Pablo Picasso: Early Works

Pablo Picasso. Garçon à la pipe, Boy with a pipe, 1905 (Rose Period), Private collection.

Pablo Picasso — the most famous and the most prolific artist in history, who created according to different sources from 20 to 80 thousand works, during his lifetime worked in different styles. Though the division of his art into periods is partly conditional, experts distinguish several stages, with the early years, the “Blue” and “Rose” periods being a prelude, laying the foundations for Picasso’s future innovations.

Picasso started drawing at a very early age under the guidance of his father, who was an art teacher. So at the age of 15 he had already mastered the art of academic drawing. The first works, dating from 1889-1901 are sensible realistic paintings and sketches of friends, sisters, mother, father, landscapes, paintings on the themes of bullfighting or his beloved pigeons. The first solo exhibition of Picasso’s works took place in Barcelona and in Paris in 1901, and even the very early works by Picasso were highly praised.

Pablo Picasso. The Old Guitarist, 1903, Chicago Art Institute.

Pablo Picasso. Portrait de senyora Soler, Girl in a chemise, 1904, Tate Gallery, London.

Pablo Picasso. Celestina, 1904, Musée Picasso, Paris.

Pablo Picasso. Mere et enfant, Mother and child, 1901, Private collection.

The years of 1901-1904, called the «Blue» period of Picasso, feature paintings dominated by the cold blue and blue-green hues — the colour of sadness and despair. That was a difficult time for the young artist, first and foremost because of the death of his close friend, and, on the other hand, he was burdened by financial difficulties at that time. During this period Picasso portrayed human suffering, and painted mostly the poor, the lonely, the sick, and the underclass. A number of his works also focused on the theme of motherhood, which he always turned to in his later works as well. The faces in his paintings resemble the elongated faces in the works by El Greco, who influenced the early Picasso. During this period, Picasso created many significant works in a realistic manner, which reflects the influence of the Parisian school of art. During these years he often travelled to Paris, where he finally moved in 1904.

Pablo Picasso. Femme aux Bras Croises, Woman with Folded Arms, 1901-1902, Private collection.

Pablo Picasso, La Vie, 1903, Cleveland Museum of Art.

Paris opens a new milestone in Picasso’s art. Here he got acquainted with other artists, and met his first love. This brings a new, more cheerful palette into his paintings, and because of the golden-pink hues that became predominant in his paintings, this period is called «Rose» period. It lasted from 1904 till 1906. The main heroes of the paintings are now circus performers, clowns, harlequins, acrobats. Paintings of this period are characterized by orange and pink hues, soft colour, the right proportions, spatial perspective. Sometimes this period is also called “clown” period, or “classic” period.

Pablo Picasso, Au Lapin Agile (At the Lapin Agile), 1905, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Early 20th century marked a rising interest in the ancient art, with the Paris exhibitions of Iberian sculpture and of African art in 1906-1907. So by the end of the «Rose» period Picasso’s works reflect his being under the influence of Iberian culture, as well as African sculpture with its free treatment of form. At that time Picasso for the first time turns to sculpture, and, moreover, images inspired by the ancient classical heritage also appear in his paintings.

Pablo Picasso. Boy Leading a Horse, 1905-06, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Pablo Picasso, Lady with a Fan (Femme à l’éventail), 1905, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.