Crucifixion, 1930 by Pablo Picasso

In this work, Picasso returns to his fascination with the 'life in death' paradox, encapsulated perfectly by the Western world's foremost symbol: the Crucifixion. The whole notion of rebirth and transformation has fascinated artists for centuries, as they see themselves as actively participating in an alchemical process while recreating life in their chosen medium.

The Crucifixion has no particular religious significance, although its interpretation of pain and suffering is intensely captured and it is a fascinating forerunner, with the use of certain shapes and expressions, to Picasso's most famous work, Guernica (1937). The paradoxical nature of agony, summed up in a moment called 'the Passion', is beautifully explored by his development of modern Expressionism, the movement that distorted reality to express the artist's own inner vision and emotions.

The black and white colouring is used ironically to focus on this moment of passion, which is a sensation usually associated with red, whereas paradoxically violent reds and yellows construct the surrounding scene. The juxtaposition heightens both the artistic and metaphorical paradox. The elaborate amoebic forms also create an abstract feeling, although there remains a level of pictorial representation. It is as though Picasso had reached an aesthetic crossroads and was seeking some spiritual transformation in his work.