Primitivist Picasso

New! Pablo Picasso profile at the Black Atlantic Resource: This profile discusses in what ways Picasso first experienced African art, why he was so drawn to it and traces its influence in his work. Whilst it is impossible to definitively gauge the extent of the impact Picasso’s use of African art had on the world, as one of the most influential and prolific artists of the time it is doubtless a vital aspect of the history of the Black Atlantic.

Pablo Picasso famously stated ‘art is the elimination of the unnecessary’ and this somewhat explains why he became drawn to African artifact. The influence of African art on Picasso and his work is rarely discussed in much depth and indeed in his lifetime, Picasso tried to downplay its significance.

He first encountered forms of African art around the turn of the twentieth century when ‘exotic’ items were imported by sailors from French occupied Africa and displayed in European museums. From here on evidence of the appropriation of elements of African art can be found in Picasso’s work, and often with a patronising primitivist view typical of the mind set of this European avant-garde generation.

Gaugain is credited as being the first artist to develop the idea of primitivism in art. Indeed the current exhibition at Tate Modern is titled Gauguin: Maker of Myth, reinforcing the idealism of his view of ‘the Other’. Picasso took the use of the primitive a step further than Gauguin; where Gauguin was inspired to depict ‘exotic’ lands and the ‘noble savage’, Picasso was inspired to incorporate the very spirit of ‘exotic’ artifacts into his work, regardless of subject. This is how a painting of Spanish prostitutes became the turning point in modern art. Les Demoiselles d’Avingnon is the work that marks the transition from Picasso’s realistic paintings into the revolution that was Cubism …read more.

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