Picasso’s artistic periods

5 March 2024

Picasso experienced several artistic periods during his life, which are quite literally translated into the many works of art he created. For example, the first periods are characterized by the use of a specific color palette and certain subjects. In addition, Picasso, together with George Braques, developed cubism. But Picasso continued to experiment, especially in the last few years of his life. Read all about the various episodes in Picasso’s life here.

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903 - 1904, The Art Institute of Chicago © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Blue period

Around 1901-1904 Picasso is in his so-called blue period. During this period the artist travels between Spain and Paris. Discover more about the places where Picasso lived here. In the blue period, the artist’s paintings are characterized by the somber use of color, with blue as the main color. The blue, green, black and purple colors are combined with somber subjects. These works were not very popular with the public at the time and Picasso had difficulty selling these paintings. Today, some works from this period are among Picasso’s most famous works, such as The Old Guitarist, 1903 – 1904.

Pink Period

After 1904 comes Picasso’s pink period. Compared to the blue period, Picasso feels happier and more cheerful. This is reflected in the color palette that the artist uses. The paintings focus on the colors pink, orange and other soft colors. Orange symbolizes energy, while pink symbolizes love. There is also a drastic difference in the subjects that Picasso paints. While the artist previously depicted gloomy subjects, in the pink period he makes many paintings inspired by the circus. Frequently recurring subjects are the acrobats and harlequins. The latter were predecessors of the modern clown at the time. Picasso’s masterpiece from this period is Family of Saltimbanques, painted in 1905.

Pablo Picasso, Family of Saltimbanques, 1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Chester Dale Collection © 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pablo Picasso. Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier). Paris, 1910 © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Cubism and neoclassicism

Picasso, together with his friend Georges Braque, is seen as the inventor of Cubism. This art movement emerges after Picasso becomes inspired by African and Polynesian art objects. The artist slowly replaces his well-known, natural style for a more geometric style, which eventually manifests itself in cubism. This art movement focuses on flat surfaces, lines and a confusing perspective with multiple points of view.

After this period, Picasso exchanges geometric cubism for neoclassicism. Picasso first becomes acquainted with this art movement in 1917, when he travels to Rome. Characteristics of neoclassicism are perfection and the classical times of the Greeks and Romans. Picasso also incorporates mythological creatures into his works of art, such as fauns and the Minotaur. Later in his life, Picasso also incorporates these creatures into his ceramics, which are currently on display at the Royal Delft Museum. Book your ticket and come and admire Picasso’s ceramics with your own eyes!

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Surrealism and later works

Around 1930, Picasso paints in a surrealist style, characterized by bizarre, unexpected shapes inspired by dreams, unconscious emotions, illusions and fantasies. Picasso’s surrealist works of art are exhibited in Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. Although Picasso paints in the surrealist style, he does not join the surrealists.

In the period around 1950, Picasso lives in Vaullaris, France, where he discovers the world of ceramics. Here the artist, inspired by his owl, among other things, creates his iconic ceramic work. Read more about Picasso’s other sources of inspiration here.

During his last years, Picasso experiments more and more. The artist is no longer bound to one specific style, but combines different elements from different art movements with a wide color palette. Picasso’s paintings are colorful and expressive. Many of these works are considered abstract.

Read more about the exhibition Picasso. Ceramic Magician:

Picasso. Ceramic Magician.


Pablo Picasso, Crucifixion, 1930, Musée national Picasso-Paris, MP122 © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau © Succession Picasso 2022