Pablo Picasso1881 - 1973
Painter, sculptor, draftsman, decorative artist, printmaker
Born: October 25, 1881, Malaga, Spain
Died: April 8, 1973, Mougins, France
As is the case with many successful artists, Pablo Picasso received his earliest education and encouragement in art from his parents. Picasso's father, Jose Ruiz Blasco, was a drawing instructor at the Escuela Provincial de Bellas Artes in his native Malaga and a bird painter. Blasco began teaching his son around 1888, when the boy was still very young, leading him to draw and paint his own personal favorite subjects, such as bullfights. Picasso showed great promise and enthusiasm for art, and he enrolled in his father's drawing classes at about age eleven, in 1892, at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in the family's new town, La Corua. By 1895, Picasso was painting "from nature," producing a series of fifteen oil portraits of people he knew and saw about town. In that same year, Picasso's father moved his family again, this time to Barcelona, so that he could teach at the Escuela de Bellas Artes there. Before he reached his fifteenth birthday, Picasso was admitted to an upper level class in classical art and still life at the academy, but attended infrequently. At about this time, Picasso began to show his need to be an independent artist.
Until about 1904, when he finally settled in Paris, France, Picasso nomadically moved between areas in his native Spain and the French capital several times. All the while, he was exhibiting and making contacts in the art world. 1899 found him in Barcelona, often within the walls of the Catalan cafe, "The Four Cats," where he communed with other young artists and writers, and, in a way, completed his artistic education. By 1900, he was participating in the Exposition Universelle in Paris, having submitted a work entitled Last Moments.
Around 1905, Picasso attracted the interest of American ex-patriot art collectors Leo Stein and his sister Gertrude Stein, and he joined their circle. Drawing inspiration from both contemporary movements in art and from "primitive" influences, such as African tribal masks, Picasso developed Cubism around 1908 in conjunction with French artist Georges Braque. Just prior to this time, he had done his first sculptures in wood. By 1910, Picasso had reached a new level of success, exhibiting throughout Europe and North America. In a career already distinguished by invention, Picasso began creating collages and sculptural constructions in 1912, which changed the way people thought about dimensionality.
During World War I, many of Picasso's closest friends went off to fight, though he stayed behind and worked on his art. He became associated with the Ballets Russes around this time, and began to design theatre sets. He also met his wife, dancer Olga Koklova, during this period; the couple married in the summer of 1918. Picasso later separated from Koklova, replacing her with Marie-Therese Walter, whom he met in 1927 (and who would not be the last in a long line of love interests).
The 1920s and '30s found Picasso experimenting with different media and exploring surrealism. He spent a great deal of his time illustrating books during this period, as well. In 1930, Picasso won the Carnegie International prize, and 1932 brought the first major retrospective of his work at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris. After 1936, Picasso began a period of making art that expressed opinions on current political situations. During the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish Republican Government made Picasso director of the Museo del Prado, and he was also asked to create a mural for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 Exposition Universelle in Paris, for which he painted his famous Guernica. Picasso spent the years of World War II in Paris writing poetry and plays, painting, and even casting some bronze sculptures.
Following World War II, he joined the French Communist Party, and though one might think this affiliation would have hurt his celebrity in the 1950s, he only became more and more popular throughout the world. He was the subject of a 1955 film entitled Le Mystere Picasso, and a monumental retrospective of his work was produced at the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais in Paris. In 1967, he refused the French government's offer of the Legion of Honor. Living along the Mediterranean in the South of France for much the rest of his life after the World War II era, Picasso died at age 91 in 1973.