20th Century Influences

The Influence of Symbolism

The Blue Period (1901 – 1904)

As the name suggests this period consisted of paintings created in various shades of blue, which reflect his mood at that time. It is believed that this sad or blue period was due to the death of his friend Carlos Casagemas. It may also have been due to the fact that he was living in extreme poverty. During this blue phase he painted portraits of the less fortunate; gaunt mothers, children, the poor, and beggars on the street.

Example: The Blind Guitarist, c. 1903

The Rose Period (1904 – 1906)

This period is characterised by a change in his subject matter and palette, which presumably reflects his more optimistic mood. He painted portraits of circus people and performers’ in warm oranges and pinks. He became increasingly interested in people living on the fringes of society.

Example: Family of Saltimbanques, 1905



The African Influence

In the 20th century many artists started to travel and were influenced by tribal art and the simplified forms of the mask. Picasso’s, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 highlights the influence of the mask on his work. This painting also marks the beginning of Cubism.



  • Analytical (1909 – 1912):  a style of painting developed by Picasso and Georges Braque. These artists, frustrated by the Impressionists constant effort to paint reality, decided to visually take apart objects and reduce them to their geometric shapes. They also decided to view the objects from a variety of different angles, rather than showing the object from a single view point.  

     Example: The Guitar Player, 1910

  • Synthetic (1912 – 1919): a further development of Cubism. Picasso and Braque started to introduce readymade materials, such as wallpaper and newspaper print, into their paintings. They included these fragments of paper as elements of texture and pattern. This marked the first use of collage in Fine Art.

     Example: Collage, 1913


The Influence of War (WW1, WW2 and the Spanish Civil War)

Guernica, 1937 is arguably Picasso’s most famous painting. It is a depiction of the bombing of Guernica at the time of the Spanish Civil War.  It does not accurately record the event, but instead acts as a symbol for the brutality and horror of war. The figures are fragmented and distorted. The space is ambiguous and dark. The whole painting conjures up feelings of confusion, frustration, and fear.


The Influence of Women

Picasso had many different lovers throughout his life and it is believed that he painted a portrait of every single one of them. There is a book dedicated solely to his portraits of weeping women, which are painted in a cubist style.

Dora Maar au Chat, 1941 depicts Dora Maar, one of the painter's most famous lovers, a French photographer, seated on a chair with a small cat perched on her shoulders.

How do you think he felt about Dora when he was painting this portrait?

What do you think she was thinking about when she was sitting in this chair with her cat?

Would you be flattered by this portrait?

Would you like Picasso to paint a portrait of you in this cubist style?

How many different angles do you think he viewed Dora from in order to complete this portrait?

It has been said that Picasso changed his companions as often as he changed painting styles!


previousPrevious - Pablo Picasso
Next - Cubism in the Classroomnext