Pablo Picasso ~ His Life 1881 - 1973
Header Picture: Pablo Picasso, Minotaur Caressing a Sleeping Woman, June 1933, Print
© Succession Picasso
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Pablo Picasso ~ Biography 1881 - 1973
Best Book on Early Years: Picasso--The Early Years, 1892-1906
Known as: Most famous 20th-century painter
Born: 25 October 1881, Málaga, Andalucía, Spain
Birthname: Pablo Ruiz Picasso
Height: 5' 4"
Died: 8 April 1973, Mougins, Alpes Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
Pablo Picasso, The most famous and also the most versatile artist of the 20th century, was born at Malaga in the south of Spain on 25 October 1881. His father was a drawing master, so Picasso's obvious talent received early recognition, and at fifteen he already had a studio of his own.
After a false start as an art student in Madrid and a bohemian period in Barcelona, Picasso made his first visit to Paris in October 1900. The city was still the artistic capital of Europe, and it became Picasso's permanent home from April 1904, when he moved into the building nicknamed the Bateau-Lavoir (Laundry Boat) in Montmartre, henceforth the new centre of avant-garde art and literature.
During these years Picasso's work was relatively conventional, moving through a mournful Blue Period (1901-05) to the mellower Rose Period (1905). The change of mood may have been prompted in part by his liaison with Fernande Olivier, his first great love. In Picasso's life, women and art were inextricably mixed up together, the appearance of a new woman often signalling a change of artistic direction.
Blind minotaur led by a little girl in the night, (Dec 1934)
Further Reading: Picasso Prints ~ The Vollard Suite
© Succession Picasso
Although his work was becoming commercially successful, Picasso resolutely abandoned his 'Rose' manner. In 1907, inspired by Iberian and African sculpture, he painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, one of the great liberating works of modern art. Revelling in a new pictorial freedom, Picasso went on to become co-founder (with the French painter Georges Braque) of Cubism, in which the visible world was deconstructed into its geometrical components. This was arguably the decisive moment at which a fundamental tenet of modern art was established - that the artist's work is not a copy or illustration of the real world, but an addition to it, new and autonomous. Thanks to Cubism, the artist's freedom also extended to materials, so that traditional media such as painting and sculpture could be supplemented or replaced by cut-paper designs, objects glued on to a canvas, or 'assemblages' of made or 'found' items.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Picasso never went on to create a purely abstract art. In fact his many-sidedness kept him one jump ahead of his admirers, many of whom were taken aback when he returned to more conventional figure painting and then, in the early 1920s, developed a monumental Neo-Classical style. Coincidentally or otherwise, in 1918 he had married the ballerina Olga Koklova and had adopted a prosperous and rather grandly respectable lifestyle - but one which he found increasingly irksome.
In 1925 Picasso began to paint distorted, violently expressive forms that were at least partly a response to personal difficulties. From this time his work became ever more protean, employing - and inventing - a range of styles such as no other artist has attempted. He was also an inventive sculptor (some authorities consider him the 20th century's greatest exponent of the art), and would later take up ceramics with great enthusiasm. In every medium he was enormously prolific, creating over his lifetime tens of thousands of works.
In the late 1930s, when Picasso's creative impulse seemed at last to be flagging, events drove him to create the most celebrated of all his paintings. Guernica was a direct response to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. The conflict began in July 1936 with a military coup led by General Francisco Franco, representing the country's fascist, traditionalist and clerical elements, against the Spanish Republic and its elected Popular Front (centre-left) government.
At the outbreak of war, Picasso immediately declared his support for the Republic, raised large sums of money for the cause, and accepted a commission to paint a huge mural for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris. Before he had even begun, news arrived that on 26 April 1937 Nazi planes, sent by Hitler to help Franco, had bombed and laid waste the Basque town of Guernica. Picasso set to work at once on preliminary sketches for Guernica, and then painted the huge canvas in about a month (May/June 1937). It became the ultimate expression not only of Spanish suffering but of the shattering impact of modern warfare on its victims everywhere.
In spite of everything, the Republicans lost the civil war, and Picasso remained in exile from his native land for the rest of his long life. During World War II he stayed in German-occupied Paris, forbidden to exhibit but not seriously molested.
After the liberation of Paris, Picasso joined the Communist Party, and for a few years some of his works were openly political; but he was also an international celebrity, established in the playground of the rich in the South of France. After a long series of liaisons he finally married for a second time (Jacqueline Roque, 1961) and led an increasingly reclusive life. Artistically prolific to the end, he died on 8 April 1973, at the age of 91.
Source: Life and Works of Picasso
The ultimate Picasso book - spoil yourself!: Picasso's Masterpieces: The Musée Picasso Paris Collection
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