Born on October 25, 1881, in Málaga, Spain, Pablo Picasso (Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso) was a painter, sculptor, draughtsman, printmaker, decorative artist, and writer. “His revolutionary artistic accomplishments, including the co-founding of Cubism, brought him universal renown making him one of the best-known figures in 20th century art.”
The son of an academic painter, José Ruiz Blasco, Picasso began to draw at an early age. In 1895, the family moved to Barcelona where Picasso studied at La Lonja Academy of Fine Arts. Picasso’s first exhibition took place in Barcelona in 1900, and that fall he traveled to Paris for the first of several stays during the early years of the century. Picasso settled in Paris in April 1904, and his circle of friends included Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as two dealers, Ambroise Vollard and Berthe Weill.
Picasso’s work is generally categorized into commonly accepted periods:
Blue Period (1901-1904) – Picasso worked in a predominantly blue palette and his imagery focused on outcasts, beggars and invalided prostitutes. He also produced his first sculptures: a modeled figure, Seated Woman, and two bronze facial masks
Rose Period (1905-1907) – Picasso’s work was dominated by pink and flesh tints and by delicate drawing. These works were less monochromatic than those of the Blue Period. Harlequins, circus performers and clowns appear frequently in his work in this period.
Primitivism (1906-1908) – Picasso’s works made reference to forms of archaic art and made expressive use of distortion with subdued greys and earth colours and rhythmical repetitions and contrasts. Picasso made his first carved sculptures. The resistance of wood produced simplified forms similar to his paintings.
Analytic Cubism (1909-1912) – Picasso produced works where objects were deconstructed into their components. His images were increasingly transparent and difficult to interpret and characterized by a growing discontinuity of figurative fragments. From 1909, Georges Braque and Picasso worked closely together to develop Cubism. By 1911, their styles were extremely similar and during this time, it was virtually impossible to distinguish one from the other.
Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919) – In 1912, Picasso and Braque began to incorporate elements of collage into their paintings and to experiment with the papier collé (pasted paper) technique. “Both collage and papier collé offered a new method not only of suggesting space but also of replacing conventional forms of representation with fragments of images that function as signs. During two further phases of his development of papier collé in 1913, Picasso discovered that shapes could acquire other meanings or identities simply by their arrangement, without requiring a resemblance to naturalistic appearances. A single shape might wittily and equally convincingly stand for the side of a guitar or a human head.”
Classicism and Surrealism – From 1916-1922, Picasso collaborated on ballet and theatrical productions. He designed five complete ballet productions while still maintaining his career as a painter. During the 1920s, and with the continuing influence of Cubism, Picasso created a personal form of neo-classicism where his work showed a renewed interest in drawing and figural representation. From 1925 and 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 greatly.
“By 1936 the Spanish Civil War had profoundly affected Picasso, the expression of which culminated in his 1937 painting Guernica. After the invasion of France by the Germans in 1940, Picasso continued to live in his Paris studio. Although monitored by the German authorities, he was still able to work and even to cast some sculpture in bronze.”
In 1944, Picasso became associated with the Communist Party. From August 1947 he made ceramics at the Madoura potteries in Vallauris, partly motivated by political concerns. He also produced a considerable number of bronze sculptures in the early 1950s, including some of his best-known works in the medium.
“Picasso’s final works were a mixture of styles, his means of expression in constant flux until the end of his life. Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colorful and expressive, and from 1968 through 1971 he produced a torrent of paintings and hundreds of copperplate etchings. At the time these works were dismissed by most as pornographic fantasies of an impotent old man or the slapdash works of an artist who was past his prime. Only later, after Picasso’s death, when the rest of the art world had moved on from abstract expressionism, did the critical community come to see that Picasso had already discovered neo-expressionism and was, as so often before, ahead of his time.”
Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973 at the age of 91. He was extremely prolific throughout his career. He produced approximately 50,000 artworks including 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, 12,000 drawings, thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.
For a more in-depth biography of Picasso, see the source links below and be sure to visit the On-line Picasso Project – a non-profit project that catalogues an amazingly large number of Picasso’s works and a timeline of the artist’s life. The website contains over 16,000 catalogued artworks, over 6,000 notes, and thousands of commentaries, biographical entries, and archived news articles. (note, a login is now required to access this site)