1881 -1973  | Spain

Many years ago I was discussing art and styles with my Shona art friends. I commented that their art was similar to Picasso’s art, his sculptures. None of them had heard of Picasso. This surprised me because he was a famous artist. This aroused my curiosity, so I researched Picasso and discovered some interesting aspects of his work and activites.

Extract from Nadeen Pennisi article:

Picasso and Africa: How African Art Influenced Pablo Picasso and His Work

 Pablo Picasso was renowned as an innovative, artistic genius. His infinite creativity produced hundreds of works of art, many of which shocked and provoked, but subsequently transformed Modern Art. From a young age, Picasso understood that in order to achieve greatness and to transcend the masters of the past he had to break from the formalities of Classical Painting and create new forms of expression.

 Picasso’s desire for greatness compelled him to leave his home of Barcelona, Spain in 1901 and to move to Paris, the art capital of Europe. In Paris, Picasso was introduced to traditional African Art. African Art so profoundly affected Picasso that it provided the creative impetus he needed to create works that shed all conventions and enabled him to surpass his artistic rivals. Picasso was by no means the first to be influenced by non-western art, but he was the first to form a symbiotic relationship with the concepts of African Art and to create a new aesthetic language.

 African Art would help Picasso with the concept of abstracted form. The inspiration for this concept would occur at his momentous visit to the Trocadero Museum. Although Picasso had seen African Art before, it was not until his visit to the Trocadero Museum that he was truly confronted by it. This visit would have a profound impact on his work and revolutionize Modern Art.


I now realise why my Shona friends had not heard of Picasso. I originally thought that Pablo Picasso had influenced Shona, but I now realise that African Art impacted Picasso – it was the other way around!

 African Art is not painting – that is a recent innovation in the last 70-90 years. It is carvings, wood and stone. When I look at Picasso’s carvings I see similarities between his work and the Shona carvings, so perhaps Picasso was trying to get back to Original Art as portrayed by the Shona.

 In 1947 to 1967 there were exhibitions of Shona art in London and Paris. Pablo Picasso visited the Paris exhibitions and continued his exploration of  Shona carvings.