Picasso's PeriodsThe history of art is full of so many "periods" there is a real danger of our drowning in them so to speak. Let me see, did the Mannerist period come before or after the Renaissance? I forget, what came after Baroque? Which came first the Rococo or the Barbizon--the chicken or the egg? To make matters worse, individual artists, especially those surviving well into old age have numerous "periods" through which their work passed. Some of them dabbled in as many as half-a-dozen different styles over the course of their lives. The work of Salvador Dali is an example. Some of these artist were merely searching for themselves, probing various influences, while some could more accurately be said to have been "evolving".
One artist's life is so festooned with various "periods" that it reads almost like the history of Twentieth-Century art. Coincidentally, his career started so near the start of this century that the comparison is often quite accurate. Although some may dispute it, the career of Pablo Picasso is very nearly Twentieth-Century painting in a nutshell. So pervasive was this man's influence that he could be said to have been a driving force in the progression of art in this century. At the age of 19, he arrived in Paris, thoroughly trained in the academic traditions of Spanish art. The year was 1901. He was like a blank canvas propped up on the easel of a new century.
Picasso's Blue Period encompasses works from 1901 to 1904 and beyond the obvious colour reference there was a strong influence from El Greco and Toulouse-Lautrec. His Rose period follows from 1905 to 1908 in which his works were lighter in spirit as well as in colour. Shortly thereafter his interests turned to African art, though art historians have stopped short of burdening us with an "African Period". Les Demoiselles d' Avignon of 1907, however, was a merging of these two periods. And as a direct outgrowth of this painting, came Analytical Cubism (1909-1912), from which sprung Synthetic Cubism (1912-1919), and an almost endless array of other, lesser known "isms" used by art historians to try and further compartmentalise and analyse a career that, as it evolved, gradually came to defy analysis. The same could be said for the evolution of Twentieth Century art.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
10 April 1998