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Pablo Picasso and the art of living

Pablo Picasso – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon via Flickr

Pablo (Ruiz y) Picasso (1881-1973) was a Spanish artist, born at Málaga.

In 1901 Picasso painted in Montmartre, Paris, during his so-called blue period (1901-4). This produced a series of satirical, tragic pictures focusing on the poor, the anguished and the lonely.

Next was the pink period (1904-6). A celebration of life, this period depicted young nudes and that great 20th century spectacle, the circus.

Picasso’s innovative bent lead him toward Cubism (rendering three-dimensions without perspective). The most critical step in creating this new school was probably taken with the completion of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

With Georges Braque, Picasso went on to develop Cubism from 1909 to 1914. In 1917 Picasso was a set and costume designer for Sergei Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet.

WW-I sparked an interest in detail and color, after which Picasso entered his classical period (1920-25).

A professed communist, Picasso’s work was nevertheless condemned as ‘decadent’ by many in the USSR. As his companion Françoise Gilot, put it:

In Russia, they hated his work but liked his politics. In America, they hated his politics but liked his work (cited in “Picasso’s Party Line” by Hugh Eakin, Senior Editor,, November 2000).

Surian Soosay – Looking For My Betty Ross / A Picasso Hulk Study via Flickr

Picasso, man of many talents, also illustrated classical literary works and explored sculpture, pottery and lithography. Often seen as the greatest of modern artists, his unmistakable style reverberates throughout art, literature and psychology.

In depth psychology, Carl Jung wrote about Picasso favorably, comparing but not equating his work to those diagnosed as schizophrenic.

David Bowie’s  album Reality (2003) did a cover of “Pablo Picasso,” a song written by Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers.

Well some people try to pick up girls
They get called assholes
This never happened to Pablo Picasso

He could walk down your street
Girls could not resist his stare
So Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole
Not like you

Picasso 1904 via Wikipedia

Picasso may not have been called an “asshole.” But in Nazi occupied France, the Gestapo harassed him regularly.

During the Second World War, Picasso remained in Paris while the Germans occupied the city. Picasso’s artistic style did not fit the Nazi ideal of art, so he did not exhibit during this time. He was often harassed by the Gestapo. During one search of his apartment, an officer saw a photograph of the painting Guernica. “Did you do that?” the German asked Picasso. “No,” he replied, “You did”.²

What a perfect response to authoritarians and disturbed individuals who blame the victim. We all have something to learn from Picasso in the 21st century. If not in art, in the art of living.



Related » Surrealism

Pablo Picasso – Wikipedia – 18 Highlights with LINER for skeletal outline and additional asides.


He is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.


Before 1900:  Picasso’s training under his father began before 1890.


Blue Period: 1901–1904


Rose Period: 1904–1906


African art and primitivism: 1907–1909 See also: Picasso’s African Period and Proto-Cubism


Analytic cubism: 1909–1912


Synthetic cubism: 1912–1919 Main article: Crystal Cubism


Neoclassicism and surrealism: 1919–1929


The Great Depression to MoMA exhibition: 1930–1939


World War II and late 1940s: 1939–1949


Later works to final years: 1949–1973


Picasso’s influence was and remains immense and widely acknowledged by his admirers and detractors alike. On the occasion of his 1939 retrospective at MoMA, Life magazine wrote: “During the 25 years he has dominated modern European art, his enemies say he has been a corrupting influence. With equal violence, his friends say he is the greatest artist alive.”


Throughout his life Picasso maintained several mistresses in addition to his wife or primary partner.

Related » Surrealism



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Still life after death? - (Cè vita oltre le nature morte?): foodriver / Vittorio

Still life after death? – (Cè vita oltre le nature morte?): foodriver / Vittorio via Flickr

Surrealism is a form of art and literature developed between WW-I and WW-II, particularly in France.

The groundbreaking surrealist treatise of André Breton (1924) challenged 19th century Realism by advocating humor, dreaminess and the absurd. Breton, himself, was trained in medicine and psychiatry, and treated shell-shocked soldiers with Sigmund Freud‘s “talking cure” method (i.e. the psychoanalytic method).

In artistic expression and, perhaps, as a lifestyle surrealism explores sublime (or bizarre) realities apparently existing behind our conventional perceptions and paradigms.

As suggested in the above, the art form was influenced by Freud‘s model of the unconscious.

Anonym: André Breton, 1924

André Breton, 1924 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The surrealist works of Salvador Dali depict the world of dreams. Other important surrealists are Max Ernst and Jean Arp, and its impact extends to Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee.

In literature, surrealism is found in the verse of Paul Eluard, the absurd, ironic plays of Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett as well as in the psychologically charged novels of William S. Burroughs. Surrealism also enters into music, film and TV.¹

Today, surrealism refers to any noticeably enhanced or distorted representation or interpretation. In everyday speech, people will say “that’s so surreal” when encountered with things or events laying just outside their psychological comfort zone. This kind of usage may be slightly positive or negative.

¹ For more, see

Related Posts » Hieronymus Bosch



Tanka painter by Leon Meerson

Tanka painter by Leon Meerson

Tankha are Tibetan and Nepali Buddhist artworks said to assist in the quest for liberation. The visual themes are almost always religious in some fashion. Wikipedia explains:

Thangka perform several different functions. Images of deities can be used as teaching tools when depicting the life (or lives) of the Buddha, describing historical events concerning important Lamas, or retelling myths associated with other deities. Devotional images act as the centerpiece during a ritual or ceremony and are often used as mediums through which one can offer prayers or make requests. Overall, and perhaps most importantly, religious art is used as a meditation tool to help bring one further down the path to enlightenment. ¹

Here are some examples:

English: Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting of ...

Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting of a mandala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tibetan Buddhist Namgyal monks preparing the K...

Tibetan Buddhist Namgyal monks preparing the Kalachakra mandala within the pavilion, under thangkas of Padmasambhava, Kalachakra, Lord Buddha, Kalachakra Mandala, and White Tara, prayer area, main shrine, Verizon Center, Washington D.C., USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting

English: Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Buddha Amitabha in Tibetan Buddhism, tradition...

Buddha Amitabha in Tibetan Buddhism, traditional Thangka painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The Bhavacakra (Sanskrit; Devanagari:...

The Bhavacakra (Sanskrit; Devanagari: भवचक्र; Pali: bhavacakka) or Wheel of Becoming is a symbolic representation of continuous existence proces in the form of a circle, used primarily in Tibetan Buddhism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vajravarahi mandala

Vajravarahi mandala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description at "I took ...

Description at “I took this photo myself in September 1993 and am happy for it to be freely available. John Hill 02:45, 28 January 2007 (UTC) I am sorry – in the original name I gave the date as 1994 by mistake – it was taken during our trip to Tibet in 1993. John Hill (talk) 00:48, 9 January 2008 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: 14th century Tibetan thangka painting...

14th century Tibetan thangka painting of the Mandala of Vajravarahi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Art shop in Kathmandu, Nepal

Art shop in Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Painted Bhutanese Medicine Buddha mandala with...

Painted Bhutanese Medicine Buddha mandala with the goddess Prajnaparamita in center, 19th century, Rubin Museum of Art Bhutanese art is similar to the art of Tibet. Both are based upon Vajrayana Buddhism, with its pantheon of divine beings. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the above we can see the visual diversity of the Tankha. The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung was particularly interested in their mandala qualities. Jung likened the tankha to circular shaped Christian art that he felt was pointing to the same, or a similar phenomenon—the self.

“I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,…which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp 195 – 196.

The reason I say “similar” is because Jung, at some points in his Collected Works and Letters, argues that Christianity differs from Eastern religions. The upwardly skewed symbol of the cross, he felt, indicated an upward bias. Jung once said that Eastern yogis, lamas and saints were “at bottom” of the spiritual change we see in the West.²


² I included this quote (and its reference) in an essay for my doctoral studies. The essay, however, is not online, and probably buried deep in a cardboard box. I will find it… soon. 🙂

Related Posts » Buddhism, Karma, Mandala, Metempsychosis, Moksha, Reincarnation, Samsara


Totem Pole

Image via Tumblr

Totem poles are typically red cedar poles found among the First Nations along the Pacific coast of North America. They are an offshoot of the idea of the totem.

The totem is a symbol of a spiritual ancestor for a group in aboriginal Australia and North America, and usually takes the form of an animal or sacred plant. And totemistic beliefs are found in Africa, Arabia, Asia, Europe, and the Arctic.¹

Totem poles, on the other hand, may depict spiritual ancestors but they are not limited to that. The animal and spirit-being carvings on the poles usually appear at grave sites or as house posts. They may signify important persons, events and privileges. Totem poles are also heraldic and likened to the crest (e.g. the Polish Eagle) and they often provide a genealogical record.

In some cultures totem poles recount popular legends or boast of shamanic powers. Other totem poles are mostly about artistic expression. And the tourism industry knows full well that they can help bring in revenue for good causes.

¹ See also

On the Web:

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William Blake

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William Blake (1757-1827) was an English engraver, painter, poet and mystic born in London.

Like visionaries from most world religions, Blake believed that a spiritual light exists behind the world of appearances. His writings and art mostly refer to philosophical, mythological and biblical themes.

Unlike artists who use abstraction to hint at a perceived yet normally unseen reality, Blake’s imagery is quite direct as he attempts to portray his perception of inner light, according to his own vision.

He differs from mainstream Christianity by emphasizing the importance of spontaneous, unguided and unchecked spiritual experience. At times his work is reminiscent of Gnosticism, especially when saying the self and the Godhead may be one. Blake’s beliefs differ from both Catholicism and Gnosticism, however, in that he seems to imply that good and evil are relative ideas constructed by the regimented mind.

This relativistic view is especially apparent in his so-called ‘minor prophecy’, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1791), an arguably grandiose work of undisciplined introspection that leans towards a nebulous, incomplete kind of Buddhism. While not without its literary merit, and also containing a few worthwhile critiques of religious hypocrisy, Heaven and Hell seems to reflect Blake’s personal quest and, perhaps, limited degree of spiritual understanding. Whether it contains any universal, salvific value is a matter of debate. Some might say it’s a useful signpost along the road of spiritual formation while nonetheless incomplete. Others might say it’s misleading.


William Blake’s Newton (1795), colour print with pen & ink and watercolour. Blake’s picture of Newton as a divine geometer was one of a series he created whilst living in Lambeth in the late 1790s.

William Blake (1757-1827) was an English engraver, painter, poet and mystic born in London.

Blake’s best-known paintings are The Canterbury Pilgrims and Jacob’s Dream. He also illustrated Young’s Night Thoughts (1797), Linnell’s The Book of Job (1826), Dante’s Divine Comedy and did imaginative engravings for his own writing.

Other works include Poetical Sketches (1783), Songs of Innocence (1789), Songs of Experience (1794) which include ‘The Tyger’, and the prophetic poem ‘Jerusalem’ (1804-20).

Most of the notables around him thought he was a flake, and his work and ideas were largely unrecognized. Near the end of his life he lived in poverty, spurred on by a band of youthful admirers.


Salvador Dali

Dali in Tokyo

Dali in Tokyo (Photo credit: namihiroo)

Salvador Dali (Felipe Jacinto) (1904-89) was a Spanish painter and sculptor, born in Figueras. In his prime he was something of a pop figure, famous for his flamboyance and eccentricity. Influenced by the Surrealists in Paris (1928), notably de Chirico and Max Ernst, Dali became the leading figure of the Surrealism movement.

His studies of life on the edge and the inner world of dream imagery led him to represent fantastical subjects, often situated in landscapes called up from his boyhood memories of Spain.

In 1940 he moved to the USA and converted to Catholicism. His work took a turn to religion, offering a somewhat conceptual, in contrast to devotional, interpretation of ancient religious motifs.

He wrote The Secret Life of Salvador Dali (1942) and worked with Luis Buñuel in surrealist films such as Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1928) and L’Age d’Or (The Golden Age, 1930).

Among his more popular paintings are The Persistence of Memory (or ‘Limp Watches’, 1931), Christ of St. John of the Cross (1951) and The Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955). He’s buried under a crystal dome in a museum dedicated to his work, located near his place of birth.