14 Self-Portraits by Pablo Picasso Show the Evolution of His Style: See Self-Portraits Moving from Ages 15 to 90

15 years old (1896)

It’s pos­si­ble to look at Pablo Picasso’s many for­mal exper­i­ments and peri­od­ic shifts of style as a kind of self-por­trai­ture, an exer­cise in shift­ing con­scious­ness and try­ing on of new aes­thet­ic iden­ti­ties. The Span­ish mod­ernist made a career of sweep­ing dra­mat­ic ges­tures, announce­ments to the world that he was going to be a dif­fer­ent kind of artist now, and every­one had bet­ter catch up. Even in his most abstract peri­ods, his work radi­at­ed with an emo­tion­al ener­gy as out­sized as the man him­self.

18 years old (1900)

Picasso’s ani­mus and vital­i­ty even per­me­ate his least invit­ing paint­ing, Les Demoi­selles d’Avignon (click here to view), a broth­el scene with five geo­met­ri­cal women, two with African and Iber­ian masks; “a paint­ing of nudes in which there is scarce­ly a curve to be seen,” writes The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones, “elbows sharp as knives, hips and waists geo­met­ri­cal sil­hou­ettes, tri­an­gle breasts.” The 1907 self-por­trait of Picas­so at age 25 (below) comes from this peri­od, when the artist began his rad­i­cal Cubist break with every­thing that had gone before.

20 years old (1901)

An old­er ver­sion Les Demoi­selles d’Avignon con­tained a male fig­ure, “a stand-in for the painter him­self.” Even when he did not appear, at least not in a final ver­sion, in his own work, Picas­so saw him­self there: his moods, his height­ened per­cep­tions of real­i­ty as he imag­ined it.

The somber Blue Peri­od paint­ings, with their mood­i­ness and “themes of pover­ty, lone­li­ness, and despair,” cor­re­spond with his mourn­ing over the sui­cide of a friend, Cata­lan artist Car­los Casage­mas. The Picas­so in the 1901 por­trait fur­ther up looks gaunt, bro­ken, decades old­er than his 20 years. In the 1917 draw­ing fur­ther down, how­ev­er, the artist at 35 looks out at us with a haughty, smooth-cheeked youth­ful gaze.

24 years old (1906)

Dur­ing this time, as World War I end­ed, he had begun to design sets for Diaghilev’s famed Bal­let Russ­es, where he met his wife, bal­le­ri­na Olga Khokhlo­va, and moved in com­fort­able cir­cles, though he was him­self des­per­ate for mon­ey. Each por­trait deliv­ers us a dif­fer­ent Picas­so, as he sheds one mask and puts on anoth­er. Trac­ing his cre­ative evo­lu­tion through his por­trai­ture means nev­er mov­ing in a straight line. But we do see his demeanor soft­en and round pro­gres­sive­ly over time in his por­traits. He seems to grow younger as he ages.

25 years old (1907)

The severe youth of 15, fur­ther up, brood­ing, world-weary, and already an accom­plished draughts­man and painter; the grim­ly seri­ous roman­tic at 18, above—these Picas­sos give way to the wide-eyed matu­ri­ty of the artist at 56 in 1938, at 83, 89, and 90, in 1972, the year before his death. That year he pro­duced an intrigu­ing series of eclec­tic self-por­traits unlike any­thing he had done before. See these and many oth­ers through­out his life below.

35 years old (1917)

56 years old (1938)

83 years old (1965)

85 years old (1966)

89 years old (1971)

90 years old (June 28, 1972)

90 years old (June 30, 1972)

90 years old (July 2, 1972)

90 years old (July 3, 1972)

via Bored Pan­da/Twist­ed Sifter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How To Under­stand a Picas­so Paint­ing: A Video Primer

The Gestapo Points to Guer­ni­ca and Asks Picas­so, “Did You Do This?;” Picas­so Replies “No, You Did!”

The Genius of Albrecht Dür­er Revealed in Four Self-Por­traits

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.