A painter and printmaker who revolutionized western art, Pablo Picasso was born in Spain and lived most of his life either there or in France. His father was an art teacher and the young Pablo Picasso grew up in an artistic environment. By the age of fourteen, he was an accomplished draftsman and in 1900 at age nineteen he made his first trip to Paris. There Pablo Picasso studied the Old Masters and Classical sculpture and also was exposed to the paintings of Impressionists and Post Impressionists.
Between 1901 and 1904, the work of Pablo Picasso was dominated by a blue palette, which has led to this time being called his “Blue Period”. “Blue” was to symbolize the “. . . suffering-frequently hunger and cold, the hardships he experienced while attempting to establish himself.” By 1905, his “Rose” or “Circus Period” was beginning and also later that year, his paintings reflected a growing interest in African masks. By 1907, Pablo Picasso painted what is regarded as his first masterpiece and as the first Cubist painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
Although Pablo Picasso said: “I think about Death all the time. She is the only woman who never leaves me.” His relationships with women influenced much of his artwork. It is thought that his switch from “Blue” to “Rose” or from depression to happiness was a result of meeting Fernande Olivier. She was allegedly his first serious female relationship and he lived with her for seven years. From the time he met her, Pablo Picasso did numerous portraits of wives, children and mistresses.
In 1908, Pablo Picasso began working in Paris with Georges Braque. They worked together until the beginning of World War I in 1914. During this period, they created collages and the first phase of Cubism that included still life and portraits. They worked so closely together that many scholars are unable to tell some of their work apart or to determine which of them contributed certain concepts.
Pablo Picasso went to Rome from 1914 to 1918 to do set designs and costumes for the Russian Ballet and during this time also did some realistic painting and drawing. Printmaking emerged as a major part of his art as a result of the time he spent drawing. His graphic art, which actually dated to 1905, was diverse as he was ever looking for new modes of expression. Pablo Picasso did etchings, drypoint, linocuts, woodcuts, aquatints and sometimes combinations. In Rome, the artist met his first wife Olga Koklova who was a Russian ballet dancer.
In the early part of the 1920′s, Pablo Picasso did abstract figurative work that was so grotesque in distortion that it set the stage for his participation in Surrealist exhibitions in Europe. Also, the experimentation with figurative shapes led the artist to sculpture which was an interest Pablo Picasso had expressed earlier.
The 1920′s are regarded as one of the most productive periods of his career. Pablo Picasso did paintings with vivid coloration expressing his “. . .total experience of curvilinear cubism and classical idealism.” In 1927, he began a relationship with seventeen-year-old Marie Therese Walther and in 1936 with photographer Dora Maar. In 1937, inspired by the Spanish Civil War, he painted Guernica. It is regarded as one of his landmark paintings and certainly one that carried a strong message of human suffering during wartime.
During and after World War II, Picasso did a lot of modeling in clay and creating of assemblages with found objects. Many of these works expressed his sense of humor. After the war ended, Pablo Picasso began creating with ceramics and he was very productive with printmaking. In 1943, he became involved with painter Francoise Gilot and they had had two children Claude and Paloma.
His last female relationship was with Jacqueline Roque whom the artist met in 1953 and married in 1961. The last eight years of his life were difficult because of prostate problems, but Pablo Picasso continued to be productive.
Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973 at the age of 91. According to an article in Time magazine on May 26, 1980: “To the end . . . Picasso remained Picasso; an indefatigable worker, a lover of mischief and pranks, quirky, increasingly aloof, mercurial, yet often remarkably generous and warm.”
H.H. Arnason, History of Modern Art, p. 125
Ingo F. Walther, Picasso, 1999, Cologne, Germany
Time magazine, May 26, 1980
Alfred Barr, Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art
Archives of Phoenix Art Museum Docent Files: “Picasso”
Biography from the Archives of AskART.