Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso (1881-1973), best known as Pablo Picasso, was a Spanish-born painter and sculptor who lived most of his life in Paris and elsewhere in France. His accomplishments, flamboyant lifestyle, and genius for self-promotion combined to make him one of the best, most revolutionary, and certainly best-known of twentieth century artists.
“Cubism” was an artistic style pioneered by Picasso and Georges Braque, principally during the period 1907-1911, though copied and extended by others for many years thereafter. The painting here, dating from 1910 and titled "The Guitarist," is a prime example of Picasso's "analytical cubism."
Though somewhat influential in literature and music as well (and despite Picasso’s brief membership in the French Communist Party in the mid 1940s), cubism and Picasso were judged too radical and unrealistic to be acceptable under Soviet socialist regimes, and therefore were labeled “decadent bourgeois art.”
Thus, the narrator of Unbearable Lightness remarks, the approved regime of socialist realism ruled out Picasso and cubism as fit subjects for Sabina to study at the Academy of Fine Arts.