Masters Preview | Pablo Picasso

The Masters Exhibit is an annual, one-month departure from Sager Braudis Gallery’s usual schedule of contemporary art exhibits, to display masterworks by historically influential mid-century artists. Because some background can aid in the appreciation of these significant works, we’ll feature each artist whose work will be on display at the 2016 Masters Exhibit in a blog post leading up to the opening of the exhibit. The Masters Exhibit will open to the public with a First Friday reception at 6 PM on December 2nd, and will run through December 31st. All works on display will be available for purchase, and we encourage both budding and established collectors to inquire about private, guided tours, which include details, valuation, and histories of works of interest.

Pablo Picasso is one of the best known, most prolific artists in history, and had a heavy hand in shaping the movement of art through the 20th century. So vast is his portfolio that it is traditionally discussed in periods of its own, though even within a tight time period his subject matter and media were remarkably diverse. The son of an art professor, he began making art as a child, and showed such promise that he was admitted to the prestigious Barcelona School of Fine Arts at age 14, 3 years earlier than typical. He continued study in Madrid, and then moved in 1900 to Paris, where he met other artists, writers, and composers and was extremely productive in the studio he set up for himself.

Pablo Picasso
Venus et L’Amour d’apres Cranach (Venus and Love, after Cranach)
Lithograph on paper

His early Paris work is largely figural, with some slight, expressive distortion of realistic forms and, famously, an intense adjustment of his color palette to relate his mood. The Blue Period, spanning 1901 – 1904, was brought on by the suicide of Picasso’s best friend, Carlos Casagemas, and the depressive episode that followed. The start of a new love affair and growing patronage for his work led to Rose Period works from 1904 – 1906.

Picasso’s first masterpiece, the proto-Cubist painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, was completed in 1907, depicting a group of prostitute-models with fragmented forms and faces abstracted to mask-like simplicity. The shattered, reduced-to-parts figures and allusion to African masks would become staples of Picasso’s Cubism. He was utilizing subject matter to a communicative end, abstracting and distorting to suit his message, rather than attempting realism. This extreme abstraction of still-recognizable form may have been a necessary step between realistic depiction of the world and the Non-Objective Abstraction that came a few decades later.

While Picasso is best known for his development of Cubism and its effect on abstraction thereafter, he worked, through his long and prolific career, in a variety of media and subject matter. He carved into clay tablets and plates and sculpted both in relief and in the round in clay, metal, wood, and found materials, in addition to painting, drawing, and printing. Throughout his work, distortion and fragmentation of form affect a wordless, emotional message; he uses his materials and subject matter as a means to that end.

Pablo Picasso
Femme Aux Cheveux Flous (Fluffy-haired woman)
Red earthenware plaque


Laura Payne, Essential Picasso (Bath, UK: Parragon, 2002).

Arianna Huffington, “Picasso: Creator and Destroyer,” The Atlantic, June 1988.

“Pablo Picasso,” Biography, 2015. Accessed November 21, 2016.

“Pablo Picasso,” Guggenheim Foundation. Accessed November 21, 2016.

“Pablo Picasso and His Paintings,” Pablo Picasso, 2016. Accessed November 21, 2016.