The Modern Master

By Varsha Mukherjee

In a career spanning over 78 years, Spanish born artist Pablo Picasso’s prolific oeuvre included over 20,000 paintings, prints, illustrations, sculptures, ceramics, theatre sets and costumes.

One of the 19th century’s most renowned artists, he changed the map of art history with path-breaking innovations like collage art, Cubism (co-founder) and breaking the mould of the representational subject matter of art.

To select the best from his artworks is a daunting task, nevertheless here are seven must-see seminal paintings and sculptures from the master.

Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon (1907)

(The young ladies of Avignon)

Five nude prostitutes, a brothel in Avignon and Proto-cubism, inspired by a whorehouse and its charming ladies, this work scandalized both the society as well as Picasso’s rivals. The original name, “Le Bordel d’Avignon” (The Brothel of Avignon), was replaced and, voila, it was fit for public consumption.

Where to see it: Museum of Modern Art, New York

Guernica (1937)

Picasso’s most powerful political statement, painted in appalled reaction to the Nazi’s casual bombing practice on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, which killed many innocent civilians. The bull and the horse in the mural are both Spanish symbols of power and many a critic have endeavoured to decipher their symbolism.

Where to see it: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

Maquette for Guitar (1912)

Paperboard, paper, thread, string, twine and coated wire – these queer materials come together in Picasso’s Guitar three-dimensional sculpture which shattered the established conceptualized mediums for sculptures. It was the very first of its kind, assembled from disparate parts of unconventional elements.

Where to see it: Museum of Modern Art, New York

Glass of Absinthe (1914)

This work is known for the actual use of a spoon in the bronze painted sculpture. Its inclusion was an abstract representation of the 19th century Parisian, Absinthe-imbibing, Bohemian artists and was also believed to be the natural progression of Picasso’s work with collage. “I was interested in the relation between the real spoon and the modeled glass. In the way they clashed with each other,” he said.

Where to see it: Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Old Guitarist (1903)

One of Picasso’s Blue Period artworks, this oil painting was painted right after the suicide of his close friend, Casagemas and depicts the miseries of society’s dregs through the severe features of the old, blind musician playing in the streets of Barcelona, seemingly unaware of his sightlessness and poverty as he plays.

Where to see it: Art Institute of Chicago

Girl before a Mirror (1932)

Picasso once asked, “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” This work depicts the many facets of a woman’s vanity, her insecurities and a reflection in which she glimpses her old age. The model was one of his mistresses, Marie Therese Walter who Picasso painted multiple times during the 1930s.

Where to see it: Museum of Modern Art, New York

Chicago Picasso (1967)

Towering at a height of 50 ft, this public artwork is situated in the centre of Chicago, USA. A woman, a bird or his Afghan hound dog — all this and more can be seen in this untitled cubist sculpture. Although he never revealed what it truly represents, it is rumored to be inspired by French woman, Sylvette David. Surprisingly Picasso’s relationship with her was purely platonic.

Where to see it: 50 W Washington St, Chicago

These are just the tip of the colossal iceberg of Picasso’s works, but each of them played a substantial role both in his life and in the tapestry of art history.

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