Pablo Picasso

Young Pablo Picasso
Young Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso, formally Pablo Ruiz Picasso, (October 25, 1881April 8, 1973) was one of the recognized masters of 20th century art.

His name in full was Pablo Diego Jos Santiago Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Crispn Crispiniano de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santsima Trinidad Ruiz Picasso Blasco Lpez. His father was Jos Ruiz y Blasco; his mother, Mara Picasso y Lpez. In his early years he signed his name Ruiz Blasco after his father but, from about 1901 he switched to using his mother's name.

Picasso was born in Mlaga, Spain, and is probably most famous as the founder, along with Georges Braque, of Cubism. However in a long life he produced a wide and varied body of work, the best-known being the Blue Period works which feature moving depictions of acrobats, harlequins, prostitutes, beggars and artists.

While Picasso was primarily a painter (in fact he believed that an artist must paint in order to be considered a true artist), he also worked with small ceramic and bronze sculptures, collage and even produced some poetry. "Je suis aussi un pote," as he quipped to his friends.

Several paintings by Picasso rank among the most expensive paintings in the world. On May 4, 2004 Picasso's painting Garon la pipe was sold for USD $104 million at Sotheby's, thus establishing a new price record (see also List of most expensive paintings).

Picasso hated to be alone when he wasn't working. In Paris, in addition to having a distinguished coterie of friends in the Montmartre and Montparnasse quarters, including Andr Breton, Guillaume Apollinaire, writer Gertrude Stein and others, he usually maintained a number of mistresses in addition to his wife or primary partner.

Missing image
Pablo Picasso(5) & friends

In the 1915 photograph seen here are friends (left to right): Manuel Ortiz de Zrate, Henri-Pierre Roch (in uniform), Marie Vassilieff, Max Jacob and Pablo Picasso.

Arguably Picasso's most famous work is his depiction of the German bombing of Guernica, Spain; Guernica. This large canvas embodies for many the inhumanity, brutality and hopelessness of war. The painting of the picture was captured in a series of photographs by Picasso's most famous lover, Dora Maar, a distinguished artist in her own right. Guernica hung in New York's Museum of Modern Art for many years; Picasso stipulated that the painting should not return to Spain until democracy was restored in that country. In 1981 Guernica was returned to Spain and exhibited at the Casn del Buen Retiro. In 1992 the painting became one of the main attractions in Madrid's Reina Sofa Museum when it opened.

Picasso was extremely talented as a painter and draughtsman, even by the standards of the world's great artists. He worked with equal facility in oil, watercolour, pastels, charcoal, pencil, and ink. He famously rendered complex scenes as just a few geometric shapes in his mixed-media Cubist works but he also produced masterful realist portraits throughout his life. His pen and ink sketches of his friends from the Cubist era and afterward are valued for their understated intimacy, examples of the fluidity of his skills. Indeed, Picasso moved with ease among the plastic arts despite limited academic training (he finished only one year at the Royal Academy in Madrid). His natural talents were augmented by a ferocious work ethic that survived into the final years of his long life.


Early life

Picasso's father, Jos Ruiz y Blasco, was himself a painter and curator and for most of his life was a professor of art at Spanish colleges. It is from Don Jos that Picasso learned the basics of formal academic art training – figure drawing, and painting in oil. Although Picasso attended art schools throughout his childhood, often those where his father taught, he never finished his college level course of study at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, leaving after less than a year.

The Picasso Museum in Barcelona features many of Picasso's early works, created while he was living in Spain, as well as the extensive collection of Jaime Sabarts, Picasso's close friend from his Barcelona days and for many years Picasso's personal secretary. There are many precise and detailed figure studies done in his youth under his father's tutelage, as well as rarely seen works from his old age, that clearly demonstrate Picasso's firm grounding in classical techniques.

Picasso and pacifism

Picasso remained neutral during the Spanish Civil War, World War I and World War II, refusing to fight for any side or country. Picasso never commented on this but encouraged the idea that it was because he was a pacifist. Some of his contemporaries though (including Braque) felt that this neutrality had more to do with cowardice than principle.

As a Spanish citizen living in France, Picasso was under no compulsion to fight against the invading Germans in either world war. In the Spanish Civil War, service for Spaniards living abroad was optional and would have involved a voluntary hello return to the country to join either side. While Picasso expressed anger and condemnation of Franco and the Fascists through his art he did not take up arms against them.

He also remained aloof from the Catalan independence movement during his youth despite expressing general support and being friendly with activists within it. No political movement seemed to compel his support to any great degree.

After the Second World War, Picasso rejoined the French Communist Party, and even attended an international peace conference in Poland. But party criticism of a portrait of Stalin as insufficiently realistic cooled Picasso's interest in Communist politics, though he remained a loyal member of the Communist Party until his death.

Personal life

Picasso had a long string of lovers, four children by three women, and two wives. In the early years of the 20th century, Picasso, still a struggling youth, began a long term relationship with Fernande Olivier. It is she who appears in many of the Blue and Rose period paintings. After garnering fame and some fortune, Picasso left Fernande for Marcelle Humbert, whom Picasso called Eva. Picasso included declarations of his love for Eva in many Cubist works. Eva was diagnosed with cancer and during her rapid deterioration, Picasso administered to her every need, making daily trips across Paris to visit her in the hospital.

In 1918 Picasso married Olga Khoklova, a ballerina with Sergei Diaghilev's troupe, whom Picasso was designing a ballet, Parade, for in Rome. Olga introduced Picasso to high society, formal dinner parties, and all the social niceties attendant on the life of the rich in 1920s Paris. The two had a son, Paulo, who would grow up to be a sometime motorcycle racer, sometime chauffeur to his father, and dissolute.

Olga's insistence on social propriety clashed with Picasso's bohemian tendencies and the two lived in a state of near constant conflict. In 1927 Picasso met the then underage (17) Marie Thrse Walter and began a secret affair with her. Picasso's marriage to Olga soon ended in separation, as French law required an even division of property in the case of divorce and Picasso did not want Olga to have half his wealth. The two remained legally married until Olga's death in 1955.

Picasso carried on a longstanding affair with Marie Thrse and fathered a daughter, Maya, with her. Marie Thrse lived in the vain hope that Picasso would one day marry her and eventually hanged herself after Picasso's death.

The photographer and painter Dora Maar was also a constant companion and lover of Picasso. The two were closest in the late 30s and early 40s and it was Dora who documented the painting of Guernica. Like all the women in his life, Dora was cruelly abused emotionally by the narcissistic Picasso.

After the liberation of Paris in 1944, Picasso began to keep company with a young art student, Franoise Gilot. The two eventually became lovers, and had two children together, Claude, and Paloma. Uniquely among Picasso's women, Franoise eventually left Picasso in 1953 because of his abusive treatment and infidelities. This came as a severe blow to Picasso.

He went through a difficult period after Franoise's departure, coming to terms with his advancing age and his perception that he was an old man, now in his seventies, who was no longer attractive, but rather grotesque to young women. A number of ink drawings from this period explore this theme of the hideous old dwarf as buffoonish counterpoint to the beautiful young girl.

Picasso was not long in finding another lover, Jacqueline Roque. Jacqueline worked at the Madoura Pottery, where Picasso made and painted ceramics. The two remained together for the rest of Picasso's life, marrying in 1961. Their marriage was also the means of one last act of revenge against Franoise. Franoise had been seeking a legal means to legitimize her children with Picasso, Claude and Paloma. With Picasso's encouragement, she had arranged to divorce her then husband, Luc Simon, and marry Picasso to secure her children's rights. Picasso then secretly married Jacqueline after Franoise had filed for divorce in order to exact his revenge for her leaving him.

Later works

Painting by Picasso
Painting by Picasso

In his 80s and 90s, Picasso, no longer quite the energetic dynamo he had been in his youth, became more and more impotent. To a man for whom this was such an important part of life, this was a serious life change and Picasso seems to have dealt with it by redoubling his already prolific artistic output.

Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colorful and expressive, and from 1968 through 1971 he produced a torrent of paintings and hundreds of copperplate engravings. 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. One long time admirer, Douglas Cooper, called them "the incoherent scribblings of a frenetic old man" in the antechamber 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 that Picasso had already discovered neo-expressionism and was, as usual, ahead of his time.

Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973, and was interred at Castle Vauvenargues' park, in Vauvenargues, Bouches-du-Rhne. Jacqueline prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. His final words were "drink to me".

At the time of his death, he had kept off the art market or which he had not needed to sell. In addition, Picasso had a considerable collection of the work of other famous artists, some his contemporaries, such as Henri Matisse, with whom he had exchanged works. Since Picasso left no will, Muse Picasso in Paris. In 2003, relatives of Picasso inaugurated a museum dedicated to him in his birthplace, Mlaga, Spain, the Museo Picasso Mlaga.

In 1999, Picasso's Les Noces (The Marriage of Pierrette) sold for more than USD $51 million.

List of works

(For a comprehensive catalog of his works visit the On-Line Picasso Project)

External links

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