The Blue Period is considered to have occurred between 1901 and 1904. Between 1900 and 1902, Picasso made three trips to Paris, finally moving there in 1904. The Bohemian environment of the Parisian streets fascinated him from the first moment, depicting people in dance halls and cafés in his paintings and integrating the post-impressionism of Paul Gauguin and the symbolism of the Les Nabis painters. The themes of Edgar Degas and Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec's work, as well as the style of the latter, had a great influence on Picasso. In his works, Picasso utilized blue tones and depicted emaciated characters with tragic expressions. His works reflect human suffering, portraying exhausted workers, beggars, alcoholics, and prostitutes with slightly elongated forms, recalling the style of El Greco.
Shortly after moving to Paris, into a dilapidated building known as Bateau-Lavoir, Picasso met his first partner, Fernande Olivier. With this happy relationship, Picasso's pallet changed toward pink and red tones; thus, the years between 1904 and 1906 are known as the Rose Period. Picasso's themes focused on the world of the circus, which he visited regularly. In the figure of the harlequin, Picasso painted his other self, his alter-ego, a practice he also repeated in later works.
In the summer of 1906, while Picasso was staying in Gósol, Andorra, his work entered a new phase marked by the influence of Greek, Iberian, and African art. The famous Portrait of Gertrude Stein revealed a treatment of the face as a mask. The key work of this period is The Young Ladies of Avignon, with such as radical style - the surface of the painting looks like a fractured crystal - that it was not understood even by the avant-garde critics and painters of the time. With this work, Picasso broke from spatial depth, leaving traditional painting behind and giving a new form to the ideal representation of the nude woman, as he restructured it through sharp, angular lines and planes.
Between 1908 and 1911, Picasso and George Braque worked in close collaboration, inspired by the volumetric treatment of Paul Cézanne's pictorial forms, conducting a breakdown and analysis of forms, and thus developing the first cubist phase. The monochromatic pallet prevailed in these representations of completely fragmented motifs depicted from several sides simultaneously. Picasso's favorite subjects were musical instruments, still lifes, and his friends.
The bronze bust of Fernande Olivier (1909), in which he demonstrated technical ability and treatment of three-dimensional forms, is also from this period. Another piece is Glass of Absinthe, 1914, a colored bronze sculpture - possibly the most interesting polychromatic cubist sculpture Picasso made - foreshadowing as much his later creations like Baboon and Young (1951, Museum of Modern Art) as his Pop Art pieces of the 1960s.
In 1912, he made his first collage. This technique signified his transition toward synthetic cubism. This second phase of cubism was more decorative and color plays a more prominent role, though never exclusively.
Around 1917, and in a realistic and figurative style, Picasso painted portraits of Olga Koklova on several occasions. He also painted portraits of his only legitimate child, Paulo (for example, Paulo as Harlequin, 1924, The Picasso Museum, Paris), and of many of his friends. At the beginning of the 1920s, he painted a series of pieces with robust, heavy, sculptural figures in which the Ingres style dominates. Examples include Three Women at the Spring (1921, Museum of Modern Art) and works inspired by mythology, like The Pipes of Pan (1923, The Picasso Museum, Paris).
In this period, Picasso demonstrated a return to classicism (and in his case, to the monumental nude), precise line drawing as in the Ingres portraits, and balance.
Three Musicians represents two characters from the Italian Commedia dell'arte (the harlequin with diamond suit and Pierrot dressed in white). This period extended from 1917 to 1927
Picasso joined the surrealist movement informally in 1925. His works from the Dinard Period (French Brittany) are considered surrealist. This period extended from 1928 to 1932. In this period, the forms are distorted, combining the monstrous with the sublime and gigantic appearances, sometimes terrifying, with mythological evocations.
In 1931, he illustrated Metamorphoses by Ovid in pure classicism. His sculptures were made from wire and metal sheets.
Although he always claimed he was not a surrealist, the qualities and characteristics of this artistic movement can be seen in many of his paintings. Examples include Woman Sleeping in a Chair (1927, Private Collection, Brussels), Seated Bather (1930, Museum of Modern Art), Bather on the beach (1930), and The Dream (1932).
At the start of the Spanish Civil War, Picasso was named director of the Prado Museum by the Republican Government. In 1937, he painted one of his most famous pieces, Guernica, which was a way to depict the pain and terror inflicted on the civilian population during the German aerial bombing of Guernica. In these years, the majority of his works express a sentiment of anguish as a result of the difficult situation in which he lived.
Other works representative of this time were The Weeping Woman and Seated Woman, which reflect the tragedy of war.
The height of his expressionism was marked by heads with two faces. In sculpture, he completed more abstract pieces, without method or system. During World War II, he did not move from France, but continued painting in Nazi-occupied Paris. When the war ended, he joined the communist party.
Between 1930 and 1937, Picasso made a series of engravings, the Vollard Suite, at the initiative of art dealer Ambroise Vollard. There were one hundred engravings known as Vollard Suite. Two hundred and fifty examples have been published in two distinct formats with a variety of styles: etching, drypoint, aquatint, etc.
He later completed other series such as Suite 156 (1970-1972) and Suite 347, which is composed of 347 etchings completed in 1968. There is no simple interpretation of the theme. In contrast, Vollard Suite can be said to have two predominant themes: the sculpture and his model and the minotaur. All the imagination of an elderly Picasso went into Suite 347 and Suite 156.
The graphic work of Picasso includes more than two thousand prints. Of the series that Picasso completed, very few remain complete, as the majority were sold individually. The last series of engravings that Picasso completed, Suite 156, is a combination of 156 plates that he engraved between January 1970 and March 1972. Only three complete collections exist in the world from this suite.
Picasso moved to Vallauris. In this city, he finished his Man with Lamb sculpture, which measures 6.62 ft. tall. He worked only in ceramics, and completed around two thousand pieces. During this time, Picasso also made important sculptures: She-Goat (1950, Museum of Modern Art), in bronze; Head of a Woman, the maquette of which he finished in 1964 and which he would complete as a monumental sculpture in welded steel in 1966; the notable series of engravings he created over the course of seven months, with which he returned to his earlier themes - the circus, erotic scenes, and more.
Two of Picasso's children were born in Vallauris, which favored the presentation of more child-like and maternal paintings, exuding motherhood. Picasso also painted huge murals: War and Peace, (1952), Massacre in Korea (1951), and On the Beach (1957).
During his last years, Picasso painted variations on famous subjects. Many of Picasso's last paintings are based on the works of great masters from the past such as Diego Velázquez, Eugenio Delacroix, and Édouard Manet.
Throughout his life, Picasso's works were exhibited on innumerable occasions.