This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso's death. Originally from Spain, the artist spent most of his adult life living and working in France. A painter, sculptor, ceramicist, printmaker and theater designer, Picasso is considered one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century. In addition to his immense artistic talent, Picasso is considered an artistic prodigy due to the volume of his artistic output and his numerous innovations in art form. Picasso is credited with pioneering several artistic movements including Cubism.

Picasso frequently reinvented and redeveloped his artistic style. His body of work can be classified according to the following periods: Blue Period, Rose Period, African Period, Cubism, Neoclassicism, Surrealism and then his later period, where he mixed several artistic styles together. Each period of his work can be directly traced and understood by analyzing personal events in his life such as the suicide of his close friend Carles Casagemas and his many romantic entanglements.


Despite his frequent shifts in style and form, throughout his long artistic career, Picasso often returned to depicting a particular woman sitting in a chair, similar to this one .

The particular lithograph is titled ‘Girl in Chair’ and is dated 1952, though this color scheme is not one that corresponds with Picasso’s other work from the 1950s. The artistic style employed in this image is known as cubism, with some elements of surrealism.

The image shows many elements of distortion. The woman depicted, Dora Maar, is seated in a black chair with her hands clasped. On her head, she is wearing a wide-rimmed blue hat that matches her dress. Though the painting clearly depicts a woman sitting in a chair, the image is fractured; her nose is on the opposite side of her face as her mouth; her eyes are on different planes of her face. Despite being one of Picasso’s later works, the lithograph resembles his earlier artistic styles. This style of art, Cubism, was invented by Picasso and fellow painter Georges Braque between 1907 and 1914. With Cubism, the image is broken up into geometric shapes and figures, almost dissecting the image at hand.

Despite being one of Picasso’s later works, the lithograph resembles his earlier artistic styles. This style of art, Cubism, was invented by Picasso and fellow painter Georges Braque between 1907 and 1914. With Cubism, the image is broken up into geometric shapes and figures, almost dissecting the image at hand.

In the 1920s, the rebellious surrealist movement emerged which greatly influenced the work of Picasso. Though Picasso was not considered a surrealist painter, he fused facets of this movement with his own Cubist style to create images that perplexed and confused the mind. The women he painted would often be depicted with contorted faces, traits of animals or mythological creatures, or in overly bright and mis-matched colors. Many of these details are visible in his series of portraits of Dora Maar. Though Picasso continued to evolve as an artist, there remained a sort of continuity in his portraits of Maar. In these portraits, Picasso would frequently borrow elements of his older artistic styles.

Maar was a French photographer and painter who was also a romantic partner and muse of Picasso. Picasso created several iterations of her portraits throughout his career. He first met her in 1935, after going through a particularly horrible period in his life. Their first encounter, yet brief, was on the set of the French movie, The Crime of Monsieur Lange, before they met again at the famous brasserie in Paris, Le Deux Magots, in 1936. Though Picasso was 55, and Maar was only 29, they began a relationship that would last almost 9 years. Though their romance lasted a long time, it was tumultuous. The two moved in together shortly after meeting, but Picasso never ended his relationship with Marie-Therese Walker, the mother of his daughter Maya.

In addition to their romance, the two were instrumental to each other’s artistic careers. Maar captured Picasso creating Guernica, one of his most iconic and political artworks. She taught him photography and, specifically, the artistic cliche verre (glass plate) technique which combined photography with engraving. He painted various portraits of her, one of which being The Weeping Woman, where she is portrayed as a tormented, tortured and sad woman. Given the physical distortion, she was not entirely convinced that the portraits were indeed portraying her, and instead were a metaphor for the shock and pain Picasso felt during the Spanish Civil War.

But, Picasso believed he was capturing what he felt
was the true version of Maar. He stated:

“For years I’ve painted her in tortured forms,
not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either;
just obeying a vision that forced itself on me.
It was the deep reality, not the superficial one.”

Despite Picassos’ frequent depictions of her in this manner,
Maar did not see herself as an anxious and tormented subject. She once said:

All (Picasso's) portraits of me are lies.
They're Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar.

In this painting of Maar, she is seated in the same chair, in the same post, sporting an identical outfit. This, however, is not a lithograph, and instead is an oil-based painting dated 1941. In many analyses of Picasso's work, the bars on the chair have been interpreted to resemble prison bars, alluding to the captivity Maar experienced when she was with Picasso.

The relationship between Picasso and Maar was troubled and Maar suffered a lot throughout their time together. Picasso was said to be abusive to Maar, both in physical and emotional ways, so much so that at the end of their relationship, Maar suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized.

Here is one of the earlier portraits Picasso made of Maar, which does not feature elements of cubism. It is an oil painting 1937, the same year he made Guernica. Here, she is depicted in a more surrealist style, visible by the bright colors and contortions in her face and body. Though she is seated in an elegant pose, there is still an element of sadness to her. One of her eyes is looking inward, at herself, revealing a complexity to her.

Picasso was once quoted saying that “women are suffering machines” and, evidently, Maar was no exception.


Picasso’s art in the late 1930s and early 1940s is marked by a muted color palette, cubist motifs and depictions of suffering. He painted monstrous motifs like minotaurs and skulls, utilizing geometric shapes to create images that were later described as dark and claustrophobic. His artistic style was seen as the antithesis of what was idealized by the Nazi regime.

After the Nazis bombed the Spanish city of Guernica, Picasso was inspired to paint an anti-war mural depicting this tragic event. Titled Guernica, this 1937 painting was a giant composition that illustrated scenes of violence and chaos brought on by the war. In the painting you can find a mutilated horse, terrorized women, a dead baby, a soldier in a dismembered state, and flames. The black and white painting is considered to be a work of cubist and surrealist art and one of Picasso’s most famous works of all time.

Picasso’s art during this period captured the pain he felt witnessing the Spanish Civil War and World War II unfold. However, he himself did necessarily see his art being intentionally influenced by the war.

I have not painted the war because I am not the kind of painter who goes out like a photographer for something to depict. But I have no doubt that the war is in these paintings I have done. Later on, perhaps, the historians will find them and show that my style has changed under the war’s influence. Myself, I do not know.


Before the war ended, Picasso met Françoise Gilot, and fell madly in love with her. The works he began to paint in this era revealed a sense of newfound and renewed happiness. He drew her as a blooming flower, or a virginal Madonna, which was a stark contrast to the tormented images he painted of Maar. However, as their relationship began to fall apart, he began to recycle the cubist and depressive motifs he utilized for Maar, for Gilot.

In the 1950s, many of Picasso's peers died, which left him with no more living artistic influences. In his later period, he looked towards the past for inspiration, using works by Manet, Velazquez, El Greco, as inspiration.


Picasso was born on October 25th 1881 in the city of Malaga, Spain. The oldest child of José Ruiz y Blasco, a painter, and Maria Picasso Lopez, a housewife, Picasso grew up in a middle class household. In 1891, Picasso’s family left Malaga for A Coruña, a port city in Galicia, because his father had taken a job as a Professor of Fine Arts in the local School of Fine Arts. Picasso’s father recognized his son’s talents early on and gave his son formal artistic training starting from the age of seven.

In 1895, Picasso’s younger sister died of diptheria, prompting the family to move again. This time to Barcelona, where Picasso’s father found a job in the School of Fine Arts. It was in Barcelona that Picasso felt truly at home. His father set up an art studio for him and got him admitted to the prestigious art school ‘La Llotja’ at just age 15. When he was 16, he moved to Madrid to attend the best art school in the country--Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Though he ultimately felt alienated by formal instruction and dropped out of school, he drew a lot of inspiration from the city, particularly from the art he saw at the Museo de Prado, such as the works of Velazquez and Goya.

In 1900, he took his first trip to Paris, which was the art capital of Europe at the time. He lived with his friend, a journalist and poet, and without much money, they would burn his paintings for heat. For the next few years, Picasso lived between Paris and Barcelona, before finally settling in Paris in 1904. Picasso spent the majority of his life in Paris, until he moved to Antibes in 1946, for a lover.

Picasso never returned to his native country of Spain after he last visited in 1934.

The artist lived in France until he was 91 years old, and died in 1973 in Mougins, a small commune in the south of France.