Childhood & Early Life
Pablo Picasso was born on 25 October 1881, in Málaga, Spain, to Don José Ruiz y Blasco and María Picasso y López. His father was a painter and arts teacher by profession.
While at school, Picasso’s brilliance as a painter overshadowed his poor academic records. Mentored by his father, he surpassed his old man in terms of skill and talent by the age of 13.
In 1895, his family relocated to Barcelona, Spain. The move proved to be fruitful for him as he got an opportunity to enroll at the prestigious ‘School of Fine Arts.’ However, strict rules laid down at the school frustrated him. He began skipping classes to wander on the streets of Barcelona, sketching whatever he observed.
In 1897, he moved to Madrid to attend the ‘Royal Academy of San Fernando.’ However, the rules and formal instructions irked him to such an extent that he stopped attending classes.
He moved around the lanes of Madrid, observing and painting what appealed his vision. He visited the Prado museum to see paintings by famous Spanish painters.
Returning to Barcelona in 1899, he found himself to be a part of a group of artists and intellectuals who made their headquarters at a cafe called, El Quatre Gats. It was during this time that he moved away from his classical methods to indulge avant-garde art.
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With Paris deemed as the world center for avant-garde art, it was only natural for him to relocate to the city. At the dawn of the new century, he moved to Paris to be at the epicentre of the world of art.
He opened an art studio in Montmartre, Paris. Despite being a teenager, he had the technique to come up with any style, and the insight to know the importance of each style.
Historians have separated his works from different periods. As such, from 1901 to 1904, his works were categorized under ‘Blue Period.’ Just as the name suggests, most of his works from this period were marked by sombre paintings in shades of blue and bluish-green, only intermittently having shades of other colors.
He applied various techniques during his period, starting from the blurred technique to divisionism and expressionism. The subject that he chose ranged from poverty and isolation to anguish and melancholy. Some of his famous paintings from this period include, ‘Blue Nude,’ ‘La Vie,’ and ‘The Old Guitarist.’
Succeeding the ‘Blue Period’ was the ‘Rose Period’ which lasted from 1904 to 1906, during which the color pink dominated most of his works. Most of his paintings depicted people working at the circus, acrobats, and harlequins. Additionally, his works showcased the warm relationship that he shared with Fernande Olivier.
In contrast to the ‘Blue Period,’ paintings which came during the ‘Rose Period’ were of happy and upbeat nature with optimism and spirit of buoyancy apparent in them. This style was predominantly seen in his earlier works from 1899 and 1900.
In 1907, he, along with his friend Georges Braque, came up with a remarkable work that none until then had ever painted. Consisting of sharp geometric shapes, ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ showcased five nude prostitutes, abstracted and distorted, with glaring blotches of blues, greens, and grays. The work became the precursor and inspiration of ‘Cubism,’ an artistic style that the two invented.
The main technique behind Cubist works was breaking up and reassembling of objects in abstracted form, highlighting their composite geometric shapes, and depicting them from multiple viewpoints simultaneously in order to create physics-defying, collage-like effect.
The Cubist style employed by him in his works became a revolutionary movement in the art world. Some of his memorable paintings of this era include ‘Three Women,’ ‘Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table,’ ‘Girl with Mandolin,’ ‘Still Life with Chair Caning,’ and ‘Card Player.’
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The changing panorama of the world, which was at the juncture of ‘World War I,’ brought about the next change in his art form. From the abstract and the distorted form, he moved to depicting the sombre reality of the world in his works.
Some of his neoclassical works that depict his return to realism from 1918 to 1929 include ‘Three Women at the Spring,’ ‘Two Women Running on the Beach,’ ‘The Race,’ and ‘The Pipes of Pan.’
An avid believer of experimentation and innovation, he did not remain stuck with classicalism for long and caught up with a new philosophical and cultural craze which was known as ‘Surrealism.’
The harlequin was replaced by minotaur as the common motif in his work and the works of other Surrealist painters. His most outstanding and notable work from this time period was the ‘Guernica.’
‘Guernica’ stands as a testament for the brutality, inhumanity, and vicious nature of war. Painted in 1937 after the devastating aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica, it remains the greatest anti-war painting of all time. It has shades of black, white, and gray and illustrates several human-like figures in various states of anguish and terror.
At the end of ‘World War II,’ he turned to politics. He joined the ‘French Communist Party’ and attended the ‘World Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Peace’ in Poland. However, critical comments attracted by his Stalin painting lessened his interest in politics, though he remained a loyal member of the ‘Communist Party.’
Personal Life & Legacy
An ardent womanizer, he had a number of relationships with girlfriends, mistresses, muses, and prostitutes.
He was married twice. In 1918, he married a ballerina named Olga Khokhlova. The couple, who was blessed with a son, parted ways in 1927. However, they were not legally divorced and the marriage ended only in 1955 after Khokhlova’s death.
While being married to Khokhlova, he was in a romantic relationship with Marie-Therese Walter. He fathered a daughter from the relationship.
He married Jacqueline Roque in 1961, at the age of 80. With her, he had two children.
He breathed his last on April 8, 1973, in Mougins, France. His mortal remains were later interred at the Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence.