Pablo Picasso, the renowned 20th century artist and co-founder of the Cubist movement, has long been admired for the breadth of his artistic skill, encompassing painting, sculpting and ceramics, and his wide array of subject matter. One subject that the artist delved into extensively over the span of his career was the theme of motherhood.
Motherhood or Madonna-type images have long been depicted by various artists, but what is unique about Picasso’s interpretation is the variance of style in his portrayal of maternity over several decades. Many critics have aptly noted that depictions of mother figures in his earlier paintings reflect sadness and poverty. This is not unlike similar subjects that can be noted in other works created in the “Blue Period”. In this period we frequently see the mother figure depicted in dark contexts that evoke tenderness but also death and suffering with very monochromatic uses of blue and grey. Some example of Picasso’s works from this era are “Maternidad” (1901), “Maternidad, madre e hijo” (1903) and “Madre e hijo” (1905).
However, following on from the Blue Period, a shift can be observed in his stylistic creations. Critics have attributed this shift to various events in the life of Picasso, including his travels in Italy and Greece which exposed him to neoclassicism, and the fact that he himself became a father, which forced him to view maternity from a different point of view.
Whatever may have influenced him, what is apparent is that Picasso’s later depictions of motherhood are much more intimate. Instead of the frail and melancholy figures evident in the Blue Period paintings, what is seen in later works are mother and child figures that are more strong and robust. Examples of this can be seen in “Madre e hijo” (1921) and “Mother and Child” (1922). This shift from blue and grey hues to the use of pink, greens and oranges has led to the later period be named the Rose Period.