Smith Partner
31 Jul 2020

5 of the best paintings from Picasso

Many call him the greatest painter in history; Pablo Ruiz y Picasso. The Spanish artist, born just before the turn of the 20th century, made his mark until his death in 1973 and his influence continues to this day. He co-pioneered Cubism, resulting in an overhaul of European sculpture and painting that led to him to be recognised as a master of his craft. Picasso created around 1900 paintings and other multimedia works in his lifetime, many of which are among the most expensive artworks ever sold. His most treasured works, however, are held with pride by museums and galleries around the world.

Here are our picks of the 5 best paintings from Picasso, the artist who lived by the mantra that “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”…

5. The Old guitarist 1903-1904

During Picasso’s blue period, he struggled emotionally with the suicide of his close friend Casagemas. This, combined with issues of poverty led to the creation of the solemn piece, The Old Guitarist.

A man with no sight, sits cross-legged on dark ground, leaning against a wall and into the guitar he clutches. Head hung over, the subject echoes feelings of sadness and sorrow. Compounded with deep-water blues and earthy tones, this emotive piece stands out as one of the most recognisable pieces from Picasso’s ‘blue period’. In 1998, experts used an infrared camera to analyse the physical layers of the piece. The investigation revealed a young mother reaching for her child in the centre of the composition, with a sheep to the left of her. “nothing but sentiment” is how Picasso referred to the works of his Blue Period, the later detachment from these pieces emphasises the emotional burden this time had on the artist.

4. Le Reve (1932)

Thérèse Walter is depicted in this canvas as a blonde and bright woman. Soft & voluptuous, breast exposed and a care-free face, it is easy to see that the artist saw his sitter in a positive light. Much unlike Dora Maar, his later mistress who was often portrayed as threatening or torturous.

Works from Picasso often contained erotic elements, causing debate amongst critics. For example, many accused him of painting an erect penis in this piece, possibly symbolic of his own.

During a private sale in 2013, Le Rêve was sold as the fifth most expensive painting ever sold at the time, fetching $155 million.

3. The Weeping Woman (1937)

Here we see the subject clutching their hands in desperation, blue chattering teeth, distorted lines, strategically painted tears, and black eyes, signifying the horror and pain felt by those experiencing the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s.

On the back of this piece, there are several portraits based on similar concepts, which led to the creation of this painting; the final and most astounding of the entire series. A depiction of Dora Maar – his mistress at the time – combined with the imagery of a woman clutching her deceased child in the midst of the devastating war that features in Picasso’s infamous Guernica.

2. Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907)

With its Cubist elements, this piece is considered one of the twentieth century’s most influential paintings. A significant departure from traditional European styles, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon plays a powerful role in modern art.
Five nude female prostitutes, posed confrontationally, with disjointed body shapes. Two of which have African mask-style features. One of the women is peering through a curtain, into the composition and laying eyes upon the several other subjects in the piece. Picasso used multiple styles to separate each figure creating what was to become yet another controversial image. His interpretations of the female form, African art and art movements of the time were novel and offensive. 1916 was the first time it was exhibited to the public and to lessen the scandalous impact, the title was changed. ‘The Avignon’ references a street in the city of Barcelona named after its brothel; no place for the ‘respected’ artwork of the day to have been sourced from.

1. Guernica (1937)

Guernica is the location of a town situated in the North of Spain. Nazi Germans and Italian warplanes bombed Guernica during the Spanish Civil War on April 26th 1937. In response to the bombing, Picasso painted this masterpiece, as well as the aforementioned Weeping Woman. Guernica demanded attention across continents to recognise the devastation of the Spanish Civil war. It became one of history’s most powerful anti-war paintings.

Throughout recent history, there have been many interpretations of this piece. A wide-eyed bull towers above a woman, sobbing whilst holding her deceased child. A horse writhing in pain having been hit or startled by a weapon dominates the middle of the canvas, charging through the crowd of subjects. A dismembered soldier crushed below the animal. A female figure appears to have drifted through a window, beaming luminosity into the piece with an oil lamp clutched in their outstretched hand. Guernica is considered one of the most impressive artworks ever created and is one of Pablo Picasso’s most incredible and emotive paintings.

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