often alluded to canonical masterpieces. Treating favorite Old Masters as indecorously as his intimate friends, he created suites of free “variations” after Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” and Rembrandt’s “The Prodigal Son.”
These dizzying stylistic shifts of Picasso’s long career can be traced through their manifestations in his portraits. Picasso Portraits tells this story thematically, with a focus on Picasso’s creative process rather than his biography. Issues addressed in depth in this volume include Picasso’s exploitation of familiar poses and formats, his sources of inspiration among the Old Masters and the relationship between observation, memory and fantasy.
The legendary life and career of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) spanned nearly the entire 20th century and ushered in some of its most significant artistic revolutions. Hard to overestimate in importance or originality, Picasso’s style is perhaps best captured in the words of his friend Paul Éluard: “Picasso paints like God or the devil.”