Art History Lab

The Remarkable Evolution of Picasso’s Early Paintings

Pablo Picasso is one of the most renowned artists of the 20th century, famous for his bold and innovative approach to painting. His talent and passion for art were evident from a very young age, and his father quickly recognized his son’s natural aptitude.

In this article, we’ll delve into Picasso’s early life and artistic development, as well as explore the analysis and reception of his early paintings.

Picasso as a Child

Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain, in 1881. He was the son of an art teacher and grew up in an environment that was steeped in creativity.

From an early age, Picasso showed a natural talent and passion for art. He was just seven years old when he completed his first painting, titled “Le Picador.”

Picasso’s father recognized his son’s talent and became his first teacher.

Under his father’s guidance, Picasso developed his skills and began to experiment with various art forms. He was considered a prodigy, and by the age of 15, he had gained admission to the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona.

Picasso’s Early Work

Picasso’s passion for art continued to grow during his years at the School of Fine Arts. However, he was frustrated by the traditional academic training he received there.

He felt limited and yearned to break free from the constraints of realism. Despite this frustration, Picasso continued to produce exquisite works of art, inspired mainly by the old masters.

His early paintings were often portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, all done in a realistic style. These works reflected his exceptional technical skills and his ability to capture character and mood.

Analysis and Reception of Picasso’s Early Paintings

Picasso’s early paintings were subjected to a great deal of analysis and criticism. One of his most famous early works is “Le Petit Picador Jaune,” completed when he was just eight years old.

This painting depicts a young boy dressed in a traditional bullfighter’s outfit, complete with cape and sword. The painting garnered mixed reactions, with some critics praising Picasso’s technical skills and eye for detail, while others derided it as immature and childish.

Despite the criticism, it’s easy to see the potential in the young Picasso’s work. “Le Petit Picador Jaune” is an excellent example of how Picasso evolved over time and developed a unique style that set him apart from other artists.

Another early work that’s worth mentioning is “Bullfight,” a sketch completed when Picasso was just 11 years old. This sketch shows a bull charging towards a group of men on horseback.

Like “Le Petit Picador Jaune,” “Bullfight” reflects Picasso’s early fascination with the world of bullfighting. Although the painting is relatively simple and lacks detail, it’s a testament to the young Picasso’s skill and his ability to capture the essence of a moment.

“Bullfight” is also a clear indication of Picasso’s bold, expressive style, which continued to evolve throughout his career.


In conclusion, Picasso’s early life and artistic development are an essential part of his artistic legacy. From a very young age, Picasso showed a natural aptitude for art, which was nurtured by his father, an art teacher.

Throughout his life, he continued to experiment and push the boundaries of traditional artistic conventions, ultimately becoming one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Pablo Picasso is one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, known for his unique style and approach to painting.

Throughout his career, he produced a vast body of work that continues to captivate and inspire people around the world. In this article, we will discuss the analysis and reception of some of Picasso’s early paintings, focusing on works created between 1896 and 1899.

First Communion (1896)

One of the paintings from this early period is “First Communion.” Completed in 1896 when Picasso was just 15 years old, the painting shows a young girl, likely one of Picasso’s sisters or cousins, in a white dress, holding a candle and a rosary. The painting is a traditional representation of a religious ritual, but Picasso’s treatment of the subject is modern and progressive.

The painting was received with mixed reactions. Some people praised the youthful painter, noting his ability to capture the delicate nature of the young girl’s features.

Others saw the painting as a departure from traditional religious paintings and criticized Picasso for his innovation.

Science and Neighborly Love (1897)

Another painting from this period is “Science and Neighborly Love.” Created in 1897, this painting features two nude women holding a banner that reads “Science and Charity.” The painting was meant to symbolize the importance of science and charity in society, but the subject matter was highly controversial at the time.

The painting was not well-received, with many people criticizing Picasso’s depiction of nudity.

Some critics went so far as to call the painting obscene, and it was rejected for inclusion in a local art exhibition. Nevertheless, the painting is an excellent example of Picasso’s early experimentation with social commentary and symbolism.

Self-Portrait (1899)

In 1899, Picasso produced a self-portrait that would become one of his most recognizable early works. The painting is a detailed representation of the artist himself, shown with a serious expression, clad in a dark jacket and bowtie.

The self-portrait was met with acclaim, with many critics praising Picasso’s ability to capture his own likeness on the canvas. Some noted that the painting showed a level of self-confidence and determination that was remarkable in one so young.

The self-portrait is significant for its insight into Picasso’s early artistic development and his ability to experiment with different styles.

The Divan (1899)

Another work from 1899 is “The Divan,” a charcoal sketch that shows a woman relaxing on a couch, perhaps lost in thought or daydreaming. The sketch is a casual depiction of a young woman, showing Picasso’s interest in capturing the emotional essence of his subjects.

The sketch was not widely exhibited during Picasso’s lifetime, but it has since gained recognition for its unique style and composition. The sketch is significant for its portrayal of a typically feminine subject matter, something that Picasso would later expand upon in his work.

In conclusion, Picasso’s early paintings offer a glimpse into the mind of an artist who was determined to break free from traditional conventions and experiment with new forms of expression. The paintings discussed in this article demonstrate how Picasso used his early work to communicate his ideas and to challenge the social norms of his time.

Despite mixed receptions, these early works laid the foundation for much of Picasso’s later artistic genius. Pablo Picasso’s early paintings are admired for their unique style and innovative approach to art.

The paintings from this period reflect the young artist’s experimentation with different styles, themes and subjects. In this article, we will delve into two more works from Picasso’s early career, “Harlequin and His Companion” and “The Blue Room”, as well as two more, “Self-Portrait with Coat” and “La Vie”.

Harlequin and his Companion (1901)

Completed in 1901, “Harlequin and His Companion” is a significant work of art from Picasso’s early career. The painting depicts a harlequin, a character from Italian commedia dell’arte, standing alongside a woman who is likely his companion or lover.

The painting features a bold color palette, with bright greens, yellows, and blues. The painting was well-received, with many critics praising Picasso’s ability to capture the essence of the characters and the vibrant energy of the scene.

“Harlequin and His Companion” is an excellent example of Picasso’s experimentation with subject matter, character, and color.

The Blue Room (1901)

One of Picasso’s most famous works from his early years is “The Blue Room.” Created in 1901, this painting is part of Picasso’s “Blue Period,” a time when he was experimenting with melancholic images and shades of blue. The painting depicts a partially clothed woman, seated in a room with a blue walls and curtains.

The woman’s expression is melancholic, and the painting is infused with a sense of sadness and alienation. Although “The Blue Room” was initially unpopular, it has since become one of Picasso’s most celebrated works.

The painting is significant for its influence on Picasso’s artistic development and his willingness to experiment with different styles and techniques.

Self-Portrait with Coat (1901-1902)

In “Self-Portrait with Coat,” completed in 1901-1902, Picasso turns the focus on himself once again. The painting is a portrait of the artist, shown wearing a warm coat and a serious expression.

The painting was not met with much critical acclaim at the time but has since become an important work in Picasso’s career. The self-portrait is significant for its intimacy and insight into the artist’s inner world, showcasing his ability to capture himself in a moment of quiet contemplation.

La Vie (1903)

“La Vie,” completed in 1903, is considered one of Picasso’s most significant works from his “Blue Period.” The painting features a man and a woman, naked and embracing, with a small child at their feet. The painting is highly symbolic, with the figures representing different stages of life.

The painting was initially met with mixed reactions, with some critics praising Picasso’s skill and innovation, while others criticized the painting for its somber tone and subject matter. Nevertheless, “La Vie” is a significant work for its exploration of life, death, and love, and Picasso’s ability to create a visually striking image that captures the complexity of human emotions.

In conclusion, Picasso’s early paintings are a testament to his innovative spirit and his willingness to experiment with different styles and techniques. The works discussed in this article illustrate Picasso’s evolution as an artist and his ability to push the boundaries of art.

Whether it’s his early portraits or his experiments with color and subject matter, Picasso’s early career laid the foundation for his later artistic genius. In conclusion, the analysis and reception of Picasso’s early paintings shed light on the artist’s remarkable evolution and innovation.

From his childhood prodigy status to his exploration of different styles and subjects, Picasso’s early works laid the foundation for his later artistic genius. The reception of these paintings varied, with some being met with praise while others faced criticism.

However, these early works reveal Picasso’s relentless pursuit of artistic experimentation and his ability to challenge traditional norms. Overall, Picasso’s early paintings offer valuable insights into his artistic development and the groundbreaking contributions he made to the world of art.

The enduring legacy of Picasso’s early works reminds us of the importance of creative exploration and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

Popular Posts