Pablo Picasso
Year, Birthplace 1881, Spain
Year, Place of death 1973, France
Pablo Picasso’s exceptional drawing and painting abilities were noticed from a very young age, particularly by his father, a teacher of painting. He painted his first work at eight years old. After living in Malaga and La Coruña the family moved to Barcelona in 1895 and the young Picasso studied at the La Lonja school of fine arts, where his father was a teacher. He produced his first large academic work, Primera Comunión [First Communion], which was exhibited. The following year he began to exhibit in Madrid, where his work was favourably received. In October 1897 he won a place at the San Fernando Academy in Madrid but he decided to remain in Horta, the village of his friend Manuel Pallarés. In Barcelona, he was a regular at the Els 4 Gats cafe and associated with Jaime Sabartés and Carlos Casagemas. He exhibited at the cafe in early 1900, before leaving for Paris with Casagemas. He met the dealers Pedro Manach and Berthe Weill and sold some pastel drawings. He returned to Paris the following spring. He exhibited with Francesco Iturrino at the Galerie Vollard and met the poet Max Jacob, who showed him round the city and encouraged him. It was at this point that he adopted his mother’s name ‘Picasso’. His turn of the century painting, characterised by the use of a range of colours and marked contrast, gave way to monochromatic blue paintings, frequently showing solitary figures (the ‘blue period’, 1901-1904). After a period of repeated travel back and forth between Paris and Barcelona, and moments marked by hardship and low spirits, Picasso found some stability when he set up studio in the Bateau-Lavoir, in Montmartre, in 1904. He was friends with the artists Julio González, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Kees Van Dongen, the writers Guillaume Apollinaire and André Salmon, the dealer Wilhelm Uhde and the collectors Gertrude Stein and Sergei Schukin. He discovered the circus, which inspired several works. In his paintings, pink replaced blue (the ‘rose period’, 1905-1907). At this point, Ambroise Vollard bought Picasso’s entire collection of work. Encouraged by Matisse, Picasso then became interested in Iberian heads and African sculpture. A prolonged stay with his partner, Fernande Olivier, in the isolated village of Gosol in northern Catalonia, allowed him to concentrate on the development of his work. On returning to Bateau-Lavoir, at the beginning of 1907, he dedicated eight months to an ambitious work, for which he produced numerous studies: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. This painting is regarded as heralding the beginning of cubism (the term was coined by the critic Louis Vauxcelles with respect to a Braque exhibition, in 1908). The work created outrage, as did Picasso’s subsequent works. His intense collaboration with Braque, with whom he struck up a friendship during 1908, led to his further development of cubism. This investigation, which occupied the two artists until the First World War, developed in successive phases. The first was still close to the work of Paul Cézanne, while the second was increasingly abstract (‘analytic cubism’). The final phase turned once again to everyday subject matter, incorporating real objects within the works (‘synthetic cubism’). In 1912, Picasso created his first collage, Nature morte à la chaise cannée [Still Life with Chair Caning] and his first assemblage Guitare [Guitar]. Thanks to the dealers Vollard, Uhde and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Picasso’s fame began to increase, particularly as a result of his portraits and his Horta de Ebro landscapes. He first exhibited in New York, at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, in 1911. After the death of his partner Éva Gouel, in 1915, feeling lonely and directionless, Picasso accepted the invitation from Sergei Diaghilev, the director of the Ballets Russes, to design the sets and costumes for his next piece Parade (he would later work on Le Tricorne and Pulcinella). It was the beginning of a more glamorous career and a new life, as Picasso started a relationship with one of the company’s ballerinas, Olga Khoklova. His painting, which referred back to Ingres, was completely transformed by the use of quasi-neoclassical forms. Later he returned to the aggressive style which characterised Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and painted La Danse [The Dance], a work which signals a break with the preceding years and shows an affinity with the emerging group of surrealists. He took part in the first exhibition of the surrealists at the Galerie Pierre. He worked ceaselessly until the end of his life, using various different techniques and demonstrating exceptional energy. From his iron sculptures with Julio González, in 1928, the book illustrations (such as, in 1931, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Le Chef-d'œuvre inconnu [The Unknown Masterpiece] by Honoré de Balzac), his work on Las Meninas, in 1957, or the painted sheet metal sculptures of of 1961, he constantly reinvented himself, becoming one of the greatest artists of all time. AC