Compare the practices of Picasso and Pollock

Categories: Pablo Picasso

Compare the practices of Picasso and Pollock and evaluate how their views, choices and actions have been affected by particular circumstances within their world. The distinctive practices of Picasso and Pollock highlight how their views, choices and actions have been affected by their relative contexts within their world. Cubism was the advancement in art during the early 20th century, a time when the world was experiencing modernization in technology and medicine; and societies were rapidly growing and developing as well.

Art historian John Golding stated that Cubism “was the greatest artistic revolution since the Italian Renaissance”.

During this period Fascism was also on the rise. A second world war seemed the inevitable culmination of tense divisions within Europe between opposing Fascist and anti-Fascist camps. In this atmosphere of political strife, Pablo Picasso began to look for ways to instil the heretofore private symbols in his art with new, public meanings, to look for a way in which his work could contribute to the cause of the Left.

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In this context, Picasso's work took on a political significance, and this significance energized his work.

Picasso's art making practices reflected his dynamic personality and artistic genius. Picasso's ability to draw on a number of diverse disciplines and sources for inspiration provided him with the impetus he needed to continually take his art to the next level. Paul Jackson Pollock, famous for his drip paintings, worked 30 years after Picasso and was vividly aware of Picasso and his work. Pollock was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement, who was largely affected by world war two.

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Although the war did not directly affect him, what did was the shift of the ‘art centre’ of the world moving at this time from Paris to New York. Evidently it is clear that the individual practices of Picasso and Pollock show how their views, choices and actions have been affected by their world. In 1937, the Spanish Republican government asked Picasso to paint a mural for the Spanish pavilion at the Universal Exposition that year in Paris. Inspiration came in April, in the form of the horrific aerial bombing by the Fascists of the town of Guernica.

The monumental canvas that resulted depicted a massacre of the innocents in the black-and-white tones of newspapers and newsreels, and filled with historical and political allusions and expressive force, Guernica became an icon and the last real history painting. Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace. When considering an originator of Cubism, there were nonetheless several recurrent themes in Picasso's work.

Instead of using traditional battle imagery as visual inspiration for Guernica, Picasso turned to the familiar arena of the Spanish bullring. According to art historian Patricia Failing "The bull and the horse are important characters in Spanish culture. ” The central figure in Guernica is a horse run through with a javelin, wrenched in agony which is interpreted as the horse of Franco's Nationalism, with Picasso predicting its downfall. Evidently it is apparent that Picasso was highly influenced the circumstances in his world that affected his views, choices and actions in creating ‘Guernica’.

In his artwork ‘Guernica’, Picasso’s was highly influenced by cubism. Picasso's practice required that people look at the world with new eyes, showing how his views, choices and actions were affected by particular circumstances within his context. While Cubism represents the most famous example of this, other techniques that he used also showed his mastery of this. The artist's Blue Period is Picasso's first real foray into his own style and voice as an artist. People call this the Blue Period, because most of the canvases that he painted were in palettes of blue.

The blue in his paintings during this period demonstrated a period of melancholy, but his use of colour meant more than this in the social context of the times. Not only did the colour blue represent a sad mood, but also during the 19th century, it carried a spiritual meaning with it as well, which is apparent in Picasso's work Guernica. This work is seen as an amalgamation of pastoral and epic styles. The discarding of colour intensifies the drama, producing a reportage quality as in a photographic record. Guernica is blue, black and white, 3. 5 metre tall and 7. metre wide, a mural-size canvas painted in oil. The significance of the size of this artwork is that is draws the audience into the canvas, allowing them to feel part of the chaos and commotion, evoking a sense of sympathy and understanding of the horrors of the bombing in Guernica. Subsequently it is evident that his views, choices and actions were highly influenced by his world in accordance with his context. At the beginning of 1907, Picasso began a painting, ‘Les Demoiselles d'Avignon’ that would become arguably the most important of the century.

The painting began as a narrative brothel scene, with five prostitutes and two men–a medical student and a sailor. But the painting metamorphosed as he worked on it; Picasso painted over the clients, leaving the five women to gaze out at the viewer, their faces terrifyingly bold and solicitous. There is a strong undercurrent of sexual anxiety. The features of the three women to the left were inspired by the prehistoric sculpture that had interested him in the summer; those of the two to the right were based on the masks that Picasso saw in the African and Oceanic collections in the Musee d'Ethnographie du Trocadero in Paris.

While no specific African or Pacific sources have been identified, Picasso was deeply impressed by what he saw in these collections, and they were to be one of his primary influences for the next several years. Art historians once classified this phase of Picasso's work as his "Negro Period. " French imperialism in Africa and the Pacific was at its high point, and gunboats and trading steamers brought back ritual carvings and masks as curiosities. While the African carvings, which Picasso owned, had a kind of dignified aloofness, he, like other Europeans of his time, viewed Africa as the symbol of savagery.

Unlike most Europeans, however, Picasso saw this savagery as a source of vitality and renewal that he wanted to incorporate for himself and for European painting. His interpretation of African art, in these mask-like faces, was based on this idea of African savagery; his brush-strokes are hacking, impetuous, and violent. Like Manet's Olympia, Picasso portrayed the prostitutes in erotic poses with their arms recognizable positioned above their heads in order to show off their feminine, but grotesquely distorted female anatomy.

Picasso's choice to use five figures in his work multiplied the penetration of the bitter gaze created in by Olympia. Manifestly it is apparent that Picasso was highly influenced by the context of his time which affected his views, choices and actions in creating ‘Les Demoiselles d'Avignon’. Picasso's work, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, truly introduced Cubism as a modern art movement by shockingly rejecting any and all established criteria from pre-existing art and therefore has been noted as the twentieth century's most significant painting.

Picasso's fascination with primitive art had been influenced by African art which he probably saw in Matisse's studio, masks that had been purchased from Delain. In Demoiselles, the furious jutting angles of the torsos and limbs in violent, unpredictable patterns further emphasize the energy that animates the figures. Even the planes of the curtains in the background echo the harsh angularity of the forms. Here, the inorganic relates to the organic, in that except for the difference in colour tones used in the nude forms, and the background, the planes and angles would not be as distinguishable from one another on a pictorial syntax.

These aspects of abstract relationships between contours of kind of space and volume by means of light and dark become one of the characteristics of Analytical Cubism. The faces of the two nudes on the right of the painting profoundly express influence from primitive tribal masks. The contours of the nose are directly related to the Shic of Milan, which seems to generate the upward moving columns of the forms. The varied shades of pink further shatter the nudes into their component parts.

It is this means of exploring lines and planes, mass and volume, colour and texture that makes Demoiselles so important to the more radical liberties taken in the later years of Cubism. Highlighting how Picasso’s views, choices and actions were influenced by his world. Pollock’s was highly influenced by 1940’s America, and therefore a different culture entirely, highlighting how his views, choices and actions in his artmaking were subjective to his context. World War 2 left Europe fractured and became a particularly difficult time for artists, whose world became very apolitical.

This was a significant historical and political circumstance which affected Abstract Expressionism. Pollock’s work, entitled ‘The Moon Woman Cuts the Circle’ like Picasso’s work, holds symbolic elements, Pollock was concerned with American Indians and their mythology and the other indigenous, primitive cultures of America. Picasso’s attention in other cultures related to structural elements while Pollock’s interest was the cultural elements and in fact a very considerable influence on Pollock and his work was his interest in these cultures.

In the same way as Picasso he is looking outside his own culture in terms of seeking new art forms, however Picasso did so in a structural view. His interest was how these cultures responded to the metaphysical world, the world of mythologies, fantasies, dreams and the unconscious, subjective and intangible things. The ‘Moon Woman’ is making reference to a figure, and it has a goddess-like association, and is all about female energy and the symbolism of the moon. Subsequently it is clear ow Pollock was highly influenced by his context in creating his artwork. Within his artwork Pollock was trying to explore how to communicate the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of the world and his practice was characterised as avant-garde, showing how his views, choices and actions influenced his practice. In this complex painting ‘The Moon Woman Cuts the Circle’ everything is painted in mess and grotesque. Pollock is known as the abstract painter which is the modern trained of painting reflecting the reality in the mysterious and complex way.

The background blue is dominated by dominating red colour which symbolically suggests the idea of the modern world to be pictured: it is the suggestion of over shadow of peace but the domination of violence and bloodshed which are the common features of the modern world. The weapons suggest the domination of that power which is violent power with the help of weapons. Moreover the painting has so many contrasting elements such as the violence and peace, mystery and uncertainty, sky and sea weapons and boats.

In a festival the American Indians celebrate it by changing themselves into mysterious disguise, the women use different types of masks on their faces and they use the crown of feathers by painting different colours. They even bring different types of weapons and suppose to attack the moon considering it as the symbol of ideal feminine beauty. The moon image, the weapons, as well as the mysterious female figure in the painting suggest the attempt of the painter to reflect the cultural festival of the Americans.

Subsequently we can see how Pollock’s views, choices and actions were highly influenced by his world within his artist practice and how they are reflected within his painting. The context of Pollock, highly influenced his artworks through views, choices and actions. By 1950, when Pollock spoke about art, the artist, and the modern world, he used words which fit with a new, electrodynamics view of the unconscious: "The modern artist, it seems to me, is working and expressing an inner world-in other words-expressing the energy, the motion and other inner forces. Pollock spoke about "energy and motion made visible; memories arrested in space; human needs and motives; and acceptance. " Relating to the social dynamics of the late 40s, the ambivalences, horrors, and ambiguities felt by most people about the devastations of WWII. Artists rejected the more traditional means of depicting narratives in painting and used painterly strategies of negation, of disjunction and of opacity. What they created were layered narratives of ambivalence and boundaries and frustrations, with plots that are enigmatic and chaotic and at times, incomprehensible.

Ultimately, Pollock’s paintings contain a shifting balance between negation and assertion, between a desire to signify and a desire to erase. In addition to the conflicted social context of the period, narratives and plots of negation and erasure may be another metaphor of the unconscious, showing how his world influenced his artist practice through his views, choices and actions. Within his artist practice, Pollock’s views, choices and actions were highly influenced by his context.

Pollock’s notorious brush drip technique is achieved by the tacking of the large canvas onto the floor while using the medium of alkyd enamels which are a synthetic type of paint. He would then proceed by even mixing common materials such as sand and glass among the paint in a devastating fashion, flinging it recklessly onto the canvas. His implements would range from brushes to sticks and even basting syringes to apply the thick stream of paint.

This technique allowed Pollock to apply paint from all angles and sides of the canvas and because of this he was able to explore revolutionary dimensions of painting; he would later become infamous for this style. In No. 1 (Lavender Mist) he manages to forge a landscape which is truly for the senses which delivers contrasting shades as well as differentiating colours which will in turn take your eyes across the whole painting. Pollock uses mainly green, white, black and in some cases brown to give the painting an earthy appearance, further demonstrating on the idea of textual layers which are clearly presented to the viewer.

The elements and principles Pollock uses here are colour, contrast, texture, emphasis and variety. The use of colour contributes to the overall effect of the painting which appears to be very earthy, atmospheric and relatively calm from the light of the whites to the intense streaks of striking black. Contrast is used here to balance the whole picture resulting in a flowing formation which Pollock was most prized and famed for. Pollock still remains one of the leading figures in Abstract Expressionism. His drip paint technique was revolutionary and the psyche he was able to get into when he applied paint to canvas.

Evidently it is clear how his artist practice reflects the revolutionary artists period at the time within his views, choices and actions. In conclusion, the practice of Pablo Picasso and Paul Jackson Pollock highlight how their views, choices and actions were highly influenced by cubism, abstractionism and the social and political states at the time. Evidently the two had different modern worlds, although both valued the avant-garde values of breaking boundaries and the notion of exploration of the new.

Updated: Mar 15, 2022
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Compare the practices of Picasso and Pollock. (2016, Nov 24). Retrieved from

Compare the practices of Picasso and Pollock essay
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