Spanish painter Pablo Picasso transitioned between four distinct styles during his career, exploring different techniques in each. These styles coincided with major personal and world events during his lifetime. Picasso was an accomplished multimedia artist, having worked primarily with oil paint, sculpture and collage. Expressive abstract paintings of the human figure are among his most famous works.
Picasso's Blue Period began after the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas in 1901 and lasted until 1904. He began depicting images of common people and the poor, bathing them and their surroundings in overt blue tones. Most of the figures in these paintings wore solemn facial expressions and were shown hunched over, sulking and defeated. Paintings like "The Old Guitarist" and "La Vie" are among the most famous from this period.
Settling in Paris in 1904, Picasso discovered the Medrano circus and was inspired by the performers' bohemian lifestyle. He depicted them and their children in extravagant costumes using warm golden tones and rosy pinks. Clowns and harlequins were lively and expressive in these paintings, which contrasted with the somber figures in his earlier work. Some of the most notable paintings from this period include "Boy with a Pipe" and "The Actor."
Inspired by African tribal masks and the art of Georges Braque, Picasso began using geometric shapes in his art in 1907. He deconstructed the complex shapes of his subjects and reduced them to simpler forms vaguely resembling the original. Figures in these paintings and sculptures took on extremely distorted proportions and expressions. Both monochromatic, neutral tones and rich, vivid hues were used in these pieces. "The Young Ladies of Avignon" and "Three Musicians" are among the most famous works from this period.
Picasso's work beyond Cubism took on more symbolic elements and was influenced by Surrealism and the art of Salvador Dali. Rather than moving on to a totally new style, Picasso instead combined many of his previous techniques. A painting titled "The Dream" depicts Picasso's mistress at the time and incorporates subtle erotic symbolism and lush, vivid color. Painted in a monochromatic color scheme, the mural "Guernica" is a response to the tragedies of the Spanish Civil War. It features rigid figures in anguish and abstract symbols. A minotaur is also present in the piece, which became an important symbol for Picasso. Referring to the symbol, he said, "If all the ways I have been along were marked and joined up with a line, it might represent a minotaur."