Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was a genius and a master painter, but how did he get there? Learn about Picasso's life and his most famous paintings.


Born: 1881, October 25, Málaga, Spain
Died: 1973, April 8, Mougins, France

When asked to name one famous artist, many people would immediately say Pablo Picasso. What gave him that status? The answer is that he was the ultimate creative person, always following his impulse and his curiosity. Forever trying new approaches, always the leader and never doing things to please others, but only his own lust. Picasso so enjoyed doing what he did.

Pablo Ruiz y Picasso was born in Málaga in Spain as the first child in a middle-class family. When little baby Pablo entered this world, he did not breathe. The midwife gave up on him but Pablo's uncle, who was a doctor, blew cigar smoke in his face and thus revived him. Picasso loved to tell the story of his unusual rescue from death during first minutes of his life.

Pablo Picasso was extremely talented very early in life. His father, also an artist and working as a professor of art, gave him lessons from the age of seven. Picasso said:

"...My first drawings could never have been shown at an exhibition of children's drawings. I lacked the clumsiness of a child, his naivety. I made academic drawings at the age of seven, the minute precision of which frightened me."

At age 13 Picasso's father asked him to finish a painting for him. Picasso did such a good job that his father handed over his paint and brush and vowed never to paint again. The same year Picasso was admitted to the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona where his father worked. Three years later Pablo Picasso, 16, travelled without his family to Madrid to attend the Royal Academy of San Fernando.

In Madrid Picasso skipped many classes, but had a chance to study masters such as Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, Francisco Zurbarán and especially El Greco, who greately influenced his work. In 1900, at the age of 19, Picasso made his first trip to Paris and saw paintings by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Pierre Bonnard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. After a few months he returned to Madrid and founded a socialist magazine, Arte Joven (Young Art), with a anarchist friend. They published five issues for which Picasso made the illustrations. During the first decade of the 20th century, Picasso divided his time between Paris and Barcelona, but later he settled in Paris. Spain was too prejudice and conventional and hindered Picasso's desire to investigate new directions in art. In the Montmartre and Montparnasse quarters, he socialised with people like Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, Alfred Jarry, André Breton and Gertrude Stein. Later Gertrude Stein became his most important patron.

Picasso's periods: Pablo Picasso's development as an artist constitutes different periods in his life, the most well known are the Blue Period, the Rose Period and the Cubist Period. But in the 1890:s the very young Picasso's work was, as required by the establishment, performed with convincing realism. First Communion which he painted in 1896 and showed at an important exhibition in Barcelona, is traditional in its topic and very realistic. Picasso was then 14 years old. The same year he painted Portrait of Aunt Pepa, considered to be a milestone in Picasso's career. In this wonderful portrait one can already see the desire in Picasso to be more expressive and less academic.

During the Blue Period (1901–1904) Picasso, leaving academic realism behind, portrays despair; poor and sick people in blue cold colors.The Blue Period began at the time of the suicide of Picasso's close companion Casamegas. Pablo Picasso:

"I began to paint in blue, when I realised that Casamegas had died."

The Rose Period (1904–1906) is somewhat happier in pink and orange colors depicting saltimbanques (circus people, acrobats and harlequins). Picasso studied Greek sculptures at the Louvre and classical ideals are very visible in paintings from this period. During the Blue and Rose period Picasso sold some paintings but he had not had his breakthrough yet.

Just before Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque developed cubism together, Picasso had been studying Iberian and African sculptures for a while. The stylized forms inspired him to make the painting considered to be the starting point of analytic cubism: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907). The painting horrified his colleagues, who feared that he was depressed and would kill himself. But quickly enough, they too were interested in this new approach to art; it was in fact a revolution and a complete rebellion against western art thus far. In a cubist painting the motive is shown from all perspectives, all angles at the same time. The cubist movement soon had many followers and Picasso and Braque continued to further develop the ideas between 1909 and 1912.
Eventually Pablo Picasso acquired immense fame and fortune and he was able to enjoy the status of a master painter. He worked very hard not to let this position compromise him; but fact is that the public's enormous interest in Picasso tormented him in his mature years. For an artist whose lifeblood was to provoke the establishment, it was a plague to become part of it, having people applaud every scribble he made.

Much of the interest in Pablo Picasso concerned his personal life. And his stormy love affairs certainly contributed to this. Picasso married twice, but he was a ladies man and also had several mistresses. He had four children by two women, and seemed to have the unfortunate talent of causing broken hearts and legal disputes. One of his mistresses was Dora Maar, a painter and photographer who was constantly by Picasso's side during the war years in the 1930s and 1940s. She documented the creation of Picasso's most famous painting, Guernica, depicting a horrific event in the Spanish civil war.

After cubism Picasso moved again towards classical ideals in his neoclassical period. He kept working hard all his life using a mixture of styles. He paraphrased old masters such as Velázquez and Rembrandt, and he also sought to express himself with the simplicity found in children's drawings. Pablo Picasso was incredibly productive throughout his life leaving many thousands of paintings, etchings, drawings, posters, ceramics and sculptures behind, and much more. His work and his ideas are always present in western culture, having changed it forever. Some visible landmarks also place Picasso at the center of people's everyday lives; in Chicago for example there is a 15 meter high sculpture, the Chicago Picasso, that Picasso donated to the people of the city in 1967.

Some of the largest collections of Pablo Picasso's art can be found at the Musée Picasso in Paris, the Museo Picasso Málaga in Málaga Spain and at The Museu Picasso in Barcelona. In May 2010, Picasso's painting Nude, Green Leaves and Bust was auctioned at Christie's in New York at world record price US$106.5 million.

"Everyone wants to understand art. Why don't we try to understand the songs of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand."

-Pablo Picasso

Paintings by Pablo Picasso

Early years:

Le picador (1889-1890)

Pigeons (1890)

The First Communion (1896)

Portrait of Aunt Pepa (1896)

Self-Portrait: Yo Picasso (1901)

Portrait of Pedro Mañach (1901)

The Absinth Drinker (1901)

Woman in a Blue Hat (1901)

The Blue Period (1901-1904):

Evocation - The Burial of Casamegas (1901)

Femme aux Bras Croisés (1902)

La Vie (1903)

The Tragedy (1903)

The Old Guitarist (1903)

The Actor (1904)

Woman with a Crow (1904)

Portrait of Suzanne Bloch (1904)

The Rose Period (1904–1906):

Tumblers (Mother and Son) (1905)

Girl in a Chemise (1905)

Garçon à la pipe (1905)

The Family of Saltimbanques (1905)

Boy Leading a Horse (1906)

La Toilette (1906)

The Cubist Period (1907-1917):

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Self Portait (1907)

The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro (1909)

Bread and Fruit Dish on Table (1909)

Woman wth Pears (1909)

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard (1910)

Guitar (1913)

Harlequin (1915)

Neoclassism (1918-1923):

Sleeping Peasants (1919)

Three Musicians (1921) (Post-Cubism)

Women Running on the Beach (1922)

The Pipes of Pan (1923)

1924 and forward:

Paul as Harleqiun (1924)

The Three Dancers (1925)

Studio with Plaster Head (1925)

Woman with a Flower (1932)

Interior with Girl Drawing (1935)

Bathers with a Toy Boat (1937)

Portrait of Dora Maar (1937)

Weeping Woman (1937)

Guernica (1937)

Girl with a Boat (Maya Picasso) (1938)

Cavalier with Pipe (1968)

The Studio "La Californie" at Cannes (1956)

Las Meninas, after Velázquez (1957)

Lucheon on the Grass, after Manet (1961)

Female Nude and Smoker (1968)

Rembrandt Figure and Eros (1969)

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