Art History Lab

The Evolution of Picasso’s Art: The Fascinating Bull Series

Pablo Picasso was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, whose artistic style evolved drastically over his lifetime. He was considered one of the fathers of Cubism, a modern art movement that revolutionized the visual arts scene.

One of his most iconic series was the Bull lithographs, which showcased his skills as a printmaker and reflected his fascination with the animal symbol. Picasso’s Life and Artistic Evolution

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain in 1881 and showed an early aptitude for art.

He attended art school in Barcelona and later moved to Paris, where he associated with some of the most prominent artists and writers of the time. He was heavily influenced by African and Iberian art, which can be seen in his work.

Picasso’s early work was characterized by its traditional style, but he soon began to reject these conventions. As he developed his cubist style, he started to break down forms and depict objects from multiple perspectives.

His art became more abstract, and he often used fragmented shapes and lines to create the illusion of movement. Picasso’s Bull Series and its Significance

The Bull series, created in 1945, is one of Picasso’s most celebrated works.

It featured eleven lithographs that gradually simplified and abstracted the image of a bull. The series has been interpreted in different ways, but it is widely believed that it reflects Picasso’s fascination with the animal symbol.

In the first print, a naturalistic representation of a bull with a few lines is depicted. The image is gradually reduced to minimalistic abstract form.

Each print has been created by simplifying the previous one further. It’s noted that Picasso’s work is more of a metamorphosis than a dissection.

The Bull series is also famous for its transformative nature. The series exemplifies how artists play with their subject matter until they finally reach the essence of that subject matter.

It also demonstrates how artists use abstract forms to create new meanings and interpretations.

Contextual Analysis

The Creation of the Bull Series and Artist Process

Picasso created the bull series using a lithographic printing process. The lithographic printing method involves a drawing on a limestone slab with a greasy crayon or ink.

Later it is treated with acid to fix the image into the stone, and is covered with oil-based ink to print the image onto paper. Picasso used this technique to create a series of eleven lithographs that showed the transformation of the bull into its most basic abstract form.

The series was created to show the different stages of transformation. The Significance of the Bull in Picasso’s Art

The bull holds a significant place in Picasso’s art and was a recurring symbol in many of his works.

It is considered a powerful symbol and was often used to represent themes such as masculinity, power, and aggression. In the Bull series, the gradual simplification of the bull reflects Picasso’s desire to reduce the subject matter to its most essential form.

The series also highlights how Picasso used the bull as a canvas to demonstrate his artistic process and skills. Possible Interpretations of the Bull in Picasso’s Art

Different interpretations of the bull series have emerged over the years.

It could represent the artist’s fascination with the Spanish bullfight, the animal form, or even his personal struggle to create. Some critics suggest that the bull represents the war-torn Spain or the masculine power of the artist.


In conclusion, Pablo Picasso’s Bull series is a fascinating example of the artist’s evolution as a printmaker. Created using lithographic printing, the series demonstrates the gradual simplification of the bull from a naturalistic representation to its most basic abstract form.

The bull holds a significant place in Picasso’s art and symbolizes power and masculinity. The series has many possible interpretations, reflecting Picasso’s desire to reduce the subject matter to its most essential elements and the power of the creative process.

Formal Analysis

Overview of Bull Series and Plate 11

The Bull series is a perfect example of how Picasso’s work has undergone many transformations throughout his artist’s journey. It is an exceptional collection of lithographs that depict the image of a bull in a gradually simplified and abstract form.

Plate 11, the last in the series, is the ultimate form of abstraction, showing the bull as merely a few lines.

Plate 11 is a striking example of how Picasso simplified and abstracted the image of the bull.

In the print, there are only a few lines that suggest the figure of the animal. The body is represented by a curved line that runs through the center of the print.

The line starts at the top of the head and ends with a flick in the tail, suggesting the movement of the animal. It’s easy to miss the small suggested ear shapes and horns beside the head.

Color, Texture, Shape, Form, Line, and Space in the Bull Series

Picasso’s Bull lithographs series shows a range of elements of art. In terms of color, Picasso chose to use black and white, which enhances the minimalist nature of the artwork.

The absence of color emphasizes the line and form within the work. Picasso also employed texture, especially in Plate 6.

Here, the texture of the bull’s fur is created using a technique of repeating small dots. The dots give the impression of a tactile surface and add a sense of depth to the image.

The shape used in Plate 3 is cubic and geometric, stripped down to a cubist essence. It is reduced of every superfluous characteristic and transformed into a representational abstraction.

This approach further highlights the cubist influence on Picasso’s work. In terms of line, Picasso used irregular, stressed lines in the early plates that became progressively simpler and straighter in the later plates.

Plate 11 has the thinnest lines of the series, making it the most minimalistic in terms of mark-making. Space is also vital in the Bull series.

In the first plates, the bull is depicted in a realistic space, with a clear foreground, middle ground, and background. By the end of the series in Plate 11, the image is created with a minimal space defined by the paper space around the lines, leaving just enough to consider as an atmosphere around the figure.

Picasso’s Reductionist Approach in Bull Series

Picasso’s artwork has often been characterized by his reductionist approach to his subject matter. In the Bull series, he takes this approach to the extreme, simplifying the image of the bull to a few lines by the last print.

Picasso’s reductionist approach was influenced by his interest in minimalist art, which was emerging at the time. Minimalism aimed to create a purer form of art by simplifying the material or subject matter to its essential elements.

The Bull series shows how Picasso applied his reductionist approach to his work, distilling the subject matter to its simplest form and showing how a subtle change over time can make a significant difference in the way an image appears.

The Bottom Line

Pablo Picasso’s Bull lithographs series is a fascinating example of how an artist can reduce the subject matter into a basic form while still maintaining a sense of essence and presence within the image. Through Plate 11, Picasso simplifies the representation of the bull to its most minimalistic form, leaving just a few lines to suggest the figure.

He was influenced by minimalism and his cubist approach to art which reflects in his work over years. The different elements of art used in the Bull series reflect Picasso’s stylistic approach, which exhibits his ability to apply his skills in the print-making process.

In summary, Pablo Picasso’s Bull lithographs series is a significant example of how an artist can simplify and create an essential form. Through his reductionist approach, Picasso gradually simplified the image of a bull in the series, culminating in Plate 11, the ultimate essence of the animal form.

The use of different elements of art such as color, texture, shape, form, line, and space in the series reflects Picasso’s stylistic approach, emphasizing his ability as a printmaker. The Bull series continues to be studied and appreciated for its ability to capture the essence of the animal form and the power of the creative process.

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