Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born Pablo Ruiz y Picasso on October 25th, 1881 in Malaga, Spain, to a father who was an artist and an art teacher.
Picasso did most of his art training in Barcelona, and started living in Paris in 1900, at age 19, but more permanently from 1901. In the earlier part of his career, he experimented with many different styles of painting from academic to art nouveau. Initially, he spent a lot of his time studying the art at the Louvre.
Between 1901 and 1904, he used mostly shades of blue in his paintings, which is why they call this his ‘blue period’. His primary subject then was human suffering and poverty, something he himself was suffering to a degree at the time. He had trouble making a living.
From 1904 to 1909 or 1911, Picasso lived in the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre, a rundown building that housed many now-famous artists. Here, at first, Picasso was poor to the point that he had to sometimes burn his drawings for warmth. The Bateau-Lavoir is still standing at the top of the steps leading to No. 13 Rue Ravigan, Place Emile Goudeau, in Montmartre, Paris, if you would like to take a look-see.
From 1905-1907, his work became a little cheerier and romantic, so it has become known as his ‘rose period’. His subjects were often acrobats, harlequins, circus people and showed influence by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Paintings from his ‘rose period’ started to sell, lifting him out of poverty.
Picasso’s first masterpiece was “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in 1907. For this, he was influenced by Paul Cezanne and African masks. This was his most revolutionary painting. It showed different viewpoints at the same time. This kind of expression through distortion of figures to this extent was very new.
In 1908, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso realised they shared a similar vision for art so they started to work together. They did so until 1914. Still Life became their main subject for their cubist paintings.
Braque and Picasso showed at Salon d’Autumne in 1908. Louis Vauxcelles (an art critic) referred to their paintings as being of “cubes” and “cubic oddities”. From then on, the style was called ‘cubism’ and dominated the art scene until 1914.
Picasso and Braque started adding collage as part of their cubist paintings in 1912-1914. They always depicted real objects.
Orphism or orphic cubism was the name of an attempt of some French artists to create a brighter, cheerier cubism form in 1911. (Orpheus is satyr player in Greek mythology).
In 1914, Braque was drafted into the French army and had to go to war, but Picasso stayed in Paris. The lonely isolation of having most of his friends away at war made him slow his work.
In 1917, Picasso went to Rome to design for the Russian Ballet of Diaghilev.
In 1924, he became enthralled by the Surrealist movement, and his works became more symbolic and expressive. Another masterpiece, “The Three Dancers”, arose from this in 1925.
In the 1930’s, he began to incorporate politics into his work. In 1937, he painted “Guernica” to represent Spain at the international Exhibition in Paris. It is a reflection on the bombing of Guernica by German aircraft on behalf of Spanish fascists.
During WWII, Picasso stayed in France. In 1945, he joined the Communist Party. He left Paris after WWII, in his 60s, to move to Vallauris, in the south of France.
Pablo Picasso eventually became fabulously wealthy and is today probably the most famous modern artist in the world.
Picasso did not approve of the ‘abstract art’ movement. He said, “There is no abstract art; you must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.”
Pablo Picasso was 92 years old when he died, highly profiled in the media until the end. His 50 years of dominating the international art scene gave us an art world with little or no convention. Now, just about anything is possible in art, and Picasso had a lot to do with this.
In Paris, Picasso’s works can be seen at the Centre Pompidou, the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Musée d’Orsay. My favourite place to see his work is at the Musée National Picasso, but they are closed for renovations until spring 2013.