PABLO PICASSO

(1881-1973)

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Biography

Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in 1881 in the town of Malaga, Spain, where he lived for the first 10 years of his life. Pablo's mother, María Picasso López, was of Andalusian stock and his father, José Ruiz Blasco, coming from a family of minor aristocrats, did not work until the age of 37, when he became an art instructor.

 

In 1895, Picasso began studying at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, then in 1897, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid where he began to feel the urge to become a Modern artist on his own terms. At the end of the summer of 1900, Picasso moved to Paris for the first time. After returning to Barcelona for a while, he went back to Paris in 1901 where he had his first exhibition with Ambroise Vollard. Because he couldn't afford comfortable living arrangements, he visited the galleries of the Louvre just to keep warm. His sad images from this interval form the Blue Period and are saturated with the depth of his depression. Although he sold pieces that are now among his most famous, Picasso did not earn enough money for more art materials.

 

In 1902, Picasso returned to live in Barcelona for the last time and began to draw with a new sense of sculptural form, often using a theme of two people meeting. The Blue Period continued through 1904 when he moved back to Paris permanently and met Fernande Olivier, his lover for several years. Slowly he began to turn away from the melancholic monochrome palette. Though The Actor (1904-1905) suggests a sense of suffering similar to the works just before it, the pink clothing indicates a break from the Blue Period and heralds Picasso's new obsession with the circus and stage. Around this time, Picasso met the Americans Leo and Gertrude Stein, who were just settling into the local cultural milieu. As she had with other promising figures such as Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound, Gertrude befriended the young artist.

 

Influenced by Cezanne and exposed to primitive art such as African masks and pre-Roman Iberian sculpture, he focused on crude simplistic features, imbuing his figures with a sparseness of form where rules of proportion were forsaken in favour of energy and movement. In 1907, with the seminal Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Picasso led a revolution in art, which became the basis for Cubism. This Cubism was a break from the past; an immense leap forward visually where painted objects were portrayed in fragments resembling refracted light, and, for the first time, art was seen as a representation of itself rather than of the natural world. The movement spread easily around Europe but did not make its debut in America until 1913, when several of Picasso's paintings were displayed at the shocking but impressive Armory Show in New York.

 

He remained in France during the war and became involved with Jean Cocteau and the Russian ballet helping to design the set and costumes.  To see his ideas realized in movement brought Picasso back to the human form, turning him from the Cubist obsession with objects to a renewed interest in the figure. This interest was not exclusively artistic, however as he met the dancer Olga Koklova whom he married in 1918.

 

Olga's pregnancy and the birth of their son in 1920 influenced Picasso's painting of nudes, which became fleshy and maternal in style. An ongoing affair with his model, Marie-Thérèse Walter, and the birth of their daughter in 1935 caused a permanent rupture in his already strained marriage. Within a couple of years, his friend, poet Paul Eluard, had introduced the painter to his next muse, the beautiful Dora Maar. 

 

When Picasso's promise to contribute a painting to the Spanish Pavilion at the Universal Exhibition in Paris happened to coincide with the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, a masterpiece was in the making: Guernica (1937), a work of prodigious scope that depicts the horrors and grief of war. Remaining in Paris for the duration of the Occupation, he continued to draw, paint and sculpt - almost obsessed with Dora Maar's face, as evidenced by the many portraits of her from this time.

 

With the end of the war came another era and another woman in Picasso's life: he took on a new model, Françoise Gilot, who bore him two children and lived primarily in the South of France where he became involved with ceramics. By 1953, Françoise had had enough and left with the children for Paris.  That same year Picasso began an affair with another model, Jacqueline Roque, whom he married eight years later.

 

Throughout the 1950s, major retrospectives around the world from Sao Paolo to Rome and even MoMA in New York had museums and collectors everywhere clamouring for his work. In Antibes, the Palais Grimaldi became the Musée Picasso. As his reputation continued to grow, Picasso lived a leisurely life at Vallauris, spending summers at the bullfights and doting on his children and grandchildren. 

 

Picasso passed away in April 1973 in Mougins, France.

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