The famed Picasso blue period occurred during an extremely low ebb in the artist’s early years in Paris – between 1901 and 1904 – when he was still a young man and relatively unknown.
Born in Málaga, Spain in 1881 and then moving with his family to Barcelona, Picasso went to Paris in 1900 where he shared a studio with his great friend from Barcelona – Casagemas.
The Bohemian atmosphere of the Parisian streets fascinated them both from the very beginning!
Paintings from this short period prior to the Picasso blue period are marked with enthusiasm.
Reminiscent of works by Gauguin, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, they portray life in Paris dance halls and bars.
The two young men must have found life in the French capital incredibly liberal after the conservative and constricted life on offer in Spain.
Unfortunately, this happy period was cut short in February 1901: Casagemas shot himself in a local bar, having been rejected by a model called Germaine.
Without his friend and companion, Picasso´s euphoria for Paris life ended…
The Picasso blue period did not fully begin until the summer of that year, by which time Picasso had assimilated the sad death.
He, himself, was to later state that he only began painting in blue once he had actually accepted that his dear friend was dead.
Towards the end of the period of assimilation came three portraits of Casagemas as a corpse, which were going to be the last of Picasso´s pictures showing any vivid colors for some time.
Immediately after these works of assimilation, the painter started preparations for Evocación – El Entierro de Casagemas (1901) – Burial of Casagemas – which heralded the start of the Picasso blue period.
It probably goes without saying that this renowned era is so named because of the extreme predominance of blue tones in the works produced during these years … works which portray human misery, poverty and solitude in the form of beggars, alcoholics, prostitutes… their bodies and forms slightly elongated, reminiscent of El Greco´s style.
In El Entierro de Casagemas, his friend´s corpse is laid out on the ground, surrounded by mourning friends. The spirit is portrayed rising on a white horse to the skies but, instead of the proverbial choir of angels, it is surrounded by prostitutes clad only in stockings … The great Picasso blue period had begun …
During this period, Picasso flitted between Paris and Barcelona.
In Spring 1903, he stayed in Barcelona for an extended spell, working with renewed vigor and completing another well-known blue painting – La Vida (1903) – Life.
In this, he portrays four different types of existence: alone; a couple in love; maternal love (mother and child); and carnal love.
The paintings from the Picasso blue period do not deal solely with Casagemas´ death, but they do concentrate on solitude and lack of love.
This is evident in another painting dated 1903, Mendigos Junto Al Mar – Beggars By The Sea.
The family – consisting of two adults and one child – is alone in its misery and, whilst the physical bodies are fully clothed, their poverty is naked to the eye.
Picasso must have shared the poverty, solitude and despair of these figures.
However, his sufferings did result in him achieving, for the first time, a style unique unto himself.
Also, there would soon be a light at the end of his dark tunnel …
In 1904, the artist returned to Paris, established himself there permanently in Bateau-Lavoir and shortly met his first romantic partner of long-standing – Fernande Olivier.
Love cures all woes!
The happy start of the relationship resulted in pinks and reds predominating in his paintings … In 1904 the Picasso blue period was relinquished … The Pink Period was to begin …