Pablo Picasso (*25 October 1881 in Malága; † 8 April 1973 in Mougins) was a Spanish painter, graphic artist, and sculptor. He is considered the inventor of Cubism and is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
Pablo Picasso’s talent was recognized in his early youth. In 1895, at the age of 14, he was admitted to an art college in Barcelona, where he learned his craft. He quickly found his artistic expression away from academic guidelines and changed it frequently during his career. After his academic training, he lived as a bohemian in Paris, where he met many other artists. Throughout his life, he commuted between different places in Spain and France. His oeuvre comprises an enormous body of paintings, graphic works, sculptures, stage sets, and curtains as well as ceramics. During his long life, he operated with a wide variety of styles, as well as some works that have become iconic, earning him the reputation of the artist of the century. His work is still being researched today and has brought with it a strong reception.
Blue and Pink Period
Pablo Picasso’s early work is commonly divided by art history into two phases, the blue period (1901-1904) and the pink period (1904-1906). As the names suggest, this is determined by the colourfulness of the artworks created during this period. In 1901, Picasso’s best friend had taken his own life, whereupon he painted many pictures capturing the darker side of life and also death in many cool, barely saturated shades of blue. From 1904, around the time of his move to Paris, the choice of colours in his paintings changed, with colours such as pink and orange predominating. The content of the pictures also changed: Figures from the Commedia dell’Arte made their appearance, as did circus themes.
Already in these years, Picasso experimented with the dissolution of the true-to-the-original image into cubic components. In 1907, with the Demoiselles d’Avignon, he completed what art history classifies as the invention of modern painting. This painting, which has not been fully deciphered to this day, shows on the one hand the influence of Iberian masks that Picasso was collecting at the time, and on the other hand his endeavour to do better justice to the painting as such by breaking down the content into its constituent parts. The latter, however, only became a completely new, independent artistic expression through his artist friendship with Georges Braque, which was described by contemporaries as Cubism. With this, the modern image was invented. Especially the techniques of collage and assemblage that went hand in hand with so-called synthetic cubism became groundbreaking for many generations of artists. The lively exchange between the two artists and thus the peak phase of Cubism in Picasso’s oeuvre ended abruptly in 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War. Cubist elements, however, remained a trademark in Picasso’s work.
In 1937, the large-scale painting Guernica was created as a pacifist response to a bombing raid on the Spanish city of Gernika. Here Picasso used Cubism as a stylistic device in such a way that the destruction and annihilation of people, animals, and buildings becomes dramatically visible. This painting became the most famous anti-war picture in the Western world, as did the stylized peace dove he painted for the Paris World Congress in 1949. Picasso also repeatedly produced portraits of his wives and lovers. Particularly famous is the portrait of Dora Maar, which is one of the most expensive paintings in the world.
Confrontation with role models
Throughout his life, Picasso’s work included an engagement with the art of his contemporaries. This was usually the result of a competitive spirit rather than a fruitful exchange, as was the case with Georges Braque. Although he was in close contact with the Surrealists in the 1920s, for example, and even took part in the Surrealist exhibition in 1925, he quickly fell out with part of the group because he felt misunderstood. Art historical models, however, found expression in his art, especially after the Second World War. For example, he quoted Goya, Velazquez, and Delacroix and appropriated new interpretations of them through his special cubist formal language. In the last years of his life, Picasso also frequently quoted and repeated his œuvre.
Pablo Picasso died in Mougins in 1973 at the age of over 90. He left behind four children from three relationships. His son Claude Picasso became his executor.
1895 – Start of art studies in Barcelona.
1900 – First trip to Paris.
1904 – Move to Paris.
1908 – Exhibition by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.
1918 – Marriage with Olga Koklova.
1925 – Participation in the Paris Surrealist Exhibition.
1936 – Director of the Prado (in absentia).
1937 – World’s Fair in Paris, Picasso exhibits “Guernica” in the Spanish Pavilion.
1939/40 – Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
1944 – Joined the French Communist Party.
1949 – Participation in the Paris Peace Congress.
1961 – Marriage with Jacqueline Roques.
1962 – Awarded the International Lenin Peace Prize.
1963 – Opening of the Museu Picasso in Barcelona.
1966 – Opening of the Museé Picasso in Antibes.