As we know, Picasso was the most prolific artist of all time, and also the artist with by far and away the largest number of styles. But an observation that has not been widely addressed is that he also portrayed a truly vast number of different themes. More often than not, the themes he portrayed tended toward the mundane, and, in so doing it he turned the quotidian into the sublime. It’s amusing to reflect that the most high-brow artist of our times reveled in low-brow scenes. Sure, there was the occasional series of musketeers and nobility. But most subjects tended toward the everyday and everyman. Picasso is definitely by, of, and for the masses. A review of his oeuvre reminds us that life is comprised of the little things, and that appreciating the little things in life restores our sense of harmony and balance.
His panoply of images is breathtakingly large: Cavorting and copulating, pissing, picking one’s foot, and picking one’s nose, holding an insect, seated with one’s dog, killing a chicken, doves, fish, birds, and land animals and plants of all types, landscapes, seascapes, tables (see Le Guéridon for a related discussion), chairs, fruit, flowers, flowers with anthropomorphized genitalia, smokers, the artist’s studio, portraits of friends, acquaintances, collectors, dealers. Bullfights, the circus, harlequin, blue-collar work: fishing, collecting water at the spring, sleeping, dreaming, kissing, crying, embracing, violence, war. And of course his standard fare, the famous series of nudes, nudes, and more nudes, and also the artist and his model, bathers, the minotaur, centaur, and faun. The list at first glance is seemingly endless.
Toward the end of his life, Picasso created a reprise of his career in several etchings, a curtain call in which many of his actors have come out to take a bow (Ecce Homo d’Apres Rembrandt, Bloch 1865, see illustration above).
More than just turning water into wine, by portraying every-day life in so many beautiful and inventive ways, Picasso reminded us in so doing that the water is the wine.