Picasso painted from the early years of his life. According to his mother, his first words were “piz, piz”, a shortening of lápiz, the Spanish word for “pencil”. From the age of seven, Picasso received formal artistic training from his father in figure drawing and oil painting – Picasso’s father, Ruiz was a painter who specialized in naturalistic depictions of birds. He was a professor of art at the School of Crafts and a curator of a local museum.
Picasso’s father and uncle decided to send the young artist to Madrid’s Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the country’s foremost art school. At age 16, Picasso set off for the first time on his own, but he disliked formal instruction and stopped attending classes soon after enrolment. Madrid held many other attractions. The Prado housed paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, and Francisco Zurbarán. Picasso especially admired the works of El Greco; elements such as his elongated limbs, arresting colours, and mystical visages are echoed in Picasso’s later work.
Recently we have published an article about Picasso’s famous Blue Period. Here are 10 masterpieces of an early Picasso – from before Blue Period. All of them belong to the collection of Museu Pablo Picasso in Barcelona. And you will be shocked by some of them as they will remind you of some artists and trends… but they won’t remind you of Picasso 😉
1 Man in a Beret
Picasso when painted this portrait was fourteen years old. This portrait is one of the first canvases where Picasso uses oil in a slightly superior format to what was usual for him.
2 Portrait of Aunt Pepa
The raw realism of the face, as well as the chromatic and light treatment, reminds us of a clear influence from Spanish portrait tradition, especially, Velázquez. Aunt Pepa hated to be painted, maybe this is why she looks quite nervous on this painting.
Picasso painted this work in the same period he was producing many portraits of his parents.
4. Portrait of the Artist’s Mother
The portrait captures the moment where his mother, in profile, is resting half-asleep with her head lightly leaning forward and her eyes closed – creating a placid air.
5. Science and Charity
Science and Charity is one of the major works from Picasso’s early years of training. At just 15, Picasso felt mature enough to take on large, ambitious compositions as the culmination of his academic studies, that were in fact led by his father, José Ruiz Blasco.
6. The divan
The Divan represents a regular scene from night-time venues, taverns and brothels in late-19th century Barcelona around the barri xinès (red light district) which Picasso knew well.
7. Decadent Poet
Some months after meeting the sculptor and writer Jaume Sabartés who would be his intimate friend and, from 1935, personal secretary, Picasso produced two watercolour portraits of him. In their long relationship, Picasso produced many portraits of Sabartés in pencil or oil, many full of irony – an irony mixed with jokes and affection, complicity, which was the basis of their friendship.
8.Mas del Quiquet (Quiquet’s Farmhouse)
Picasso travelled to Horta d’Ebre (Horta de Sant Joan, Terra Alta, Tarragona) in June 1898. He would be marked by a strong impression, ‘Everything I know, I learnt it in the town of Pallarès’, he would say years later.
9. Fairground Stall
Picasso painted this work during his visit to Paris in Autumn 1900. Also known as The Fair, it falls within the series of work Picasso produced based around Parisian nightlife with clear influences from Steinlen and Toulouse-Lautrec. It was included at the 1901 Vollard exhibition in Paris.
10. The Wait (Margot)
It is a portrait of a morphine addict or prostitute painted in quick flowing highly colourful strokes with a partly divisionist pictorial treatment. Likewise, the energetic thick brushstrokes – an influence from Van Gogh – and the black outline of the figure – also a feature of some Van Gogh works and the French Les Nabis artistic movement – are worth commenting on.
Then, the Blue Period started.
Find out more on early Picasso: