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Picasso is one of the most influential artists of the 20th-century.

Most people might not immediately associate this work with him as it's often not known how versatile his style was.

Picasso's work can be divided into Blue, Pink, Primitive phases, which map major changes in his personal life.

The Blue phase, for instance, corresponds to his life in Paris in the 1900s, when he was extremely poor, struggled to get commissions and pay for food, burning his artworks to heat his atelier. His best friend and fellow artist Casagemas committed suicide.

His work from that period is extremely gloomy and features many outcast figures like beggars, prostitutes and alcoholics.

Picasso became really attached to this figure of the harlequin - a marginal figure like him living on the outside of traditional bourgeois norms.

However as Picasso's personal circumstances changed, so did his style.

He started adding more colours. His tone became more upbeat and optimistic. He experimented with Cubism.

However like many vanguard artists, Picasso's experimentation was abruptly halted with the First World War.

The carnage put a halt to a lot of artistic innovation.

Many artists returned to the reassuring inspiration of past artistic traditions.

Arlequin is symptomatic of this period.

Yet while on the one hand, the painting's style is traditional and tame, looking like a masterful portrait.

On the other, it is provocatively half-finished - as though Picasso cannot help himself!

La Joconde, de Vinci (1519)


The Reading

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