Pablo Picasso: 1881-1973


Born on October 25, 1881, in Málaga, Spain, Pablo Picasso (Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso) was a painter, sculptor, draughtsman, printmaker, decorative artist, and writer.  “His revolutionary artistic accomplishments, including the co-founding of Cubism, brought him universal renown making him one of the best-known figures in 20th century art.”

The son of an academic painter, José Ruiz Blasco, Picasso began to draw at an early age. In 1895 the family moved to Barcelona where Picasso studied La Lonja Academy of Fine Arts. Picasso’s first exhibition took place in Barcelona in 1900, and that fall he traveled to Paris for the first of several stays during the early years of the century. Picasso settled in Paris in April 1904, and his circle of friends included Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as two dealers, Ambroise Vollard and Berthe Weill.

Picasso’s work is generally categorized into commonly accepted periods:

Blue Period (1901-1904) – Picasso worked in a predominantly blue palette and his imagery focused on outcasts, beggars and invalided prostitutes. He produced his first sculptures: a modeled figure, Seated Woman, and two bronze facial masks

Rose Period (1905-1907) – Picasso’s work was dominated by pink and flesh tints and by delicate drawing.  These works were less monochromatic than the Blue Period. Harlequins, circus performers and clowns appear frequently in this period.

Primitivism (1906-1908) – Picasso’s works made reference to forms of archaic art and made expressive use of distortion with subdued greys and earth colours and rhythmical repetitions and contrasts. Picasso made his first carved sculptures. The resistance of wood produced simplified forms similar to his paintings.

Analytic Cubism (1909-1912) – Picasso produced works where objects were deconstructed into their components. His images were increasingly transparent and difficult to interpret and characterized by a growing discontinuity of figurative fragments. From 1909, Georges Braque and Picasso worked closely together to develop Cubism. By 1911 their styles were extremely similar and during this time, it was virtually  impossible to distinguish one from the other.

Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919) – In 1912, Picasso and Braque began to incorporate elements of collage into their paintings and to experiment with the papier collé (pasted paper) technique. “Both collage and papier collé offered a new method not only of suggesting space but also of replacing conventional forms of representation with fragments of images that function as signs. During two further phases of his development of papier collé in 1913, Picasso discovered that shapes could acquire other meanings or identities simply by their arrangement, without requiring a resemblance to naturalistic appearances. A single shape might wittily and equally convincingly stand for the side of a guitar or a human head.”

Classicism and Surrealism – From 1916-1922, Picasso collaborated on ballet and theatrical productions. He designed five complete ballet productions while still maintaining his career as a painter. During the 1920s, along with the continuing influence of Cubism, Picasso created a personal form of neo-classicism where his work showed a renewed interest in drawing and figural representation. From 1925 to the 1930s Picasso was involved to a certain degree with the Surrealists, and from the fall of 1931 he was especially interested in making sculpture. In 1932, with large exhibitions at the Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, and the Kunsthaus Zürich, and the publication of the first volume of Christian Zervos’s catalogue raisonné, Picasso’s fame increased greatly.

“By 1936 the Spanish Civil War had profoundly affected Picasso, the expression of which culminated in his 1937 painting Guernica. After the invasion of France by the Germans in 1940, Picasso continued to  live in his Paris studio. Although monitored by the German authorities, he was still able to work and even to cast some sculpture in bronze.”

In 1944, Picasso became associated with the Communist Party.  From August 1947 he made ceramics at the Madoura potteries in Vallauris, partly motivated by political concerns. He also produced a considerable number of bronze sculptures in the early 1950s, including some of his best-known works in the medium.

“Picasso’s final works were a mixture of styles, his means of expression in constant flux until the end of his life. Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colorful and expressive, and from 1968 through 1971 he produced a torrent of paintings and hundreds of copperplate etchings. At the time these works were dismissed by most as pornographic fantasies of an impotent old man or the slapdash works of an artist who was past his prime. Only later, after Picasso’s death, when the rest of the art world had moved on from abstract expressionism, did the critical community come to see that Picasso had already discovered neo-expressionism and was, as so often before, ahead of his time.”

Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973 at the age of 91. He was extremely prolific throughout his career. He produced approximately 50,000 artworks including  1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, 12,000 drawings, thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.

For a more in-depth biography of Picasso, see the source links below and be sure to visit the On-line Picasso Project – a non-profit project that catalogues an amazingly large number of Picasso’s works and a timeline of the artist’s life. The website contains over 16,000 catalogued artworks, over 6,000 notes, and thousands of commentaries, biographical entries, and archived news articles.

Sources: Guggenheim, MoMA, Wikipedia, Ciudad de la Pintura (images)

Related Books:
Picasso: Painting Against Time

Picasso (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists)
A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, 1881-1906

Jean Arp: 1886 – 1966


Born on September 16, 1886 in Strasbourg (then part of Germany), Jean (Hans) Arp was a pioneer of abstract art and a founding member of the Dada movement.  After studying at the Kunstschule, Weimar from 1905 to 1907, Arp attended the Académie Julian in Paris.

In 1909, Arp moved to Switzerland where in 1911 he was a founder of and exhibited with the Moderne Bund group. One year later, he began creating collages using paper and fabric and influenced by Cubist and Futurist art. Arp then traveled to Paris and Munich where he became aquainted with Robert and Sonia Delaunay Vasily Kandinsky, Amadeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, and others.

In 1915, with the onset of World War I, Arp moved to Zurich, feigning mental instability to avoid military service. It is here where he met and collaborated with Sophie Taeuber, creating tapestries and collages, and whom he married in 1922.

In 1916, Arp became part of the founding group of the Zurich Dada artists. Their aim was to encourage spontaneous and chaotic creation, free from prejudice and the academic conventions that many believed were the root causes of war. For Arp, Dada represented the “reconciliation of man with nature and the integration of art into life.” At the end of the war, Arp continued his involvement with Dada promoting it in Cologne, Berlin, Hannover, and Paris.

Although Arp was committed to Dada, he also aligned himself somewhat with the Surrealists, exhibiting with the group in Paris exhibitions in the mid 1920’s. He shared their notion of unfettered creativity, spontaneity, and anti-rational position.

Arp and his wife also had close ties to Constructivist groups such as De Stijl, Cercle et carré, Art Concret and Abstraction–Création, all of which aimed to create a counterbalance to Surrealism as well as to change society for a better future.

In the early 1930’s, Arp developed the principle of the “constellation,” and used it in both his writings and artworks. While creating his reliefs, Arp would identify a theme, such as five white shapes and two smaller black ones on a white ground, and then reassemble these shapes into different configurations.

In the 1930’s, Arp began creating free-standing sculpture. Just as his reliefs were unframed, Arp’s sculptures were not mounted on a base, enabling them to simply take their place in nature. Instead of the term abstract art, he and other artists, referred to their work as Concrete Art, stating that their aim was not to reproduce, but simply to produce more directly. Arp’s goal was to concentrate on form to increase the sculpture’s domination of space and its impact on the viewer.

From the 1930’s onward, Arp also wrote and published poetry and essays. As well, he was a pioneer of  automatic writing and drawing that were important to the Surrealist movement.

With the fall of Paris in 1942, Arp fled the war for Zurich where he remained, returning to Paris in 1946. In 1949, he traveled to New York where he had a solo show at Curt Valentin’s Buchholz Gallery. In 1950, Harvard University in Cambridge, MA invited him to create a relief for their Graduate Center. In 1954, Arp was awarded the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale. Retrospectives of his work were held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in 1958 and at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1962.

Jean Arp died June 7, 1966, in Basel, Switzerland at the age of 80. His works are in major museums around the world including a large collection at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Strasbourg.

Sources: Guggenheim Museum, MoMA

Romare Bearden: 1911 – 1988

Romare Bearden Empress of the BluesBorn on September 2, 1911 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Romare Bearden was a multi-talented artist and one of America’s foremost collagists.  Bearden’s family moved to New York City in 1914 in an attempt to distance themselves from Jim Crow’s “separate but equal” laws.

Bearden initially studied at Lincoln University but transferred to Boston University where he was the art director of Beanpot, a student humour magazine. He then completed his degree in education at New York University.  At NYU, Bearden was enrolled in art classes and was a lead cartoonist and art editor for the monthly journal “The Medley”.  During his University years, he published numerous journal covers and wrote many texts on social and artistic issues.  Bearden also attended New York’s Art Students League, studying under German artist George Grosz. Bearden served in the US Army between 1942 and 1945 and returned to Europe in 1950 to study art and philosophy at the Sorbonne with the support of the GI Bill.

From the 1930’s to the 1960’s Bearden was a social worker with the New York City Department of Social Services and worked on his art in his free time.  He had his first successful solo exhibitions in Harlem in 1940 and in Washington DC in 1944. In 1954, he married dancer and choreographer Nanette Rohan, with whom he shared the rest of his life. During this time, Bearden was active in Harlem’s art scene and was a member of the Harlem Artists Guild.

Bearden was a prolific artist who experimented with numerous mediums including watercolours, oils, collage, photo montage, prints, and costume and set design. His inspiration was gathered from his lifelong study of art from the Western masters, African art, Byzantine mosaics, Japanese prints, and Chinese landscape paintings. Bearden is best known for his collages which were featured on the covers of Time and Fortune magazines in 1968.

Bearden was active in numerous arts organizations and was a respected writer and spokesperson for the arts and for social causes. In 1964, he was appointed as art director of the African-American advocacy group, the Harlem Cultural Council.  He was also involved in the establishment of art venues such as The Studio Museum and the Cinque Gallery that supported young minority artists. Bearden was also a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972.

Bearden’s work is on display in major museums and galleries in the United States including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Bearden received numerous honorary degrees including doctorates from the Pratt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Davidson College, Atlanta University, and others.  He received the 1984 Mayor’s Award of Honour for Art and Culture in New York City, and the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Ronald Regan in 1987.

Romare Bearden died in New York on March 12, 1988 from complications due to bone cancer.  His estate provided for the Romare Bearden Foundation which was established  in 1990 and whose purpose is “to preserve and perpetuate” his legacy.  The foundation also supports the “creative and educational development of young people and of talented and aspiring artists and scholars”.

Related Books:
Romare Bearden

The Art of Romare Bearden

Conjuring Bearden

Sources: Romare Bearden Foundation, National Gallery of Art, Artcyclopedia, New York Times, Wikipedia

David Hockney: Painting/Photo Collage

Born on July 9, 1937 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, David Hockney is a painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. He is considered by many to be one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century.

From 1953-57, Hockney studied at the Bradford School of Art  and then at the Royal Collage of Art from 1959-62. He received the Royal College of Art gold medal in 1962 for his paintings and draughtsmanship.

Hockney’s early work was diverse.  He became associated with the British Pop Art movement (though he rejected this label), but his work also displayed expressionist elements. In the late 1960’s his work was “weightier” with a more “traditionally representational manner”.  He spent much of his time in the United States and California swimming pools and homoerotic scenes became a well known themes in his work.

In the 1970’s Hockney worked as a stage designer creating set and costume designs for productions including Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress and Mozart’s The Magic Flute which were produced at Glyndebourne Opera House. Hockney was the subject of  the 1974 Jack Hazan’s film called “A Bigger Splash” (named after one of Hockney’s swimming pool paintings from 1967).

In the early 1980’s Hockney produced photo collages which he called “joiners” with subject matter from portraits to still life, and from representational to abstract styles. “Using varying numbers of small Polaroid snaps or photolab-prints of a single subject Hockney arranged a patchwork to make a composite image. Because these photographs are taken from different perspectives and at slightly different times, the result is work that has an affinity with Cubism, which was one of Hockney’s major aims—discussing the way human vision works.”

In the mid to late 80’s, Hockney made use of computers, colour photocopiers and fax machines to create artwork. In 1985, he was commissioned to draw with the Quantel Paintbox, a computer program that allowed the artist to sketch direct onto the monitor. In 1989, he sent work for the Sao Paulo Biennale to Brazil via fax.  Hockney experimented with computers, composing images and colours on the monitor and printing them directly from the computer without proofing.

From the 1990’s onward, Hockney has continued to work on a variety of paintings, photographic and digital work, as well as opera productions. His works have been exhibited across the globe and are in the collections of most major museums.  As well, many of his works are now located in a converted industrial building called Salts Mill, in Saltaire, near his home town of Bradford.

Hockney currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California and London, England. “Since 2009, Hockney has painted hundreds of portraits, still lifes, and landscapes using the Brushes iPhone and iPadapplication, sending them to his friends.”

For more information about David Hockney, visit

David Hockney-Related Books

Max Ernst: 1891-1976

The_Elephant_Celebes-Max-Ernst-1921Max Ernst was born on  April 2, 1891 in Brühl, Germany. A prolific artist, Ernst is considered to be one of the primary pioneers of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

Ernst studied philosophy at the University at Bonn in 1909 and was influenced by the ideas of Freud, Nietzsche and the  Max Stirner.  In 1911 Ernst became associated with August Macke and joined the Rheinische Expressionisten group in Bonn. He exhibited for the first time in 1912 at the Galerie Feldman in Cologne.  In 1913 he met poet Guillaume Apollinaire and Robert Delaunay and traveled to Paris. In 1914 he met Jean Arp, who was to become a lifelong friend.

From 1914-1918, Ernst served in the German Army.  He continued to paint, influenced semi-Cubist, semi-abstract motifs following Delaunay, Arp and Apollinaire.  “Like many German writers and artists he was scarred by his experience of the war; it led him to reject the values of his family and class and to join in with the provocative, critical stance of the Dada movement.”

Ernst married art historian Louise Strauss in 1918. Between 1919 and 1920,  he collaborated with Johannes Baargeld in Cologne on an exhibition and a series of publications similar in style of the Dada activities in Zurich and Berlin. In 1922, Ernst left his wife and child and moved illegally to Paris, where he lived and collaborated with French poet Paul Elouard and his wife Gala.

“After 1918 Ernst rarely employed conventional techniques in his paintings. His early work shows that he was a technically skilled painter and draughtsman. Between 1918 and 1924 virtually all his paintings and prints were based on the principle of collage, and this practice remained central to his later work. Ernst’s major paintings of 1921–4 do not employ collage, but their composition is based on the collage principle.  Ernst’s definition of collage as ‘the culture of systematic displacement’ and ‘the exploitation of the chance meeting of two distant realities on an unfamiliar plane’”

From 1925-1927, Ernst developed the  frottage technique which he said was a form of automatism. In 1926, he produced a series of drawings called Histoire naturelle that he exhibited and published. “The drawings were made by placing sheets of paper over different objects such as floorboards and leaves, and rubbing with a stick of graphite. Through precise selection, combination, control of texture and some discreet additions, he was able to build up delicate, surprising images of fantasy landscapes, plants and creatures. He adapted this fundamentally simple technique to painting in the form of grattage, by which textures and patterns were made through simultaneously rubbing and scraping off layers of paint. Representational forms were then extracted from the whole by means of overpainting.”  Ernst used variations on the technique in most of his paintings for the next several years, especially in the Forest series.”

Ernst held successful exhibitions between 1925 and 1928, and became a “fashionable” artist in Paris. In 1926 he painted sets for Diaghilev’s production of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet in collaboration with Joan Miró.  In 1927, Ernst married Marie-Berthe Aurenche and painted After Us—Motherhood, using calm, harmonious forms and warm colours. “This painting, along with the three versions of Monument to the Birds,  illustrates Ernst’s growing preoccupation with bird imagery during this period.”

In 1929, Ernst renewed his interest in collage producing the  ‘novel’, La Femme 100 têtes (‘The woman with 100 heads’). The book consisted of 124 captioned pictures which were made by adapting images taken from late 19th-century illustrated magazines. From 1929 to 1932, Ernst also created a series of collages featuring ‘Loplop, the Bird-Superior’. “In these and other collages Loplop represents the artist himself and presents a sequence of tableaux illustrating Ernst’s technical methods and ideas.”

During this period, Ernst supported the ideas of the Surrealists. “Andre Breton’s novel Nadja and Dalí’s advocacy of the ‘paranoiac-critical’ method were important background influences on his work. Ernst renewed his solidarity with the group in his collage Loplop Introduces Members of the Surrealist Group.”

From 1925 to 1931 many of Ernst’s works carried imagery that was “violent and menacing. This aspect of his work became more prominent after 1933, partly in reaction to the political and social climate of the time.”  Ernst (as well as many other German artists and writers) was condemned by the Nazi cultural authorities.

During the 1930s Ernst became increasingly well known. He exhibited at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York and in 1936 and 1938, participated in the large international Surrealist exhibitions in London, New York and Paris.

At the outbreak of WWII,  Ernst was interned as an enemy alien. With the help of Peggy Guggenheim, was able flee to New York in July 1941. Ernst married Guggenheim in 1942 and became a leading figure among the art community in New York. His marriage to Guggenheim was short, and in  1946, Ernst married American artist Dorothea Tanning.

In New York, Ernst developed a technique using paint dripped from a suspended, swinging can and renewed his belief in the “unconscious sources of his work.” Many of his paintings of this period employ the technique of decalcomania where “rich, unpredictable patterns were obtained by either taking an impression from, or sponging, layers of liquid paint: figurative motifs were then developed by overpainting.”

In 1946 Ernst and Tanning settled in Sedona, Arizona, and in 1948, he gained American citizenship. Between 1943 and 1950 he  created a series of paintings in a controlled geometric style and produced a number of sculptures.

In 1953 Ernst and Tanning returned to France where he had his first major post-war retrospective at Knokke-Het Zoute. Ernst became a naturalized French citizen in 1958. His reputation grew steadily after his return to Europe and in 1954 he was awarded a Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale. In the following years,  major exhibitions of his work were held in New York, Cologne, and Stockholm. Major retrospectives of his work were held in New York and Paris in 1975.

Max Ernst died on April 1, 1976 in Paris. He was interred at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Sources: MoMA, Olga’s Gallery (images), Guggenheim, Wikipedia