(1881–1973). One of the most innovative artists of the 20th century was Pablo Picasso. Throughout his long career, Picasso experimented in many different styles of painting. His work was a major influence on the development of modern art. Along with Georges Braque, he created a style of abstract art called cubism. Picasso was also a sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, poet, and stage designer.
Pablo Ruiz y Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Málaga, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. His father was a drawing teacher. Around the age of 10, Picasso became his father's pupil. The budding artist held his first exhibition at the age of 13.
The family moved to Barcelona in 1895, and Picasso joined an art academy called the Llotja. In 1897 his painting Science and Charity was awarded an honorable mention at the Fine Arts Exhibition in Madrid.
Picasso then lived in Madrid for a couple of years. He painted life as he saw it around him, in the cafés and on the streets. In the Prado Museum, he came into contact with masterpieces of Spanish painting. The work of artists such as Diego Velázquez, El Greco, and Francisco de Goya were to be lifelong influences.
Picasso returned to Barcelona in early 1899 and decided to break with his formal training. He joined a circle of experimental artists and writers. Picasso first visited Paris later that year. There he began painting in brilliant colors.
A close friend of Picasso's, the painter Carles Casagemas, shot himself in 1901. The death had a profound impact on Picasso. He began painting images of poverty and despair, including death portraits of his friend. Picasso used mostly blue tones, so this part of his career is called his blue period (1901–04).
Picasso moved to Paris in 1904. By 1905, the blue tones had given way to earth colors—shades of rose or deep pinkish red. His subject matter also grew less solemn and included lively characters such as dancers and acrobats. This rose period lasted until about 1907.
With Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in 1907, Picasso touched new ground. The painting shows five nude females in flat, fractured shapes. Picasso had become fascinated by tribal art and carvings. Two of the women's faces are painted like African masks. At the time, many people found the painting shocking.
Picasso began working with his friend and fellow painter Georges Braquein Paris. The two developed a new style called cubism beginning in 1907. Picasso's painting The Three Musicians (1921) is a well-known example of this style.
The artists rejected traditions such as perspective and the realistic imitation of nature. In cubism, the subjects were fragmented into many flat shapes. Several sides of the same subject were presented all at once. For example, the side of a person's nose might show, along with the front of both eyes. The painters wanted to present more about the subject than could be shown in a single, limited view.
In 1917, Picasso went to Rome to design the costumes and scenery for Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company, the Ballets Russes. Picasso's paintings of this period (1918–25) showed the use of classical forms and drawing techniques. Picasso also continued working on his cubist style, making it less severe. He began to create sculpture in 1928.
Effects of war
In 1937 Picasso painted Guernica, which many consider his masterpiece.It was Picasso's response to the 1937 bombing of the small Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. In this and many of his later pictures, he used distorted forms instead of painting realistic figures. The imagery is more dreamlike. Picasso also began writing dreamlike poetry in the mid-1930s.
Picasso remained in France throughout World War II (1939–45). However, he was forbidden to exhibit his work after the Germans occupied the country. He joined the French Communist party in 1944.
Picasso continued to work into his 90s. He died on April 8, 1973, in Mougins, France. Picasso played an important part in each of the major art movements of the 20th century, continually experimenting with styles and media. He said that to repeat oneself is to go against “the constant flight forward of the spirit.”