One artist from the past used art history as a sort of battery recharger to allow him to fall back, regroup, and then once more blast off in a totally new direction. That would be Pablo Picasso's Classical period. Tht was not the only time Picasso went "back to basics" so to speak. Later, from time to time during the 1950s and especially the early 1960s, Picasso delved into the past and came up with some pretty incredible pieces of work reflecting the influence of artists as diverse as Jacques-Louis David, Edouard Manet, Velasquez, and Gustave Courbet. In each case there was a re-articulation of the original in a distinctly Picasso style, borrowing here and there from Cubism, the Blue Period, and Guernica with any number other motifs that were undeniably his own.
|Rape of the Sabines,|
1962, Pablo Picasso
|The Intervention of the Sabine,|
1799, Jacques-Louis David
Though more colorful and fluid, there is a reflection of Guernica in Picasso's 1962 version of David's The Intervention of the Sabines. He chose to study Manet's Dejeuner sur l'Herbe in his bluish, 1963 version of the two well-dressed French gentlemen dining on the lawn with their au naturale female guest. Even before these, he played Cubism against Velasquez's Las Meninas, painted in 1957. But probably his earliest foray into painting his own version of art history was his 1950 painting of Courbet's Young Girls on the Banks of the Seine. The oil on plywood painting is an intricately tangled web of fluid, geometric design as he plays blues, whites, blacks, and grays of one lady's dress against the reds, yellows, and blacks of the other's. The faces are pure Picasso, profiles juxtaposed against full faces, his love of masks never far from the surface. But in this case, as in all the others, despite the distortions and his own artistic ingredients, the student of art history would take only a few seconds to identify his inspirations. It would seem that Picasso was both a thinker and a doer.