The Flower Seller - Image Courtesy of Glasgow Museums
A hugely prolific painter, draughtsman, sculptor and ceramicist, Pablo Picasso is regarded as the supreme artist of the 20th century – with a hugely fascinating private life.
Picasso, born in Spain, was a child prodigy who was encouraged by his art-teacher father, who ably led him along.
Before Cubism, Picasso went through a number of styles – realism, caricature, the Blue Period, and the Rose Period. The Blue Period dates from 1901 to 1904, after he had first moved to Paris from Barcelona, and is characterized by a predominantly blue palette and subjects focusing on outcasts, beggars, and prostitutes. This was when he also produced his first sculptures. This particular pigment is effective in conveying a sombre tone. The psychological trigger for these paintings was the suicide of Picasso’s friend Casagemas. The Blue Period work is quite sentimental, however Picasso was still very young and away from home for the first time with very little money.
The flower seller is typical of this period and depicts a scene of everyday life in a Parisian square. His use of the cold blue evokes a feeling of sadness. By bringing together young and old he reminds us that life is short. This painting depicts all ages, from babies and young children, to the flower seller herself and the elderly lady and gentleman sitting on the bench. There is even some thought that the horse drawn carriage may contain a coffin. This is a deep message, that life is short, from an artist who was still a teenager. Although it appears that this was painted very quickly, Picasso actually made many drawings of the flower seller and children beforehand. With just a few strokes of paint he captures the chubby toddler playing.
His style developed from the Blue Period to the Rose Period to the pivotal work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), and then on to Cubism (another blog on Cubism to follow). Picasso’s collaboration on ballet and theatrical productions began in 1916 and was followed by work which concentrated on drawing and figural representation. In the 1920s the artist and his wife, Olga (whom he had married in 1918), continued to live in Paris, to travel frequently, and to spend their summers at the beach. From 1925 to the 1930s Picasso was involved with the Surrealists and with sculpture and his fame grew.
By 1936 the Spanish Civil War had profoundly affected Picasso, the expression of which culminated in his painting Guernica. From the late 1940s he lived in the south of France. In 1961 the artist married Jacqueline Roque, and they moved to Mougins. There Picasso continued his prolific work in painting, drawing, prints, ceramics, and sculpture until his death in April 1973.