Pablo Picasso, in full Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Crispín Crispiniano María Remedios de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz Picasso, also called (before 1901) Pablo Ruiz or Pablo Ruiz Picasso, (born October 25, 1881, Málaga, Spain—died April 8, 1973, Mougins, France), Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most-influential artists of the 20th century and the creator (with Georges Braque) of Cubism. (For more information on Picasso’s name see Researcher’s Note: Picasso’s full name.)
The enormous body of Picasso’s work remains, and the legend lives on—a tribute to the vitality of the “disquieting” Spaniard with the “sombre…piercing” eyes who superstitiously believed that work would keep him alive. For nearly 80 of his 91 years, Picasso devoted himself to an artistic production that contributed significantly to and paralleled the whole development of modern art in the 20th century.
Life and career
Pablo Picasso was the son of José Ruiz Blasco, a professor of drawing, and Maria Picasso López. His unusual adeptness for drawing began to manifest itself early, around the age of 10, when he became his father’s pupil in A Coruña, where the family moved in 1891
The family moved to Barcelona in the autumn of 1895, and Pablo entered the local art academy (La Llotja), where his father had assumed his last post as professor of drawing. The family hoped that their son would achieve success as an academic painter, and in 1897 his eventual fame in Spain seemed assured; in that year his painting Science and Charity, for which his father modeled for the doctor, was awarded an honourable mention in Madrid at the Fine Arts Exhibition.
Pablo Ruiz duly set off for Madrid in the autumn of 1897 and entered the Royal Academy of San Fernando. But finding the teaching there stupid, he increasingly spent his time recording life around him, in the cafés, on the streets, in the brothels, and in the Prado, where he discovered Spanish painting. He wrote: “The Museum of paintings is beautiful. Velázquez first class; from El Greco some magnificent heads, Murillo does not convince me in every one of his pictures.” Works by those and other artists would capture Picasso’s imagination at different times during his long career. Goya, for instance, was an artist whose works Picasso copied in the Prado in 1898 (a portrait of the bullfighter Pepe Illo and the drawing for one of the Caprichos, Bien tirada está, which shows a Celestina [procuress] checking a young maja’s stockings). Those same characters reappear in his late work—Pepe Illo in a series of engravings (1957) and Celestina as a kind of voyeuristic self-portrait, especially in the series of etchings and engravings known as Suite 347 (1968).
In Barcelona Picasso moved among a circle of Catalan artists and writers whose eyes were turned toward Paris. Those were his friends at the café Els Quatre Gats (“The Four Cats,” styled after the Chat Noir [“Black Cat”] in Paris), where Picasso had his first Barcelona exhibition in February 1900, and they were the subjects of more than 50 portraits (in mixed media) in the show. In addition, there was a dark, moody “modernista” painting, Last Moments (later painted over), showing the visit of a priest to the bedside of a dying woman, a work that was accepted for the Spanish section of the Exposition Universelle in Paris in that year. Eager to see his own work in place and to experience Paris firsthand, Picasso set off in the company of his studio mate Carles Casagemas (Portrait of Carles Casagemas ) to conquer, if not Paris, at least a corner of Montmartre.
Discovery of Paris
One of Picasso’s principal artistic discoveries on that trip (October–December) was colour—not the drab colours of the Spanish palette, the black of the shawls of Spanish women, or the ochres and browns of the Spanish landscape but brilliant colour—the colour of Vincent van Gogh, of new fashion, of a city celebrating a world’s fair. Using charcoal, pastels, watercolours, and oils, Picasso recorded life in the French capital (Lovers in the Street ). In Moulin de la Galette (1900) he paid tribute to French artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Swiss Théophile Alexandre Steinlen as well as his Catalan compatriot Ramon Casas.
After just two months Picasso returned to Spain with Casagemas, who had become despondent about a failed love affair. Having tried unsuccessfully to amuse his friend in Málaga, Picasso took off for Madrid, where he worked as an art editor for a new journal, Arte Joven. Casagemas returned to Paris, attempted to shoot the woman he loved, and then turned the gun on himself and died. The impact on Picasso was deep: it was not just that he had lost his loyal friend and perhaps felt a sense of guilt for having abandoned him; more important, he had gained the emotional experience and the material that would stimulate the powerful expressiveness of the works of the so-called Blue Period. Picasso made two death portraits of Casagemas several months later in 1901 as well as two funeral scenes (Mourners and Evocation), and in 1903 Casagemas appeared as the artist in the enigmatic painting La Vie.
Between 1901 and mid-1904, when blue was the predominant colour in his paintings, Picasso moved back and forth between Barcelona and Paris, taking material for his work from one place to the other
The move to Paris and the Rose Period
Picasso finally made the decision to move permanently to Paris in the spring of 1904, and his work reflects a change of spirit and especially a response to different intellectual and artistic currents. The traveling circus and saltimbanques became a subject he shared with a new and important friend, Guillaume Apollinaire. To both the poet and the painter those rootless wandering performers (Girl Balancing on a Ball ; The Actor ) became a kind of evocation of the artist’s position in modern society
Picasso’s personal circumstances also changed when at the end of 1904 Fernande Olivier became his mistress. Her presence inspired many works during the years leading up to Cubism, especially on their trip to Gosol in 1906 (Woman with Loaves).
Colour never came easily to Picasso, and he reverted to a generally more-Spanish (i.e., monochromatic) palette. The tones of the Blue Period were replaced from late 1904 to 1906 in the so-called Rose Period by those of pottery, of flesh, and of the earth itself (The Harem ). Picasso seems to have been working with colour in an attempt to come closer to sculptural form, especially in 1906 (Two Nudes; La Toilette). His Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906) and a Self-Portrait with Palette (1906) show that development as well as the influence of his discovery of archaic Iberian sculpture.
Toward the end of 1906 Picasso began work on a large composition that came to be called Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). His violent treatment of the female body and masklike painting of the faces (influenced by a study of African art) have made that work controversial. Yet the work was firmly based upon art-historical tradition: a renewed interest in El Greco contributed to the fracturing of the space and the gestures of the figures, and the overall composition owed much to Paul Cézanne’s Bathers as well as to J.-A.-D.
In 1908 the African-influenced striations and masklike heads were superseded by a technique that incorporated elements he and his new friend Georges Braque found in the work of Cézanne, whose shallow space and characteristic planar brushwork are especially evident in Picasso’s work of 1909. Still lifes, inspired by Cézanne, also became an important subject for the first time in Picasso’s career. Cubist heads of Fernande include the sculpture Head of a Woman (1909) and several paintings related to it, including Woman with Pears (1909).
Cubism of Pablo Picasso
Picasso and Braque worked together closely during the next few years (1909–12)—the only time Picasso ever worked with another painter in this way—and they developed what came to be known as Analytical Cubism.
That type of analysis is characteristic of Picasso’s work beginning in 1909, especially in the landscapes he made on a trip to Spain that summer (Factory at Horta de Ebro). Those were followed in 1910 with a series of hermetic portraits (Ambroise Vollard; Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler); and in his 1911–12 paintings of seated figures, often playing musical instruments (The Accordionist ), Picasso merged figures, objects, and space on a kind of grid. The palette was once again limited to monochromatic ochres, browns, and grays.
By 1912 Picasso and Braque were gluing real paper (papier collé) and other materials (collage) onto their canvases, taking a stage further the Cubist conception of a work as a self-contained constructed object. That Synthetic phase (1912–14) saw the reintroduction of colour, while the actual materials often had an industrial reference (e.g., sand or printed wallpaper). Still lifes and, occasionally, heads were the principal subjects for both artists. And in Picasso’s works the multiple references inherent in his Synthetic compositions—curves that refer to guitars and at the same time to ears, for instance—introduce an element of play that is characteristic of so much of his work (Student with a Pipe ) and lead to the suggestion that one thing becomes transformed into another. Absinthe Glass (1914; six versions), for example, is in part sculpture (cast bronze), in part collage (a real silver sugar strainer is welded onto the top), and in part painting (Neo-Impressionist brush strokes cover planes of white paint). But the work is neither sculpture nor collage nor painting; planes refer to two-dimensionality, while the object indeed possesses three dimensions. The work of art thus hovers between reality and illusion.
By 1915 Picasso’s life had changed and so, in a sense, had the direction of his art. At the end of that year his beloved Eva died, and the painting he had worked on during her illness (Harlequin ) gives testimony to his grief—a half-Harlequin, half-Pierrot artist before an easel holds an unfinished canvas against a black background.
Picasso’s paintings and drawings of the late teens often seem unexpectedly naturalistic in contrast to the Cubist works that preceded or sometimes coincided with them (Passeig de Colom ). After his travels to Italy and a return to Barcelona in 1917 (Parade was performed there in November), a new spirit of Mediterraneanism made itself felt in his work, especially in the use of classical forms and drawing techniques. That was reinforced by a conscious looking back to J.-A.-D. Ingres (for example, in Picasso’s portrait drawings of Max Jacob and Ambroise Vollard ) and to late Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Even the direction of Picasso’s Cubist work was affected. By clarifying planes, forms, and colour, the artist imparted to his Cubist paintings a classical expression (Saint-Raphaël still lifes ; two versions of the Three Musicians ).
Classical and surrealism
After World War I, Picasso began to work on neoclassicism. One of Picasso's most famous works, Guernica was composed during this period. The painting depicts the bombing of Guernica by Nazi Germany during the Spanish Civil War.
Picasso sculptures in Chicago, USA
Picasso is one of 250 sculptors participating in the 3rd International Sculpture Exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts in the summer of 1949.
In the 1950s the painter again changed his writing style, working on paintings based on the styles of the classical masters such as Diego Velázquez, Goya, Poussin, Édouard Manet, Courbet and Delacroix.