Picasso is one of my favourite Artists who also happened to be inspired by West African art during what is called the Picasso African period.
There’s just something fundamentally perceptive in Picasso’s Art from all periods including the African period on the elusive nature of Structure, Form and Reality itself.
Picasso’s Art is as Real as much as it is Unreal, bearing witness to the dream nature of reality.
So it also came as a pleasant surprise when I discovered that Picasso was inspired by West-African Masks and Sculptures during one of the most creative periods of his life which he called his “periode nègre” also known as the Picasso African period.
PICASSO’S AFRICAN PERIOD
Like all great Artists, Picasso was determined to give expression to his authentic inner voice and Picasso’s African period was inspired by this desire.
The early 1900s saw the traditional African abstract aesthetic style used in sculpture and Tribal Masks gaining momentum within Europe’s avant-garde Art circles.
The abstract Cubist shapes prominent in West African Art would give birth to Modern Art which inspired Picasso in his journey into what has become known as Picasso’s African period.
West African Art was abstract yet functional and spiritual, and consequently appealed to universal subconscious Human Archetypes which Picasso explored during Picasso’s African period.
Drawn to the abstract spirituality of West African Art, European Artists including Picasso had found an avenue to transcend the strict naturalist boundaries imposed by earlier Renaissance Art.
Picasso’s talent lay in his ability to identify, absorb and use the universal Human Spirit wherever he could find it in his own Art and during Picasso’s African period, West African Art greatly influenced Picasso’s style and artistic motifs.
In the final analysis, Picasso’s African period is evidence of African Art’s influence on not only Picasso but Modern Art in general, particularly the Cubist movement.
Picasso’s African period is proof that the distant Village voices of Ancient Africa’s brilliant Artists have continued to echo from Africa all the way to the Galleries of the modern World through the works of Picasso and others they influenced during Picasso’s African period.
Picasso’s African period is evidence that the motifs and style of Traditional West African Art were able to transcend the borders of Space and Time because the African Art appealed to universal archetypes embedded in our collective Unconscious.
This speaks to the transcendent and futurist nature of Traditional West African Art, and it may possibly represent the earliest instance of Afrofuturism.
Its no surprise therefore that the appeal of West African Art still continues to influence today’s Afrofuturist aesthetic.
The power of the West African Art that influenced Picasso’s African period also stands as a testament to the state of African Civilization which was able produce Art and Culture with global appeal.