Pablo Picasso Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Pablo Picasso. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Pablo Picasso. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Explore art with children and help them develop their critical thinking skills by introducing different artists and analyzing their works together. This movie will cover the life and work of Pablo Picasso. We encourage you to share images of select Picasso pieces from the Internet or a book and analyze them together, helping children make inferences as they interpret each piece. Note that some of Picasso’s artwork may not be suitable for young students, so we do not recommend children conducting an image search independently.

Pablo Picasso was born in 1881 in Málaga, Spain. As a child, he was passionate about art and developed his skills under the guidance of his father, who was a curator and art professor. Young Picasso enrolled in art school, but grew tired of formal instruction and dropped out when he was sixteen. Instead he spent time in art museums, studying works by artists that would have a lasting influence on his own work, including Francisco Goya, Diego Velásquez, and El Greco. You may want to share some works by El Greco and have children compare them to Picasso’s paintings. Some children may observe how both artists depict elongated limbs and share similarities in color choices. Explain that Picasso experimented with and explored different styles throughout his career. People generally organize Picasso’s work by period, or span of time. There are several periods, but we recommend focusing on the three main ones—the Blue Period, Rose Period, and Cubist Period.

Picasso’s Blue Period lasted from 1901 to 1904 and consists of paintings done predominantly in shades of blue and gray. The works meditate on themes of sadness, loss, and tragedy. The period was partly sparked by the suicide of Picasso’s friend, the artist Carlos Casagemas. We recommend sharing a few pieces of this period, including The Old Guitarist and The Tragedy. Have children look at the paintings closely. How do the works communicate sadness and loss? Encourage children to examine the facial expressions of the subjects and the stark backgrounds. Remind them that a theme is an idea or message that is explored in an artwork or a piece of writing. During the Blue Period, Picasso explored the theme of blindness in several paintings. Share a few pieces that explore this theme, such as Breakfast of a Blind Man and Old Jew and a Boy. What does blindness represent to Picasso? Discuss with children.

Eventually, Picasso began experimenting with brighter reds, pinks, and oranges, and explored cheerier themes. His Rose Period lasted from 1904 to 1906. Present a few works from this period, such as Acrobat and Young Harlequin, Family of Jugglers, and At the Lapin Agile. How do these paintings compare with those from the Blue Period? Help children see that the works are more energetic and lively. The subjects are performers, including actors, jugglers, and acrobats. You may want to note that the harlequin—a mute, comedic circus performer—recurs in paintings throughout his career. What does the harlequin represent to Picasso? Analyze his paintings and discuss.

Later Picasso began more experimentation in his work. He broke apart objects into theie shapes and reassembled them in different ways. He started looking at objects from different viewpoints and combining different perspectives within a work. Show a few works from Picasso’s Cubist Period, such as House in the Garden and Guitar Player (1910). Show Guitar and Violin (1912) and help children see that the painting still has familiar elements of these instruments. Picasso separated the objects into their basic, more recognizable parts and re-imagined them. Picasso, along with Georges Braque, co-founded the Cubist Movement, a style of art that paved the way for other Cubist artists as well as other new movements in art.

Explain to children that in 1937, the Spanish town of Guernica was attacked and bombed. Picasso was inspired to create a work about the violence of war and the loss of lives. His work Guernica toured the world and raised awareness about what was happening in Spain. Note that the content and theme of the painting is somewhat graphic, so you may choose to only focus on specific parts of the work. Picasso used art to communicate his ideas and beliefs and experimented with colors and shapes to express his feelings.

Help children understand that Picasso’s style kept changing throughout his career, even in his later years. He continued to experiment and try different techniques. Encourage children to do the same when they practice their own art. Help children identify what they love about their favorite artists and adapt those techniques to communicate their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas.