“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone” – Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso Biography
Pablo Picasso was born in Malága, Spain, on 25th October, 1881. The Picasso part of his name comes from his mother, Doña Maria Picasso y Lopez. His father Don José Ruiz Blasco, earned a modest living as an art teacher and occasional painter at the School of Fine Arts and Crafts in Malága. After being offered a better-paying job though, Don José moved the family to La Coruna, where Pablo entered the city’s School of Fine Arts in 1892. The family increased by two more children, Dolorès was born in 1884 and Concepcíon in 1887.
Although a talented student at the school, Picasso received much of his significant training from his father. When his father received a professorship at “La Lonja” of the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona in 1895, the family relocated again and 14-year-old Picasso passed the entrance examination for an advanced course in classical art and still life at the School. His work was said to be better than those of senior students completing their final exam projects. By 1896, Picasso had produced his first major “academic” oil paintings.
With family funding, Picasso was able to continue studies in Madrid where he passed entrance examinations for advanced courses at the Royal Academy of San Fernando. He spent much of his time at the Prado Museum, studying and copying the old masters. In 1898 though, Picasso contracted scarlet fever and returned to Barcelona and then a mountain village, Horta de Ebro, to recover his health.
In Barcelona, Picasso began spending time at Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats), a café frequented by artists and intellectuals. Immersed in the avant-garde world of Barcelona, Picasso’s art future began shifting from classical art toward the innovative work that would one day define him as the Father of Modern Art.
Picasso also began traveling between Barcelona and the acclaimed centre of avant-garde art, Paris. He is described as having had, “the technique to appropriate any style, and the insight to know which styles were important.” But he was not merely copying the pictures of already-established artists. Picasso absorbed the elements of others’ techniques but added his own unique touches and perspective.
Picasso explored many styles and quickly moved through artistic phases. One picture completed in 1901 was reminiscent of Van Gogh’s style of expressionism; another was in the manner of pointillism. He would also begin to create a series of works that would eventually be classified as ‘periods’.
The Blue Period was considered Picasso’s transition from classicism into modern abstract art. It also was reflective of deeply personal loss. Picasso’s close friend, Carlos Casagemas, committed suicide and Picasso expressed his sorrow and melancholy in the pictures he created between 1901 and 1904. Images symbolizing blindness, loneliness, poverty, and despair dominate the canvases of the Blue Period. The pictures are executed in near-monochromatic shades of blue and blue-green; the subject matter is typically somber, some with images of Carlos integrated into the overall theme of the painting.
The depression that filled Picasso’s Blue Period diminished and the works of the Rose Period emerged from 1905, represented by warmer and happier colours. It would be during the Rose Period that Picasso acquired patrons, including Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo. It also marked the beginning of financial prosperity that would increase over the remainder of his life.
Period would follow period. Between 1907 and 1917, Picasso shifted from Cubism as represented by the 1907 oil, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, through Analytical Cubism as in 1909’s “Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table”, as well as Synthetic or Collage Cubism.
Although Picasso chose to remain neutral during the major wars he definitely was affected by each conflict. During World War I, his art would return to more somber, realistic themes. Despite the darker tones of his wartime art, there were also new opportunities. He was introduced to the Russian ballet impresario Diaghilev and composer Erik Satie in 1916 and was asked to design the décor for the ballet “Parade”. He also met Olga Khokhlova, a dancer with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe; they married in 1918 and settled in comfort in a Paris apartment.
Picasso’s work had shifted from the Cubist Period into the Classicist Period by 1923 and “The Pipes of Pan” is considered the significant work of this period. Picasso also began to experience the discomfort that immense popularity can bring to an artist.
During the Spanish Civil War, Picasso was asked by the Spanish government to paint a mural to be displayed in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition. He created a gigantic mural, “Guernica”, considered to be one of the most significant paintings of the 20th century. Interestingly, Picasso refused to allow it to be moved to Spain following the World Exhibition until fascism came to an end there. It remained in New York until its transfer to Spain in 1981.
Picasso never stopped working. In addition to his paintings, he was also a sculptor, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, and playwright. He was a media celebrity, recognized for his art and had many mistresses as well as two wives, and four children from three different women. Picasso was in a seemingly constant mode of artistic experimentation and work. Even into the very last years of his long life, he produced an astonishing amount of work in a wide mixture of styles.
It is estimated that he produced tens of thousands of pieces of art during his lifetime which included tapestries, and rugs as well as the more well known paintings, drawings and ceramics. He is known to have used common house paint in many paintings, and often painted at night using artificial light.
Picasso’s art is now among the world’s most expensive, two paintings established price records in 2004 and 2010 at US $104 million US $106.5 million respectively. It seems though that there is another type of price to pay for one’s popularity as an artist – the Art Loss Register lists 550 missing Picasso works. Thieves have stolen more Picasso paintings than any other artist’s.
Pablo Picasso died on April 8th, 1973; he was 91 years old. He had influenced art during more than 70 years of productivity and is still considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Although art critics and devotees speak of Picasso’s “style”, he described his style as follows:
“When you come to think of it, I am probably a painter without style. ‘Style’ is often something that ties the artist down and makes him look at things in one particular way, the same technique, the same formulas, year after year, sometimes for a whole lifetime… However, I always thrash about rather wildly. I am a bit of a tramp. You can see me at this moment, but I have already changed, I am already somewhere else. I can never be tied down, and that is why I have no style,”