The name, Picasso, seems to rush us into the imagery of painting, having zipped right past his output of sculpture.
But perhaps a close look at the latter in its attention to human bodies being squeezed out of shape, coagulating in eerie ways, can help us fathom what the artist was up to, in shifting to (“stealing”) a dizzying range of initiatives.
Having a prodigy-level skill in rendering realistic figures with frisson, his school and immediate post-school work was impressed by the sheen which such painting could muster. But on second thought he began to deal more comprehensively with that alarming dynamic jumping out at us in the sculptures. Early in the century, exotic, primitive phenomena were quite suddenly compelling, and Picasso could see kinetic factors to be explored there.
Coming into contact with the dynamic inventiveness of analytic Cubism, he had to run with that, for a good long while, as augmented by that synthetic Cubism (of combining incongruous factors) which carried quite a weight of Surrealist content. (He certainly could have done a lot worse than keep up a long-term correspondence with Jean Cocteau.)
He’s said to have quipped, “When there’s anything to steal, I steal.” And, in a documentary collaboration with filmmaker, Henri-Georges Clouzot, he was able to convey the “action painting” dimension of his muse.
Quite a guy. And, more important, quite a revealing body of work that, long after his death, continues to demand serious attention.