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The Spanish artist Pablo Picasso not only was the co-founder of Cubism - one of the earliest avant-garde movements but also established the image of the modern artist. Picasso's work is often categorized into periods, with the most commonly accepted being the Blue Period (1901–1904), the Rose Period (1904–1906), the African-influenced Period (1907–1909), Analytic Cubism (1909–1912), and Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919). Much of Picasso's work of the late 1910s and early 1920s is in a neoclassical style, moving towards Surrealism in the mid-1920s. His later work often combines elements of his earlier styles.
Blue Nude is one of Picasso's masterpieces from his early years. It was created in 1902 at a time when he was mourning over a friend’s tragic death. Belonging to his Blue Period, the central figure of this painting carries the usual personal, social, and psychological burden as the other subjects he depicted during this phase, in which he proved without a doubt his talent for highlighting the deepest emotions while using only one color to effectively express them.
The sitter is posing with her back towards the viewer, as in a life painting class, and is depicted from a high standing, looking down upon the figure. This back perspective also works to pass on a feeling of disengagement and rejection. The absence of background is reminiscent of the style adopted by Paul Gauguin in several of the paintings he executed in Tahiti. The manner of the brushstrokes and the outline of the figure show the strong influence Cézanne’s teachings still had on Picasso’s work at this time. The characteristic elongation and strong expressiveness found in the paintings by El Greco are also permeating the figure. These influences show how Picasso’s style was still developing.
Picasso lived in Barcelona from 1895 to 1900, studied at the Llotja, and was involved with the group known as Els Quatre Gats. Following his first trip to Paris, he moved to Madrid to study at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando and settled permanently in the French capital in 1904. Thereafter, although he always remained very much a Spaniard, neighboring France became his permanent home. Exceptionally prolific throughout his long life, Picasso achieved universal renown and immense fortune for his revolutionary artistic accomplishments and became one of the best-known figures in 20th-century art.