Preface: Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937 and Girl Before A Mirror, 1932
At the time he was painting, Pablo Picasso was THE guy to beat. Picasso is very well known for his cubism work, which was an art movement that made use of compressed space on canvas. There is little perspective, modeling, or shading in cubism.
Let's first talk about his painting Guernica. The Spanish Civil War began in 1937. Picasso sided with the republicans and went to into exile in Paris, France. While in Paris Picasso was asked to paint something for the World's Fair in 1937.
Picasso had no idea what to paint, until there was a bombing in Spain that he read about in the newspaper. Those killed were innocent women and children. Picasso now had his subject for the World Fair painting. He showed wounded and suffering people. He also used iconography (symbolism of subject matter) to depict both sides of the Civil war.
To Picasso's surprise, the painting became a function of a political object or idea. It helped spread awareness of the war and what was happening.
With Guernica and Girl Before a Mirror, Picasso became enormously famous for 'legible cubism.' His work was extremely influential for young American contemporary artists. Many believe that Picasso's work in legible cubism set off the abstract expressionist movement, thus why we preface our studies of abstract expression with his work.