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Pablo Ruiz Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and theatre designer who spent most of his adult life in France. One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) and the anti-war painting Guernica (1937), a dramatic portrayal of the bombing of Guernica by German and Italian air forces during the Spanish Civil War.
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso
(1881-10-25)25 October 1881
|8 April 1973(1973-04-08) (aged 91)
|Château of Vauvenargues
|Painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, stage design, writing
Picasso demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a naturalistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. During the first decade of the 20th century, his style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas. After 1906, the Fauvist work of the older artist Henri Matisse motivated Picasso to explore more radical styles, beginning a fruitful rivalry between the two artists, who subsequently were often paired by critics as the leaders of modern art.
Picasso's output, especially in his early career, is often periodized. While the names of many of his later periods are debated, the most commonly accepted periods in his work are the Blue Period (1901–1904), the Rose Period (1904–1906), the African-influenced Period (1907–1909), Analytic Cubism (1909–1912), and Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919), also referred to as the Crystal period. Much of Picasso's work of the late 1910s and early 1920s is in a neoclassical style, and his work in the mid-1920s often has characteristics of Surrealism. His later work often combines elements of his earlier styles.
Exceptionally prolific throughout the course of his long life, Picasso achieved universal renown and immense fortune for his revolutionary artistic accomplishments, and became one of the best-known figures in 20th-century art.
Picasso was born at 23:15 on 25 October 1881, in the city of Málaga, Andalusia, in southern Spain. He was the first child of Don José Ruiz y Blasco (1838–1913) and María Picasso y López. Picasso's family was of middle-class background. His father was a painter who specialized in naturalistic depictions of birds and other game. For most of his life, Ruiz was a professor of art at the School of Crafts and a curator of a local museum. Ruiz's ancestors were minor aristocrats.
Picasso's birth certificate and the record of his baptism include very long names, combining those of various saints and relatives. Ruiz y Picasso were his paternal and maternal surnames, respectively, per Spanish custom. The surname "Picasso" comes from Liguria, a coastal region of north-western Italy. Pablo's maternal great-grandfather, Tommaso Picasso, moved to Spain around 1807.
Picasso showed a passion and a skill for drawing from an early age. According to his mother, his first words were "piz, piz", a shortening of lápiz, the Spanish word for "pencil". From the age of seven, Picasso received formal artistic training from his father in figure drawing and oil painting. Ruiz was a traditional academic artist and instructor, who believed that proper training required disciplined copying of the masters, and drawing the human body from plaster casts and live models. His son became preoccupied with art to the detriment of his classwork.
The family moved to A Coruña in 1891, where his father became a professor at the School of Fine Arts. They stayed for almost four years. On one occasion, the father found his son painting over his unfinished sketch of a pigeon. Observing the precision of his son's technique, an apocryphal story relates, Ruiz felt that the thirteen-year-old Picasso had surpassed him, and vowed to give up painting, though paintings by him exist from later years.
In 1895, Picasso was traumatized when his seven-year-old sister, Conchita, died of diphtheria. After her death, the family moved to Barcelona, where Ruiz took a position at its School of Fine Arts. Picasso thrived in the city, regarding it in times of sadness or nostalgia as his true home. Ruiz persuaded the officials at the academy to allow his son to take an entrance exam for the advanced class. This process often took students a month, but Picasso completed it in a week, and the jury admitted him, at just 13. As a student, Picasso lacked discipline but made friendships that would affect him in later life. His father rented a small room for him close to home so he could work alone, yet he checked up on him numerous times a day, judging his drawings. The two argued frequently.
Picasso's father and uncle decided to send the young artist to Madrid's Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the country's foremost art school. At age 16, Picasso set off for the first time on his own, but he disliked formal instruction and stopped attending classes soon after enrollment. Madrid held many other attractions. The Prado housed paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, and Francisco Zurbarán. Picasso especially admired the works of El Greco; elements such as his elongated limbs, arresting colours, and mystical visages are echoed in Picasso's later work.
Picasso's training under his father began before 1890. His progress can be traced in the collection of early works now held by the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, which provides one of the most comprehensive records extant of any major artist's beginnings. During 1893 the juvenile quality of his earliest work falls away, and by 1894 his career as a painter can be said to have begun. The academic realism apparent in the works of the mid-1890s is well displayed in The First Communion (1896), a large composition that depicts his sister, Lola. In the same year, at the age of 14, he painted Portrait of Aunt Pepa, a vigorous and dramatic portrait that Juan-Eduardo Cirlot has called "without a doubt one of the greatest in the whole history of Spanish painting."
In 1897, his realism began to show a Symbolist influence, for example, in a series of landscape paintings rendered in non-naturalistic violet and green tones. What some call his Modernist period (1899–1900) followed. His exposure to the work of Rossetti, Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec and Edvard Munch, combined with his admiration for favourite old masters such as El Greco, led Picasso to a personal version of modernism in his works of this period.
Picasso made his first trip to Paris, then the art capital of Europe, in 1900. There, he met his first Parisian friend, journalist and poet Max Jacob, who helped Picasso learn the language and its literature. Soon they shared an apartment; Max slept at night while Picasso slept during the day and worked at night. These were times of severe poverty, cold, and desperation. Much of his work was burned to keep the small room warm. During the first five months of 1901, Picasso lived in Madrid, where he and his anarchist friend Francisco de Asís Soler founded the magazine Arte Joven (Young Art), which published five issues. Soler solicited articles and Picasso illustrated the journal, mostly contributing grim cartoons depicting and sympathizing with the state of the poor. The first issue was published on 31 March 1901, by which time the artist had started to sign his work Picasso. From 1898 he signed his works as "Pablo Ruiz Picasso", then as "Pablo R. Picasso" until 1901. The change does not seem to imply a rejection of the father figure. Rather, he wanted to distinguish himself from others; initiated by his Catalan friends who habitually called him by his maternal surname, much less current than the paternal Ruiz.
Blue Period: 1901–1904
Picasso's Blue Period (1901–1904), characterized by sombre paintings rendered in shades of blue and blue-green only occasionally warmed by other colours, began either in Spain in early 1901 or in Paris in the second half of the year. Many paintings of gaunt mothers with children date from the Blue Period, during which Picasso divided his time between Barcelona and Paris. In his austere use of colour and sometimes doleful subject matter—prostitutes and beggars are frequent subjects—Picasso was influenced by a trip through Spain and by the suicide of his friend Carles Casagemas. Starting in autumn of 1901, he painted several posthumous portraits of Casagemas culminating in the gloomy allegorical painting La Vie (1903), now in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The same mood pervades the well-known etching The Frugal Repast (1904), which depicts a blind man and a sighted woman, both emaciated, seated at a nearly bare table. Blindness, a recurrent theme in Picasso's works of this period, is also represented in The Blindman's Meal (1903, the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and in the portrait of Celestina (1903). Other Blue Period works include Portrait of Soler and Portrait of Suzanne Bloch.
Rose Period: 1904–1906
The Rose Period (1904–1906) is characterized by a lighter tone and style utilizing orange and pink colours and featuring many circus people, acrobats and harlequins known in France as saltimbanques. The harlequin, a comedic character usually depicted in checkered patterned clothing, became a personal symbol for Picasso. Picasso met Fernande Olivier, a bohemian artist who became his mistress, in Paris in 1904. Olivier appears in many of his Rose Period paintings, many of which are influenced by his warm relationship with her, in addition to his increased exposure to French painting. The generally upbeat and optimistic mood of paintings in this period is reminiscent of the 1899–1901 period (i.e., just prior to the Blue Period), and 1904 can be considered a transition year between the two periods.
By 1905, Picasso became a favourite of American art collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein. Their older brother Michael Stein and his wife Sarah also became collectors of his work. Picasso painted a portrait of Gertrude Stein and one of her nephew Allan Stein. Gertrude Stein became Picasso's principal patron, acquiring his drawings and paintings and exhibiting them in her informal Salon at her home in Paris. At one of her gatherings in 1905, he met Henri Matisse, who was to become a lifelong friend and rival. The Steins introduced him to Claribel Cone and her sister Etta, who were American art collectors; they also began to acquire Picasso's and Matisse's paintings. Eventually, Leo Stein moved to Italy. Michael and Sarah Stein became patrons of Matisse, while Gertrude Stein continued to collect Picassos.
In 1907, Picasso joined an art gallery that had recently been opened in Paris by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, a German art historian and art collector who became one of the premier French art dealers of the 20th century. He was among the first champions of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and the Cubism that they jointly developed. Kahnweiler promoted burgeoning artists such as André Derain, Kees van Dongen, Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Maurice de Vlaminck and several others who had come from all over the globe to live and work in Montparnasse at the time.
African art and primitivism: 1907–1909
Picasso's African-influenced Period (1907–1909) begins with his painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. The three figures on the left were inspired by Iberian sculpture, but he repainted the faces of the two figures on the right after being powerfully impressed by African artefacts he saw in June 1907 in the ethnographic museum at Palais du Trocadéro. When he displayed the painting to acquaintances in his studio later that year, the nearly universal reaction was shock and revulsion; Matisse angrily dismissed the work as a hoax. Picasso did not exhibit Les Demoiselles publicly until 1916.
Other works from this period include Nude with Raised Arms (1907) and Three Women (1908). Formal ideas developed during this period lead directly into the Cubist period that follows. Analytic cubism (1909–1912) is a style of painting Picasso developed with Georges Braque using monochrome brownish and neutral colours. Both artists took apart objects and "analyzed" them in terms of their shapes. Picasso and Braque's paintings at this time share many similarities.
In Paris, Picasso entertained a distinguished coterie of friends in the Montmartre and Montparnasse quarters, including André Breton, poet Guillaume Apollinaire, writer Alfred Jarry and Gertrude Stein. In 1911, Picasso was arrested and questioned about the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Suspicion for the crime had initially fallen upon Apollinaire due to his links to Géry Pieret, an artist with a history of thefts from the gallery. Apollinaire in turn implicated his close friend Picasso, who had also purchased stolen artworks from the artist in the past. Afraid of a conviction that could result in his deportation to Spain, Picasso denied having ever met Apollinaire. Both were later cleared of any involvement in the painting's disappearance.
Synthetic cubism: 1912–1919
Synthetic cubism (1912–1919) was a further development of the genre of cubism, in which cut paper fragments – often wallpaper or portions of newspaper pages – were pasted into compositions, marking the first use of collage in fine art.
Between 1915 and 1917, Picasso began a series of paintings depicting highly geometric and minimalist Cubist objects, consisting of either a pipe, a guitar or a glass, with an occasional element of collage. "Hard-edged square-cut diamonds", notes art historian John Richardson, "these gems do not always have upside or downside". "We need a new name to designate them," wrote Picasso to Gertrude Stein. The term "Crystal Cubism" was later used as a result of visual analogies with crystals at the time. These "little gems" may have been produced by Picasso in response to critics who had claimed his defection from the movement, through his experimentation with classicism within the so-called return to order following the war.
After acquiring some fame and fortune, Picasso left Olivier for Marcelle Humbert, also known as Eva Gouel. Picasso included declarations of his love for Eva in many Cubist works. Picasso was devastated by her premature death from illness at the age of 30 in 1915.
At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Picasso was living in Avignon. Braque and Derain were mobilized and Apollinaire joined the French artillery, while the Spaniard Juan Gris remained from the Cubist circle. During the war, Picasso was able to continue painting uninterrupted, unlike his French comrades. His paintings became more sombre and his life changed with dramatic consequences. Kahnweiler's contract had terminated on his exile from France. At this point, Picasso's work would be taken on by the art dealer Léonce Rosenberg. After the loss of Eva Gouel, Picasso had an affair with Gaby Lespinasse. During the spring of 1916, Apollinaire returned from the front wounded. They renewed their friendship, but Picasso began to frequent new social circles.
Towards the end of World War I, Picasso became involved with Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Among his friends during this period were Jean Cocteau, Jean Hugo, Juan Gris, and others. In the summer of 1918, Picasso married Olga Khokhlova, a ballerina with Sergei Diaghilev's troupe, for whom Picasso was designing a ballet, Erik Satie's Parade, in Rome; they spent their honeymoon near Biarritz in the villa of glamorous Chilean art patron Eugenia Errázuriz.
Khokhlova introduced Picasso to high society, formal dinner parties, and other dimensions of the life of the rich in 1920s Paris. The two had a son, Paulo Picasso, who would grow up to be a motorcycle racer and chauffeur to his father. Khokhlova's insistence on social propriety clashed with Picasso's bohemian tendencies and the two lived in a state of constant conflict. During the same period that Picasso collaborated with Diaghilev's troupe, he and Igor Stravinsky collaborated on Pulcinella in 1920. Picasso took the opportunity to make several drawings of the composer.
In 1927, Picasso met 17-year-old Marie-Thérèse Walter and began a secret affair with her. Picasso's marriage to Khokhlova soon ended in separation rather than divorce, as French law required an even division of property in the case of divorce, and Picasso did not want Khokhlova to have half his wealth. The two remained legally married until Khokhlova's death in 1955. Picasso carried on a long-standing affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter and fathered a daughter with her, named Maya. Marie-Thérèse lived in the vain hope that Picasso would one day marry her, and hanged herself four years after Picasso's death.
- 1910, Woman with Mustard Pot (La Femme au pot de moutarde), oil on canvas, 73 × 60 cm (28 × 23 in), Gemeentemuseum, The Hague. Exhibited at the Armory Show, New York, Chicago, Boston 1913
- 1910–11, Guitariste, La mandoliniste (Woman playing guitar or mandolin), oil on canvas
- 1911, Still Life with a Bottle of Rum, oil on canvas, 61.3 × 50.5 cm (24 × 19 in), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- 1911, The Poet (Le poète), oil on linen, 131.2 × 89.5 cm (51 5/8 × 35 1/4 in), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
- 1913, Bouteille, clarinet, violon, journal, verre, 55 × 45 cm (21 × 17 in). This painting from the collection of Wilhelm Uhde was confiscated by the French state and sold at the Hôtel Drouot in 1921.
- 1913, Femme assise dans un fauteuil (Eva), Woman in a Chemise in an Armchair, oil on canvas, 149.9 × 99.4 cm (59 × 39 in), Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art
- 1913–14, Head (Tête), cut and pasted coloured paper, gouache and charcoal on paperboard, 43.5 × 33 cm (17 × 12.9 in), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
- 1913–14, L'Homme aux cartes (Card Player), oil on canvas, 108 × 89.5 cm (42 × 35 in), Museum of Modern Art, New York
- 1914–15, Nature morte au compotier (Still Life with Compote and Glass), oil on canvas, 63.5 × 78.7 cm (25 × 31 in), Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
- 1916, L'anis del mono (Bottle of Anis del Mono), oil on canvas, 46 × 54.6 cm (18 × 21 in), Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan
Neoclassicism and surrealism: 1919–1929
In February 1917, Picasso made his first trip to Italy. In the period following the upheaval of World War I, Picasso produced work in a neoclassical style. This "return to order" is evident in the work of many European artists in the 1920s, including André Derain, Giorgio de Chirico, Gino Severini, Jean Metzinger, the artists of the New Objectivity movement and of the Novecento Italiano movement. Picasso's paintings and drawings from this period frequently recall the work of Raphael and Ingres.
In 1925 the Surrealist writer and poet André Breton declared Picasso as 'one of ours' in his article Le Surréalisme et la peinture, published in Révolution surréaliste. Les Demoiselles was reproduced for the first time in Europe in the same issue. Yet Picasso exhibited Cubist works at the first Surrealist group exhibition in 1925; the concept of 'psychic automatism in its pure state' defined in the Manifeste du surréalisme never appealed to him entirely. He did at the time develop new imagery and formal syntax for expressing himself emotionally, "releasing the violence, the psychic fears and the eroticism that had been largely contained or sublimated since 1909", writes art historian Melissa McQuillan. Although this transition in Picasso's work was informed by Cubism for its spatial relations, "the fusion of ritual and abandon in the imagery recalls the primitivism of the Demoiselles and the elusive psychological resonances of his Symbolist work", writes McQuillan. Surrealism revived Picasso's attraction to primitivism and eroticism.
- Pablo Picasso, 1918, Pierrot, oil on canvas, 92.7 × 73 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York
- Pablo Picasso, 1918, Portrait d'Olga dans un fauteuil (Olga in an Armchair), Musée Picasso, Paris, France
- Pablo Picasso, 1919, Sleeping Peasants, gouache, watercolour and pencil on paper, 31.1 × 48.9 cm, Museum of Modern Art
The Great Depression to MoMA exhibition: 1930–1939
During the 1930s, the minotaur replaced the harlequin as a common motif in his work. His use of the minotaur came partly from his contact with the surrealists, who often used it as their symbol, and it appears in Picasso's Guernica. The minotaur and Picasso's mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter are heavily featured in his celebrated Vollard Suite of etchings.
Arguably Picasso's most famous work is his depiction of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War – Guernica. This large canvas embodies for many the inhumanity, brutality and hopelessness of war. Asked to explain its symbolism, Picasso said, "It isn't up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words! The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them." Guernica was exhibited in July 1937 at the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition, and then became the centrepiece of an exhibition of 118 works by Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Henri Laurens that toured Scandinavia and England. After the victory of Francisco Franco in Spain, the painting was sent to the United States to raise funds and support for Spanish refugees. Until 1981 it was entrusted to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, as it was Picasso's expressed desire that the painting should not be delivered to Spain until liberty and democracy had been established in the country.
In 1939 and 1940, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, under its director Alfred Barr, a Picasso enthusiast, held a major retrospective of Picasso's principal works until that time. This exhibition lionized Picasso, brought into full public view in America the scope of his artistry, and resulted in a reinterpretation of his work by contemporary art historians and scholars. According to Jonathan Weinberg, "Given the extraordinary quality of the show and Picasso's enormous prestige, generally heightened by the political impact of Guernica ... the critics were surprisingly ambivalent". Picasso's "multiplicity of styles" was disturbing to one journalist; another described him as "wayward and even malicious"; Alfred Frankenstein's review in ARTnews concluded that Picasso was both charlatan and genius.
World War II and late 1940s: 1939–1949
During World War II, Picasso remained in Paris while the Germans occupied the city. Picasso's artistic style did not fit the Nazi ideal of art, so he did not exhibit during this time. He was often harassed by the Gestapo. During one search of his apartment, an officer saw a photograph of the painting Guernica. "Did you do that?" the German asked Picasso. "No," he replied, "You did."
Retreating to his studio, he continued to paint, producing works such as the Still Life with Guitar (1942) and The Charnel House (1944–48). Although the Germans outlawed bronze casting in Paris, Picasso continued regardless, using bronze smuggled to him by the French Resistance.
Around this time, Picasso wrote poetry as an alternative outlet. Between 1935 and 1959 he wrote over 300 poems. Largely untitled except for a date and sometimes the location of where it was written (for example "Paris 16 May 1936"), these works were gustatory, erotic, and at times scatological, as were his two full-length plays, Desire Caught by the Tail (1941), and The Four Little Girls (1949).
In 1944, after the liberation of Paris, Picasso, then 63 years old, began a romantic relationship with a young art student named Françoise Gilot. She was 40 years younger than he was. Picasso grew tired of his mistress Dora Maar; Picasso and Gilot began to live together. Eventually, they had two children: Claude Picasso, born in 1947 and Paloma Picasso, born in 1949. In her 1964 book Life with Picasso, Gilot describes his abusive treatment and myriad infidelities which led her to leave him, taking the children with her. This was a severe blow to Picasso.
Picasso had affairs with women of an even greater age disparity than his and Gilot's. While still involved with Gilot, in 1951 Picasso had a six-week affair with Geneviève Laporte, who was four years younger than Gilot. By his 70s, many paintings, ink drawings and prints have as their theme an old, grotesque dwarf as the doting lover of a beautiful young model. Jacqueline Roque (1927–1986) worked at the Madoura Pottery in Vallauris on the French Riviera, where Picasso made and painted ceramics. She became his lover, and then his second wife in 1961. The two were together for the remainder of Picasso's life.
His marriage to Roque was also a means of revenge against Gilot; with Picasso's encouragement, Gilot had divorced her then-husband, Luc Simon, with the plan to marry Picasso to secure the rights of her children as Picasso's legitimate heirs. Picasso had already secretly married Roque, after Gilot had filed for divorce. His strained relationship with Claude and Paloma was never healed.
By this time, Picasso had constructed a huge Gothic home, and could afford large villas in the south of France, such as Mas Notre-Dame-de-Vie on the outskirts of Mougins, and in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. He was an international celebrity, with often as much interest in his personal life as his art.
Later works to final years: 1949–1973
Picasso was one of 250 sculptors who exhibited in the 3rd Sculpture International held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in mid-1949. In the 1950s, Picasso's style changed once again, as he took to producing reinterpretations of the art of the great masters. He made a series of works based on Velázquez's painting of Las Meninas. He also based paintings on works by Goya, Poussin, Manet, Courbet and Delacroix.
In addition to his artistic accomplishments, Picasso made a few film appearances, always as himself, including a cameo in Jean Cocteau's Testament of Orpheus (1960). In 1955, he helped make the film Le Mystère Picasso (The Mystery of Picasso) directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.
He was commissioned to make a maquette for a huge 50-foot (15 m)-high public sculpture to be built in Chicago, known usually as the Chicago Picasso. He approached the project with a great deal of enthusiasm, designing a sculpture which was ambiguous and somewhat controversial. Picasso said the figure represented the head of an Afghan Hound named Kabul. The sculpture, one of the most recognizable landmarks in downtown Chicago, was unveiled in 1967. Picasso refused to be paid $100,000 for it, donating it to the people of the city.
Picasso's final works were a mixture of styles, his means of expression in constant flux until the end of his life. Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colourful and expressive, and from 1968 to 1971 he produced a torrent of paintings and hundreds of copperplate etchings. At the time these works were dismissed by most as pornographic fantasies of an impotent old man or the slapdash works of an artist who was past his prime. Only later, after Picasso's death, when the rest of the art world had moved on from abstract expressionism, did the critical community come to see the late works of Picasso as prefiguring Neo-Expressionism.
Pablo Picasso died on 8 April 1973 in Mougins, France, from pulmonary edema and a heart attack, the morning after he and his wife Jacqueline entertained friends for dinner. He was interred at the Château of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and occupied with Jacqueline between 1959 and 1962. Jacqueline prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Devastated and lonely after the death of Picasso, Jacqueline killed herself by gunshot in 1986 when she was 59 years old.