Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Genius of Picasso

They say that artists do not see things in the same way as you or I. If you have ever seen an artist at work, you will notice that they spend more time looking at their subject than actually putting the subject onto the paper. The more they look, the more they see. The more they see, the more they can find a different or unique angle of representation of their subject. Good artists will not only try to make us see, but also make us think.

Picasso was unique because he made us think much more than most artists. His talent was prodigious, and with his talent came a supreme self confidence in his abilities, which also apparently included seeing into the future. By 1905 Picasso had become a favourite artist of the American art collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein, who were living in Paris, and who became his principal patrons. Picasso painted a portrait of Gertrude Stein, and on seeing it someone commented that Stein did not look like her portrait. Picasso confidently replied, ‘She will’.

Picasso was one of the leading exponents of the artistic movement called Cubism. It was almost as though the artist was splitting up the means of conveying his message into its component parts, and assembling them in a different way to how reality might show them. An eloquent and intriguing example of this was The Guitar Player (1910), which might have you searching for hours to find the component parts of the guitar and its master.
Many commentators believe that Picasso’s greatest work is Guernica, his depiction of the German bombing of the town of Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War. This event inspired Picasso into a frenzy of activity for a mural for which he had been commissioned for the Spanish Pavilion at the World Exposition in Paris in 1937. The result was a masterpiece of conflicting images expressing the almost universal outrage at the killing of innocent, defenceless civilians, in acts of barbarism which showed the absolute depths of depravity to which humanity had fallen. Anger, hopelessness, despair and fear, all these emotions are expressed here, amongst others. As the man himself put it on being asked to explain its symbolism, “It isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words! The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them.”
Step by step, the genius of Picasso had taught us through his art, firstly how to see, then how to think, and finally how to feel. And then maybe, just maybe, how to act.

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