Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Picasso's Portraits


Thanks for calling in.

The National Portrait Gallery in London are currently exhibiting Picasso's Portraits, here's a link.  I was lucky enough to attend a local art class which has given us a bit more background to some of the pictures so they can be appreciated more fully.

 The portraits he painted were of friends and family, studies to work on features or experiment with various techniques aimed at breaking the mould.  He wanted to simplify forms, often using mask-like faces. He used to spend a long time staring at people and then later on would paint them from memory. He painted Gertrude Stein who had a salon encouraging artists and after sitting for him 90 times, she got fed up and he finished it from memory.

Born in 1881, Pablo Picasso had many different painting periods as he was influenced by other artists, styles and people he met during his life and his feelings towards them.  Within each of the different styles, he observed the most prominent features of his subject and then reinvented them to build the person in a different way.

In the mosaic below are details from pictures featuring some of the women in Picasso's life. Clockwise from the top left:

a) Fernande with a black mantilla, 1905-6. Fernandez Olivier had a seven year relationship with Picasso. The shading on the face is made by thick brush strokes, unusual at the time.

b) Portrait of Olga Khokhlova 1923, wife, ballerina, mother of their son Paul. The picture shows her as a classical beauty with pale skin, elegant and sophisticated. They lived an affluent life at this time although Picasso missed the alternative bohemian life.

c) Woman with a hat - 1935, again this is Olga at the end of their relationship, shown as a worrier, highly strung, lips pursed, but still in one of her trademark elegant hats.

d) Mother and Child 1921, this is Olga and Paul in happier days in Rome influenced by Neo Classical style, the horizontals and verticals showing stability, the colours harmonious.

e) Reclining Nude, 1932, whilst still married to Olga, Picasso fell in love with Marie Therese Walters, mother to his daughter Maya, and his art changed direction with his feelings for this blonde, voluptuous woman. Her representations were all curvy and erotic, this abstract picture has signs of fertility, joyfulness and warmth.

f) Jacqueline in black scarf, 1954, Jacqueline Roque was the last lady in his life, they married in 1961 they were together until his death in 1973. The material and canework is beautifully painted.. Her young face is optimistic and echoes the simple mask-like faces of his African and Spanish antiquity influenced periods.

g) Woman Weeping, 1937, one of his other ladies, Dora Maar, is the model for this study for his famous Guernica painting. She was highly-strung and was always weeping. She was well known for her beautiful nails and the picture shows her hands simultaneously in her mouth and holding a hanky to her face. Her eyes reflect planes.

The mosaic below shows famous critic and collector Ambroise Vollard in the top two pictures. The analytical cubist one on the right portrays him after fragmentation and rebuilding with small shapes. Picasso and Braque moved on to synthetic cubism, which had more colour and larger geometric shapes, as they felt the analytical cubism was too limiting.

The blue picture, Sebastian Juner I Vidal 1903 was painted in his Blue period, following the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas in 1901. His sadness spread to his paintings and Casagemas often appeared in his later paintings. His friend in this picture has a lot of detail, whilst the woman is sketchily depicted.

His son Paul is beautifully painted as Harlequin in 1924 in the last picture.

I hope you enjoyed seeing this small collection of his portraits. I'm linking this post to Barbara at Coastal Ripples' Paint Monthly link-up.



  1. Picasso has always fascinated me. Love the boy in the harlequin suit. Hoping to get to the exhibition before it closes. Thanks for linking Karen. B xxx

    1. Pleasure, I'll link a few more in the next few weeks. x

  2. What a great exhibition. I am afraid I will not be able to go but would have loved to. take care.

    1. If I get there, the talk will certainly help me make the most of it. Nothing beats seeing the works close up.

  3. What an interesting post! I love Picasso's Blue Period portraits and the Harlequin from his Pink Period has been one of my favourites since my teens...

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Riitta. I'm off to a few more talks on different artists this month, they are so informative and enjoyable.

  4. Looks like a fascinating exhibition. Like the boy in the harlequin suit and the portrait of Olga Khokhlova:)

    1. It just goes to show what a good painter he was to get such good likenesses as well as experimenting. :-)