As a significant influence on 20th-century art, Pablo Picasso was an innovative artist who experimented and innovated during his 92-plus years on earth. He was not only a master painter but also a sculptor, printmaker, ceramics artist, etching artist, and writer. His work matured from the naturalism of his childhood through Cubism, Surrealism, and beyond, shaping the direction of modern and contemporary art through the decades.

Picasso’s artworks were unquestionably destined to be interwoven into the tapestry of mankind as some of the finest artworks of all time.

Picasso lived through two World Wars, fathered four children, appeared in films, and wrote poetry. He died in 1973. Pablo Picasso is perhaps the most influential figure in the history of 20th-century art. The varied range of Pablo Picasso’s artworks was not the result of drastic transformations in his style over his career. Still, it was instead based on his commitment to objectively evaluate the form and method best suited to accomplish his desired impact for each art piece.

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Pablo Picasso: Biography

Although he lived most of his adult years in France, Picasso was a Spaniard by birth. Hailing from the town of Málaga in Andalusia, Spain, he was the first-born of Don José Ruiz y Blasco and María Picasso y López. He was raised as a Catholic, but in his later life would declare himself an atheist.

Picasso at 27
This photo shows Picasso at 27 years old, no doubt bundled up against the frigid Paris winter. | Image courtesy: Anonymous on Wikipedia

Picasso attended the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, where his father taught, at 13 years of age. In 1897, Picasso began his studies at Madrid's Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Spain's top art academy. Picasso attended only briefly, preferring to roam the art exhibits at the Prado, studying paintings of Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, El Greco, Francisco Goya, and Diego Veláquez.

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During this nascent period of Picasso's life, he painted portraits like his sister Lola's First Communion. As the 19th century drew to a close, elements of Symbolism and his own interpretation of Modernism began to appear in his stylized landscapes.

In 1900, Picasso first went to Paris, the center of the European art scene. He shared lodgings with Max Jacob, a poet and journalist who took the artist under his wing. The two lived in abject poverty, sometimes reduced to burning the artist's paintings to stay warm.

Before long, Picasso relocated to Madrid and lived there for the first part of 1901. He partnered with his friend Francisco Asis Soler on a literary magazine called "Young Art," illustrating articles and creating cartoons sympathetic to the poor. By the time the first issue came out, the developing artist had begun to sign his artworks "Picasso" rather than his customary "Pablo Ruiz y Picasso."

Blue Period

The Picasso art period known as the Blue Period extended from 1901 to 1904. During this time, the artist painted primarily in shades of blue, with occasional touches of accent color. For example, the famous 1903 artwork, The Old Guitarist, features a guitar in warmer brown tones amid the blue hues. Picasso's Blue Period works are often somber due to their subdued tones.

Rose Period

The Rose Period lasted from 1904 through 1906. Shades of pink and rose imbued Picasso's art with a warmer, less melancholy air than in his Blue Period paintings. Harlequins, clowns, and circus folk are recurring subjects in these artworks. He painted one of his best-selling works during the Rose Period, Boy with a Pipe. Elements of primitivism in the Rose Period paintings reflect experimentation with the Picasso art style.

African Influence

During his African art and Primitivism period from 1907 to 1909, Picasso created one of his best-known and most controversial artworks, Les Damoiselles d'Avignon. Inspired by the angular African art that he viewed in an exhibit at the Palais de Trocadero and by an African mask owned by Henri Matisse, Picasso's art reflected these influences during this period. Ironically, Matisse was among the most vocal denouncers of "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" when Picasso first showed it to his inner circle.

Synthetic Cubism

This era of Picasso's life extended from 1912 to 1919. Picasso's works continued in the Cubist vein, but the artist introduced a new art form, collage, into some of his creations. He also incorporated the human form into many Cubist paintings, such as Girl with a Mandolin (1910) and Ma Jolie (1911-12). Although several artists he knew left Paris to fight in World War I, Picasso spent the war years in his studio.

A supersized Picasso will greet you at his museum
You can see this larger-than-life artist at the Picasso Museum. | Image courtesy: by fsHH on Pixabay

Picasso had already fallen in love with another woman when his relationship with Fernande Olivier ended. He and Eva Gouel, the subject of his 1911 painting, "Woman with a Guitar," were together until her untimely death from tuberculosis in 1915.

Picasso then moved into a brief relationship with Gaby Depeyre Lespinesse that lasted only a year. Soon thereafter, he met his first wife, Olga Khoklova, a ballet dancer from Russia, whom he married in 1918. They had a son together three years later.

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Neoclassicism and Surrealism

The Picasso art period from 1919 to 1929 featured a significant shift in style. In the wake of his first visit to Italy and the conclusion of World War I, the artist's paintings, such as the watercolor Peasants Sleeping (1919), reflected a restoration of order in art. His neoclassical artworks offer a stark contrast to his Cubist paintings. However, as the French Surrealist Movement gained traction in the mid-1920s, Picasso began to reprise his penchant for Primitivism in such Surrealist-influenced paintings as Three Dancers (1925).

In 1927, the 46-year-old artist met Marie-Therese Walter, a 17-year-old girl from Spain. She inspired the artist's "Vollard Suite," which consists of 100 neoclassical etchings completed in 1937. Picasso took up with artist and photographer Dora Maar in the late '30s. During the 1930s, Picasso's works, such as his well-known Guernica, a unique depiction of the Spanish Civil War, reflected the violence of war.

Later Years: 1940-1973

During World War II, Picasso remained in Paris under German occupation, enduring Gestapo harassment while he continued to create art. Sometimes, he wrote poetry, completing more than 300 works between 1939 and 1959. He also completed two plays, "Desire Caught by the Tail" and "The Four Little Girls."

He focused on sculptures during this era, participating in an international exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1949. Picasso subsequently created a commissioned sculpture known as the Chicago Picasso, which he donated to the U. S. city.

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In 1961, at 79, the artist married his second and last wife, 27-year-old Jacqueline Roque. She proved to be one of his career's greatest inspirations. Picasso produced more than 70 portraits of her during the final 17 years he was alive. Towards the end of his life, Picasso experienced a flurry of creativity. The resulting artworks were a mixture of his previous styles and included colorful paintings and copper etchings. Art experts later recognized the beginnings of Neo-Expressionism in Picasso's final works.

Picasso's Cubism

From 1907 to 1912, the artist worked with fellow painter Georges Braque in creating the beginnings of the Cubist movement in art. Their paintings utilize a palette of earth tones. The works depict deconstructed objects with complex geometric forms. Picasso's romantic partner of seven years, Fernande Olivier, figured in many of the artist's Cubist works, including Head of a Woman, Fernande (1909).

This is an exceedingly expensive painting
Picasso's works are among the most expensive in the world. | Image courtesy: Almudena Sanz on Pixabay

Both Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque moved toward abstraction, leaving only enough signs of the real world to supply a tension between the reality outside the painting and the complicated meditations on visual language within the frame, exemplified through their paintings Ma Jolie (1911), by Picasso and The Portuguese (1911), by Braque.

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The Legacy of Pablo Picasso

As one of the greatest influences on the course of 20th-century art, Pablo Picasso often mixed various styles to create wholly new interpretations of what he saw. He was a driving force in the development of Cubism. He elevated collage to the level of fine art.

With the courage and self-confidence unhindered by convention or fear of ostracism, Picasso followed his vision as it led him to fresh innovations in his craft. Similarly, his continual quest for passion in his many romantic liaisons throughout his life inspired him to create innumerable paintings, sculptures, and etchings.

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By the time he died at age 91, Picasso had created thousands of works of art. There are currently more than 29,000 cataloged Picasso artworks, and some estimate that there could be tens of thousands more uncatalogued. But, where can you find Picasso paintings in the world? The Museu Picasso in Barcelona houses one of the most extensive collections of Picasso’s work.

Picasso is always a legend, indeed almost a myth. In the public view, he has long since been the personification of genius in modern art. Picasso is an idol, one of those rare creatures who act as crucibles in which the diverse and often chaotic phenomena of culture are focussed, who seem to body forth the artistic life of their age in one person.

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