Artist's Work/Artist's Voice: Picasso

Setting the Scene

1. A Sense of Style

When looking at examples of Picasso's work from various points in his long career, which spans the late nineteenth century to the second half of the twentieth, one of the most noteworthy characteristics is the way he continually modified and even significantly changed his style.

  • Show your students any two works of art from this guide, and read out loud the following statement by Picasso:

The several manners I have used in my art must not be considered as an evolution, or as steps toward an unknown ideal of painting. All I have ever made was made for the present and with the hope that it will always remain in the present. I have never taken into consideration the spirit of research. When I have found something to express, I have done it without thinking of the past or of the future. I do not believe I have used radically different elements in the different manners I have used in painting[. . . .] Whenever I had something to say, I have said it in the manner in which I have felt it ought to be said. Different mo-tives inevitably require different methods of expression.
[Pablo Picasso, Statement (1923), in Theories of Modern Art: A Sourcebook by Artists and Critics. Herschel B. Chipp (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: university of California Press, 1968), 265.]

  • Ask your students to comment on Picasso's statement with respect to the two works of art. Ask them to consider the final sentence of the statement, and give examples from their own experience of modifying their method of expression to communicate different ideas.

2. A Retrospective Exhibition

One way of learning about the career of an artist is to look at the changes in his or her work from the onset of creating art to the very end of his or her careers. Museums often organize retrospective exhibi-tions, which bring together works produced by an artist over a considerable period of time.

  • Ask your students to each create a small retrospective exhibition of their own work. Have them select examples of their paintings or drawings from when they first learned how to draw–perhaps at the age of two or three–to the present moment. Have them mount their works on a poster board in chrono-logical order. Students may prefer to compile their writing from several years into a portfolio or journal.
  • Ask your students to each make a presentation of their work, discussing how their interests at the time impacted the subject of their works of art or the manner in which they made them. In formulating their presentation they may want to consider Picasso's own statement about changes or variations in his style:

Variation does not mean evolution. If an artist varies his mode of expression this only means that he has changed his manner of thinking, and in changing, it might be for the better or it might be for the worse.
[Ibid, 265.]


Go to Lesson 1: Self-Portrait of the Artist →

Grove Art Online: Suggested Reading

Below is a list of selected articles which provide more information on the specific topics discussed in this lesson