Pablo Picasso painted a huge number of paintings, tens of thousands of paintings – so many that no one knows all of his works, even his professional biographers. But among the whole mass of his immense creative heritage, one can distinguish most famous and especially outstanding works.
They form the core of the collection of any museum in the world and are the subject of legitimate pride of private collectors. They shake auctions of contemporary art (see also the most expensive paintings) and excite the imagination of the most daring museum robbery.
They are included in all reference books and catalogs on contemporary art, in the encyclopedia and textbooks, they are the property of mankind, a symbol of the artistic culture of the twentieth century. Every child knows his Guernica, Girl on the Ball and Peace Dove, but this format should be expanded.
In this section, we place his “best hundred”, the most famous and famous paintings that everyone should “know in person” if he set out to navigate contemporary art.
Because Pablo Picasso – this is modern art, its founder and quintessence, an artist who largely anticipated the future, set the direction for the development of the artistic worldview a century ahead.
However, already in the works of the “pink” period and some earlier ones – such as Two Sisters (1902), Wandering Gymnasts (1901) and others – much of what is needed for the development of the mainline of Cubism appears. However, something very important is missing until a certain point.
We can say that Picasso knew what he was looking for when he spent time studying the Louvre in the Greek archaic, Etruscan and Egyptian art, Cycladic idols and Iberian sculpture. The turning point takes place in 1906. That which does not satisfy him, which is the subject of his quest, becomes clear in the process of working on the portrait of Gertrude Stein. For this portrait, she posed more than eighty times. “One fine day,” the writer recalls, “Picasso rewrote his entire head again. “I stopped seeing you when I look at you,” he said in a rage. And left work on the portrait. ”
The further evolution of his work shows that it was a moment of radical change in both the concept of the image and the concept of man. At the same time, nothing seems to make it possible to answer unambiguously the question of which of the concepts – man or art – is undergoing the first change. At this time, he already obviously realized that he was going further than others inactivity – as destructive as creative.
The change of creative attitude looks like the introduction of a rational principle into the sphere of intuitive, emotional. The form that the artist now creates is not a means of “stopping the moment,” it becomes an independent structure that exists by its laws. This form does not directly reflect the perceived appearance of things; at best, it recreates their plastic structure. The forms that projected the order of the natural world are replaced by the forms created by the artist himself.
Such a sharp turn in art needed not only creative energy. In 1905–1906, Picasso devoted much time to the study of archaic. There was an amazing sequence in how his attention shifted from one historical layer to another. The artist’s intuitive understanding of the logic of the development of pictorial forms anticipated what was realized much later as a result of a comprehensive study of primitive and traditional artistic culture.
After a thorough analysis of the factual material associated with the discovery of African culture, one cannot but recognize the importance of primitive art for innovations in Picasso’s work, leading to a break with the classical tradition. A special way of plastic generalization, the geometricization of facial features, manifested during his work on the portrait of Gertrude Stein, is completed after acquaintance with African sculpture.
In some preparatory works by Picasso 1907–1908, you can find elements that are undoubtedly variations on the shapes of African masks and figurines. The face mask in the portrait of Gertrude Stein, his stylistic features, despite the lack of any evidence, suggests that it was rewritten again after Picasso became acquainted with African sculpture.
Is this convergence in the plane of only a figurative form – at the level of style? Is such a superficial borrowing possible without some correspondence at a different level, if we know that style is a concentrated expression of the spirit of the time, that it is directly related to the self-awareness of the era?
Let us pay attention to some features of the process, on the crest of which is Picasso, who works on the Avignon girls painting, first conceived in the traditional manner, but then after several months of work, during which dozens of preparatory studies were made, radically transformed and transferred to a completely different aesthetic dimension .
A turning point occurs in the spring of 1907, but already among the winter works, individual drawings appear, the architectonics of which contains a new quality: the image is divided into several independent parts. At first, the head becomes such a separate object from everything else. (This appears for the first time in the portrait of Gertrude Stein.)
Almost all the male heads of preparatory studies live an independent, separate life from the body. Perhaps this is because they were written at the beginning and only then the shoulders and parts of the figure were worked out. Of particular interest are two drawings of a female figure from the back with raised hands, made in the spring of 1907.
The principle of architectural articulation is already fully used here. The figure is composed of several independent volumes: head (ball), arms (rectangle), back (triangle) and separated from the body, clearly outlined as independent volumes of the leg. It is believed that at this time Picasso was not yet familiar with African sculpture. At the same time, it is here that the method of the architectural construction of a figure, head, and mask is consistently used.