Classicism and Surrealism Period - 1918 to 1945
In the period following the upheaval of World War I, Picasso produced work in a neoclassical style. This “return to order” is evident in the work of many European artists in the 1920s, including André Derain, Giorgio de Chirico, and the artists of the New Objectivity movement. Picasso’s paintings and drawings from this period frequently recall the work of Ingres.
In 1918, Olga and Picasso got married. The young couple moved to an apartment that occupied two floors at 23 Rue La Boétie, acquired servants, a chauffeur, and began to move in different social circles, no doubt due to Olga’s influence. The chaotic get-togethers Picasso had with his artist friends gradually changed into formal receptions. Picasso’s image of himself changed as well, and this was reflected in the more conventional style he adopted in his art and the way in which he consciously made use of artistic traditions and ceased to be provocative.
After cubism, Picasso returned to more traditional patterns -- if not exactly classical ones -- and this period is thus known as his Classicist period. A typical example of this new style is The Lovers. From time to time, he would return to cubism. His collaboration with the Ballet Russe went on: he worked on décor for “Le Tricorne” and drew portraits of the dancers. In 1920, he began to work on t he décor for Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella. With the birth of his son Paul (Paolo) (1921), he returned to the Mother and Child theme again and again: Mother and Child.
Much of his work after 1927 is fantastic and visionary in character. His Woman with Flower (1932) is a portrait of Marie-Thérèse, distorted and deformed in the manner of Surrealism. The Surrealism movement was growing in strength and popularity at the time, and even Picasso could not really avoid being influenced by this group of Parisian artists, although they, conversely, regarded him as their artistic stepfather.
During the 1930s, the minotaur replaced the harlequin as a common motif in his work. His use of the minotaur came partly from his contact with the surrealists, who often used it as their symbol, and it appears in Picasso’s Guernica.
Arguably Picasso’s most famous work is his depiction of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War—Guernica. This large canvas embodies for many the inhumanity, brutality and hopelessness of war. Asked to explain its symbolism, Picasso said, “It isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words! The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them.
Interpretations of Guernica vary widely and contradict one another. This extends, for example, to the mural's two dominant elements: the bull and the horse. Art historian Patricia Failing said, "The bull and the horse are important characters in Spanish culture. Picasso himself certainly used these characters to play many different roles over time. This has made the task of interpreting the specific meaning of the bull and the horse very tough. Their relationship is a kind of ballet that was conceived in a variety of ways throughout Picasso's career."