By Jake Rossen
ARTISTS (1881–1973); MÁLAGA, SPAIN
Few artists have enjoyed the stature and legacy afforded to Pablo Picasso, the famed painter who ushered in the art style known as Cubism and whose name became synonymous with masterpieces of artistic expression. Keep reading for more on the acclaimed artist’s life and artwork.
1. Pablo Picasso's art included more than just paint.
Over his storied career and through thousands of artworks, Picasso used far more than paint and a brush. Among the tools and styles involved in the creation of his art, including sculptures, were:
- Sea stones.
- Toy cars, used in the Baboon and Young sculpture in 1951.
- A bicycle seat and handlebars, used to create his Bull’s Head sculpture in 1942.
- Linocuts, a type of printmaking using a linoleum block.
- Forks, used for the feet of a bird in his Bird sculpture in 1958.
2. Pablo Picasso preferred artwork to schoolwork.
Born in Málaga, Spain, on October 25, 1881, Picasso’s destiny seemed prewritten. His father was José Ruiz y Blasco, an art instructor, and from an early age, Picasso was weaned on the techniques of the trade. By the time he was 13, he was said to have exceeded his own father’s artistic abilities and began ignoring his formal education so he could sketch in his notebook.
Even the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, where Picasso wound up at age 14, was not enough to hold his interest. He took to the streets, sketching landscapes. At the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, he again skipped class to wander around and absorb real life. His experimental urges and dismissal of conventional teachings would come to define his work.
3. Pablo Picasso’s “Blue Period” paintings, including The Old Guitarist, were the result of personal tragedy.
Though he experimented with different art styles throughout his career, it’s Pablo Picasso’s “Blue Period” that stands out. Art historians dubbed this stretch of time from 1901 to 1904 to mark a noticeable shift in Picasso’s artwork to bleak scenes of private struggles, including poverty. The mood of each piece was accentuated by the use of blues and greens, and it's thought that the change in tone was the result of the death of a close friend, Carlos Casagemas. Of these, The Old Guitarist is one of his best-known, though this period also produced Blue Nude and La Vie. This was followed by his "Rose Period" from 1904 to 1906, which seemed to release Picasso from his depression and resulted in more colorful works like Family of Saltimbanques and Acrobat and Young Harlequin.
4. Pablo Picasso’s most famous accomplishment was helping introduce Cubism to the world.
In 1905, Picasso crossed paths with French painter Georges Braque, who had been busy experimenting with polychromatic and stylized landscape paintings. Together, the two explored what came to be known as Cubism, or the practice of applying geometric shapes—not just cubes—to subjects to reinforce the two-dimensional nature of the art. The style has its roots in traditional African sculptures (like tribal masks) and post-Impressionalists like Cézanne. Picasso’s 1907 portrait of five prostitutes, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, is considered the first Cubist painting.
5. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica might be his most celebrated work.
Picasso was living in Paris in 1937 when he was struck with inspiration, though not one he would ever have welcomed. That spring, German and Italian bombers leveled the city of Guernica in Spain as part of that country’s civil war. Using a massive canvas that was more mural than painting, Picasso was compelled to create Guernica, which used strong imagery like a bull and a grieving mother to depict the consequences of war. Originally on display in the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, the artwork wound up in the United States and was on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It’s now able to be viewed in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.
6. Pablo Picasso painted self-portraits for over 70 years.
One way of charting Picasso’s interests and skills in his artistic approach is to examine his self-portraits. Composed from the age of 15 to age 90, they reflect his ever-changing styles. He sketched many of them early on before shifting to his Blue Period style of greens and blues. Self-portraits in the styles of Cubism and Neo-Classicism followed.
7. Pablo Picasso had four children, and they inherited his works.
Picasso was not one to settle down. He had four children with three different women. With ballerina Olga Khokhlova, he had a son, Paulo, born in 1917. With model Marie-Thérèse Walter, he had daughter Maya, born in 1935. With painter Françoise Gilot, he had Claude in 1947 and Paloma in 1949. Paulo died in 1975, leaving three remaining children and Paulo’s two offspring as heirs. The Paris-based Picasso Administration manages their interests and helps to authenticate his works and debunk forgeries.
8. Pablo Picasso’s death preceded one of his most creative periods.
It’s believed that Picasso created more works in the last four years of his life than at any other period of time, embracing more ambitious and abstract approaches and even painting The Young Painter in 1971, a rendition of Picasso decades younger. He died on April 8, 1973 at age 91 of heart failure in Mougins, France.
9. Pablo Picasso's Full Name Is 23 Words Long.
Pablo Picasso's full name is actually Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso. The flood of names is based on those of various saints and relatives, with the "Picasso" part coming from his mother, María Picasso y López.
Famous Pablo Picasso Quotes:
- “It takes a long time to become young.”
- “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”
- “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.”
- “Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.”