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Pablo Picasso

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Biography from the Archives of askART

A painter and printmaker who revolutionized western art, Pablo Picasso was born in Spain and lived most of his life either there or in France.  His father was an art teacher, and the young Pablo grew up in an artistic environment.  By the age of fourteen, he was an accomplished draftsman, and in 1900 at age nineteen, he made his first trip to Paris.  There he studied the Old Masters* and Classical* sculpture and also was exposed to the paintings of Impressionists* and Post Impressionists*.

Between 1901 and 1904, his work was dominated by a blue palette, which has led to this time being called his "Blue Period".  Blue, for him, was to symbolize the ". . . suffering-frequently hunger and cold, the hardships he experienced while attempting to establish himself."  (Arnason, 125)  By 1905, his 'Rose or Circus Period' was beginning, and also later that year, he became doing painting reflective of a growing interest in African masks.  By 1907, he painted what is regarded as his first masterpiece and as the first Cubist painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

Although he said:  "I think about Death all the time.  She is the only woman who never leaves me." (Walther) His relationships with 'live' women influenced much of his artwork.  It is thought that his switch from 'blue' to 'rose', that is from depression to happiness, was determined by his meeting Fernande Olivier, allegedly his first serious female relationship.  He lived with her for seven years. From that time, he did numerous portraits of wives, children and mistresses.

In 1908, Picasso began working in Paris with Georges Braque (1882-1963), and together until 1914 and the beginning of World War I, they created collages* and the first phase of Cubism* that included still life and portraits.  They worked so closely together that many scholars are unable to tell some of their work apart or to determine which of them contributed certain concepts.

Picasso went to Rome from 1914 to 1918 to do set designs and costumes for the Russian Ballet and during this time also did some realistic painting and drawing, and printmaking emerged as a major part of his art as a result of the time he spent drawing.  His graphic art, which actually dated to 1905, was diverse as he was ever looking for new modes of expression, and he did etchings, drypoint, linocuts, woodcuts, aquatints and sometimes combinations.  In Rome, he met his first wife, Olga Koklova, a Russian ballet dancer.

In the early part of the 1920s, he did abstract figurative work that was so grotesque in distortion that it set the stage for his participation in Surrealist* exhibitions in Europe.  Also the experimentation with figurative shapes led him to sculpture, an interest he had expressed earlier.

The 1920s are regarded as one of the most productive periods of Picasso's career.  He did paintings with vivid coloration expressing his ". . .total experience of curvilinear cubism and classical idealism." (Arnason, 393)  In 1927, he began a relationship with seventeen-year-old Marie Therese Walther, and in 1936 with Dora Maar, a photographer.  In 1937, inspired by the Spanish Civil War, he painted Guernica, which is regarded as one of his landmark paintings and certainly one that carried a strong message of human suffering during wartime.

During the World War II years, Picasso did a lot of modeling in clay and creating of assemblages with found objects, and many of the pieces, especially after the War, expressed his sense of humor.  Also after the War, he began creating with ceramics, and he was very productive with printmaking.  His female companion, beginning 1943, was Francoise Gilot, a painter, with whom he had two children, Claude and Paloma.  His last female relationship was with Jacqueline Roque, whom he met in 1953 and married in 1961.

Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973 at the age of 91.  The last eight years of his life had been difficult because of prostate problems, but he continued to be productive.  Of him, it was written in Time magazine, May 26, 1980: "To the end . . . Picasso remained Picasso; an indefatigable worker, a lover of mischief and pranks, quirky, increasingly aloof, mercurial, yet often remarkably generous and warm."

H.H. Arnason, History of Modern Art, p. 125
Ingo F. Walther, Picasso, 1999, Cologne, Germany
Time magazine, May 26, 1980
Alfred Barr, Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art
Archives of Phoenix Art Museum Docent Files: "Picasso"

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from Auctionata
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) The Spanish painter, graphic artist and sculptor Pablo Picasso created a body of work of about 50,000 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and ceramics. He studied at the Royal Academy in Madrid and at the Art Academy in Barcelona, where his father taught. In 1901 Picasso had his first exhibition in a gallery in Paris, followed by numerous international exhibitions. The works from hisBlue and Rose period and the establishing of cubism along with Georges Braque marked the beginning of his extraordinary artistic career. The paintingLes Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) is one of the best known works of Picasso. Like his monumental paintingGuernica(1937) no other work has marked the art of the 20th century. In honor of Picasso’s works, two museums, the Museu Picasso in Barcelona and the Musée Picasso in Antibes, were established during his lifetime. Famous for the diversity of his expressions, Pablo Picasso is one of the outstanding artists of the 20th century.

Biography from Auctionata, Inc.
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) A prolific and tireless innovator of art forms, Pablo Picasso impacted the course of 20th-century art with unparalleled magnitude. Inspired by Primitivism and developments in the world around him, Picasso contributed significantly to a number of artistic movements, notably Cubism, Surrealism, Neoclassicism, and Expressionism. Along with Georges Braque, Picasso is best known for pioneering Cubism in an attempt to reconcile three-dimensional space with the two-dimensional picture plane. Picasso’s sizable oeuvre includes over 50,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, theater sets, and costume designs.

Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso was born at 11:15 pm October 25, 1881 the first son of Dona Maria y Picasso Lopez and Don José Ruiz Blasco.  Family legend reported that the infant is given up for dead at birth by the midwife and is revived by his Uncle Don Salvador who blew cigar smoke into the infant's face making him cry.

The young Picasso is encouraged by his art instructor father to draw and paint although the artist would eventually tell others that he was fascinated in the way that teachers wrote numbers on the blackboard.  He would copy their shapes with very little interest in their mathematical function and create drawings.  In 1894, Don Jose handed over his brushes and paints, vowing never to paint again, after watching his thirteen year old son masterfully complete the feet of some finished pigeons.  It was at about this time, that the young artist starts to sign his pictures 'Picasso', his mother's maiden name.

Picasso spent little in formal studies, attending the Barcelona School of Fine Arts from 1896-97 and the Royal Academy in Madrid for a few months in 1897. Along the way he submitted projects that were far more advanced than those of the senior students for their final exams.  In 1900, Picasso visited Paris for the first time and spent the next four years alternating between Barcelona and the City of Light.

In 1904 Picasso moved to Paris and became a member of a circle of avant-garde artists and writers while living in a bee hive shaped ramshackle building called Le Bateau Lavoir.  This period coincides with the artist's Blue Period, where he took his subjects from the poor and social outcasts, with a sentimentalized melancholy mood expressed through cold ethereal blue tones.  Picasso did a number of powerful etchings in a similar vein, including Le Repas Frugal (The Frugal Repast) in 1904.  The Rose Period would follow where the artist's palette softened with pinks, light reds and pale greys featuring circus players (saltimbanques), street performers, dancers and the harlequin.  On May 5, 2004 the 1905 Rose Period oil painting Boy with Pipe sold at auction for a record $104M to an anonymous bidder.

Influenced by African sculpture and the simplified forms of painter Paul Cezanne, Picasso began experimenting, along with artist Georges Braque, in using a multiplicity of viewpoints so that many different aspects of an object are present simultaneously in the same image.  The result is called Cubism—a derogatory title coined by critics who only saw pictures 'full of little cubes'.  His first full-fledged Cubist painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is created in 1907. The painting, initially shunned by his friends, remained in artist's studio until the Museum of Modern Art, New York purchased it in 1937 for $24,000.

Pablo Picasso was married only twice, to Olga and then Jacqueline, and had four children by three women.  Women played significant roles in his personal and creative life, most notably: Fernande Olivier (together 1904-1911), Eva Gouel (together 1911-1915), Olga Khokhlova (together 1917-1927; son Paulo born 1921), Marie Therese Walter (together 1927-1936; daughter Maya born 1935), Dora Maar (together 1936-1944), Francoise Gilot (together 1943-1953; son Claude born 1947; daughter Paloma born 1949) and Jacqueline Roche (together 1953-1973).

When seventeen year old Marie-Therese is spied outside Galerie Lafayette, Picasso approached her and boldly declared "Mademoiselle, you've got an interesting face. I'd like to paint your portrait. I am Picasso."  Her classical features, youth and purity inspired the artist and she figured as muse for his acclaimed 1930-1937 series of 100 etchings forming The Vollard Suite, named after prominent art dealer Ambroise Vollard.

In November 1945, Picasso set up shop at the Atelier Mourlot Freres, a well-known lithography studio in Paris.  The printmakers awaited the artist with skepticism as they had seen many painters pass through their print shop. According to master printer Jean Celestin "We gave him a stone and, two minutes later he was at work with crayon and brush.  And there was no stopping him.  As lithographers we were astounded by him."  The Picasso-Mourlot creative partnership resulted in ground-breaking lithographic techniques, never before utilized, and produced some of the finest examples of graphic prints ever created.  "He looked, he listened, he did the opposite of what he had learned—and it worked" Fernand Mourlot would later say of his artist friend "He is a friend and a man of extraordinary generosity."

Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973 at his home in the South of France at the age of 91.  During the last five years of his life, he was extremely productive in the medium of etching and created the famed 347 Suite—a group of 347 etchings created from March 1968 to October 1968.  This monumental printmaking feat was followed by a series of 156 etchings, aptly named the 156 Suite, which were published posthumously.  These final etchings created an extraordinary visual biography of the artist and allowed his lifetime cast of characters—artist & voluptuous model, copulating couples, circus troupes, Spanish lovers, languishing odalisques, famed personages and voyeuristic gentleman to 'speak' for themselves.

"When you begin a picture, you often make some pretty discoveries.  You must be on guard against these.  Destroy it, do it over several times.  With each destruction of a beautiful discovery, the artist does not really suppress it, but rather transforms it, condenses it, makes its more substantial.  What comes out in the end is the result of discarded finds.  Otherwise you become your own connoisseur.  After all, I don't buy my own pictures."

Select Museum Collections:
Musee Picasso, Paris
Museu Picasso, Barcelona
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Tate Gallery, London
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Art Institute of Chicago
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Biography from Acquisitions of Fine Art
Pablo Picasso

"Yet Cubism and Modern art weren't either scientific or intellectual; they were visual and came from the eye and mind of one of the greatest geniuses in art history. Pablo Picasso, born in Spain, was a child prodigy who was recognized as such by his art-teacher father, who ably led him along. The small Museo de Picasso in Barcelona is devoted primarily to his early works, which include strikingly realistic renderings of casts of ancient sculpture.

"He was a rebel from the start and, as a teenager, began to frequent the Barcelona cafes where intellectuals gathered. He soon went to Paris, the capital of art, and soaked up the works of Manet, Gustave Courbet, and Toulouse-Lautrec, whose sketchy style impressed him greatly. Then it was back to Spain, a return to France, and again back to Spain - all in the years 1899 to 1904.

"Before he struck upon Cubism, Picasso went through a prodigious number of styles - realism, caricature, the Blue Period, and the Rose Period. The Blue Period dates from 1901 to 1904 and is characterized by a predominantly blue palette and subjects focusing on outcasts, beggars, and prostitutes. This was when he also produced his first sculptures. The most poignant work of the style is in Cleveland's Museum of Art, La Vie (1903), which was created in memory of a great childhood friend, the Spanish poet Casagemas, who had committed suicide. The painting started as a self-portrait, but Picasso's features became those of his lost friend. The composition is stilted, the space compressed, the gestures stiff, and the tones predominantly blue. Another outstanding Blue Period work, of 1903, is in the Metropolitan, The Blind Man's Meal. Yet another example, perhaps the most lyrical and mysterious ever, is in the Toledo Museum of Art, the haunting Woman with a Crow (1903).

"The Rose Period began around 1904 when Picasso's palette brightened, the paintings dominated by pinks and beiges, light blues, and roses. His subjects are saltimbanques (circus people), harlequins, and clowns, all of whom seem to be mute and strangely inactive. One of the premier works of this period is in Washington, D.C., the National Gallery's large and extremely beautiful Family of Saltimbanques dating to 1905, which portrays a group of circus workers who appear alienated and incapable of communicating with each other, set in a one-dimensional space.

"In 1905, Picasso went briefly to Holland, and on his return to Paris, his works took on a classical aura with large male and female figures seen frontally or in distinct profile, almost like early Greek art. One of the best of these of 1906 is in the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, NY, La Toilette. Several pieces in this new style were purchased by Gertrude (the art patron and writer) and her brother, Leo Stein.
Picasso enjoyed creating his art on many media. From paintings to etchings to ceramics, all of his works are a testament to his skills. There are even Picasso prints that are worth more than unique original works.

"Art is a lie that makes us realize truth." Pablo Picasso

Biography from
Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Málaga, Spain.  The son of an academic painter, José Ruiz Blanco, he began to draw at an early age.  In 1895, the family moved to Barcelona, and Picasso studied there at La Lonja, the academy of fine arts.  His visit to Horta de Ebro from 1898 to 1899, and his association with the group at the café Els Quatre Gats about 1899 were crucial to his early artistic development.  In 1900, Picasso's first exhibition took place in Barcelona, and that fall he went to Paris for the first of several stays during the early years of the century.  Picasso settled in Paris in April 1904, and soon his circle of friends included Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as two dealers, Ambroise Vollard and Berthe Weill.

His style developed from the Blue Period (1901-04) to the Rose Period (1905) to the pivotal work Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), and the subsequent evolution of Cubism from an Analytic phase (ca. 1908-11), through its Synthetic phase (beginning in 1912-13).

Picasso's collaboration on ballet and theatrical productions began in 1916.  Soon thereafter, his work was characterized by neo-classicism and a renewed interest in drawing and figural representation.  In the 1920s, the artist and his wife, Olga (whom he had married in 1918), continued to live in Paris, to travel frequently, and to spend their summers at the beach.  From 1925 into the 1930s, Picasso was involved to a certain degree with the Surrealists, and from the fall of 1931 he was especially interested in making sculpture. In 1932, with large exhibitions at the Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, and the Kunsthaus Zürich, and the publication of the first volume of Christian Zervos's catalogue raisonné, Picasso's fame increased markedly.

By 1936, the Spanish Civil War had profoundly affected Picasso, the expression of which culminated in his painting Guernica (1937, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid). Picasso's association with the Communist Party began in 1944. From the late 1940s, he lived in the South of France.  Among the enormous number of Picasso exhibitions that were held during the artist's lifetime, those at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1939 and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, in 1955 were most significant. In 1961, the artist married Jacqueline Roque, and they moved to Mougins.  There Picasso continued his prolific work in painting, drawing, prints, ceramics, and sculpture until his death April 8, 1973.

Biography from Artistic Gallery
(Pablo Ruiz y Picasso), 1881-1973, French painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and ceramicist who worked in France; the foremost figure in 20th-centuray art.  Leader of the School of Paris, he was known for his technical virtuosity, originality, and prolificacy.

Admitted to the Royal Academy of Barcelona at 15, he later moved to Paris, where he remained until 1947, then moving to the South of France.  His early works, e.g., Old Woman (1901; Philadelphia Mus. Art), show the influence of Toulouse Lautrec.

His production is usually described in series of overlapping periods.  In his melancholy blue period such works as The Old Guitarist (1903; Art Inst., Chicago) depicted, in blue tones, the world of the poor.  His rose period is characterized by a lighter palette and subjects from the circus.  In 1907, Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d' Avignon (Mus. Mod. Art, N. Y.C.), the most significant work in the development of Cubism and abstraction, and a herald of analytic cubism.

In the synthetic phase of cubism (after 1912), his forms became larger and more representational, e.g., The Three Musicians (1921; Mus. Mod. Art, N. Y.C.).  In the 1920s he also introduced collage.  His second landmark work was Guernica (Reina Sofa, MadridCentro de Arte Reina Sofa), an impassioned condemnation of war and fascism.

In his later years, Picasso turned to creations of fantasy and comic invention. Working consistently in sculpture, ceramics, and the graphic arts, he continued to explore his personal vision until his death at 91.

Biography from Ella Walton Richardson Fine Art
While originally from Malaga, Spain, Pablo Picasso nurtured his artistic talents in Barcelona as a youth before moving to France in 1906, where he tapped into the nerve of the Parisian art community alongside Braque and Matisse and joined later by Miro and Chagall.  Within the context of this creative environment and with war and social uprising always on his doorstep, Picasso cut new paths, experimented with virtually every medium available to him, and ultimatly created work that was nothing less than revolutionary and captivating.  Throughout his long artistic a career, the bulk of his energy was devoted to depicting the human form in thought-provoking and often unorthodox ways.  Nowhere, in his massive body of art more apparent than among his graphic works.

Pablo Picasso, a great draftsman and a master of the line , expressed "the graphic arts favorite medium of expression." The process of printmaking requires a balance of mastery and inventiveness and Picasso possessed both. He was imaginative with the use of traditional methods and was able to coax out new and inventive techniques to further is artistic intent in printmaking. Phillippe de Montebello, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explained, "Picasso, the foremost painter and sculptor of our century, is also its greatest printmaker. The more he is studied the more one percieves how intimately related are the life and the images he created, Nowhere in his oeuvre is this better demonstrated than in his prints."

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About  Pablo Picasso

Born:  1881 - Malaga, Spain
Died:   1973 - Mougins, France
Known for:  cubist painting and printmaking