As one of the most important geniuses of the 20th century, his story and that of his paintings has fascinated people worldwide. Here's the extraordinary life of Pablo Picasso in 20 surreal paintings.
When you think about creative geniuses in history, especially in painting, Picasso is usually in many's top list. He was a prodigious painter the likes of which comes once in a century, and his legacy remains undeniably relevant to this day. His works influenced new generations of artists like few before him, as he stands as one of the best painters in history—and that's hardly an exaggeration when you understand the depths of his innovation and techniques. Of course, though, like with many great artists, his work is not for everybody. It can often be difficult to comprehend, and even harder to appreciate, if you lack the historical context that his life might provide.Colors, geometrical figures, romance, war, and struggle—all these elements are thoroughly combined in what might be described as one of the most successful artistic experiments of the 20th century. His signature style, cubism, is both captivating and alienating at once—especially if you don't get what he was trying to do. Regardless of what you personally think of him and his art, one thing's for sure: we can't deny the incredible talent of this well-remembered genius. Here's the extraordinary life of Pablo Picasso in 20 surreal paintings.
Picasso was born to paint. His fate was pretty clear from the beginning of his life, as he was born into a passionately creative family and to a father, Don José Ruiz y Blasco—a painter himself—who thus encouraged Picasso's artistic tendencies right from the start. His very first word, according to his mother, was "piz," short for "lápiz," which means pencil in Spanish.
Don José took it upon himself to teach his son the basics, and after that made sure to provide him the best education he could afford. Picasso began his formal education in art at the age of 11, and by his teenage years he had already produced accomplished paintings in a conventional style. It is around this time, when Picasso was about 12, when scholars typically consider his artistic career to formally start. He was an extraordinarily talented young artist, being able to complete in a week tasks with which most students struggled for over a month. In this phase, he produced quality, though hardly innovating, works—including The First Communion (1895) and Portrait of Aunt Pepa (1896).
Picasso's career flourished after his family moved to Barcelona, where he frequented bohemian circles and became highly influenced by Art Nouveau and Symbolism. By 1897, his works began to show distinctive signs of the latter style, which was key in his artistic development.
A few years later, right at the beginning of the 20th century, Picasso took to traveling beyond the borders of Spain, most frequently into France. Historians have called this time in his life the "Blue Period," based on the blue palette that was predominant in his paintings. It was a period characterized by a distinctly melancholic vibe, with a literal blue mood.
As would happen often in his career, the particular style Picasso adopted at one stage or another usually reflected what was going on in his personal life. The Blue Period was marked by the untimely suicide of Carlos Casagemas, Picasso's close friend, in 1901.
During this time, Picasso often portrayed beggars and prostitutes, or otherwise the downtrodden, whom he found throughout the cities he visited. One of the most characteristic and accomplished paintings from this period is The Old Guitarist (1903).
But by 1904, something in Picasso's life had changed, and went into a new stage of his career with a proportionally different style. He took up a brighter, rosier, and more colorful palette, and focused his paintings on rather different topics and models—usually circus figures with a far more upbeat feel to them. This is fittingly known as the Rose Period.
The end of the decade saw a transitional period for Picasso, who began moving farther away from convention and into the uncharted territory that would reveal him as the visionary we all know. Before he delved deep into his signature style of cubism, Picasso explored the frontier of geometry and perception through the inspiration of African and primitivist technique.His Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) is an exemplary work from this transitional phase, deeply influenced by African sculpture and Iberian styles. You can already see the roots of cubism, without the emphatic extravagance and radical distortion that distinguished his later works.
Just as the first decade of the 20th century came to a close, Picasso made his move into cubism. This style was presented in two distinct phases: analytic and synthetic.
Analytic cubism was developed by Picasso with the collaboration of Georges Barque, and was characterized by the use of monochrome browns and an otherwise neutral palette. The name comes from the explicit method Picasso and Barque used as a creative process, whereby they took objects apart to "analyze" them in terms of shapes and figures
Funnily enough, this was also the time when Leonardo da Vinci's most popular piece, the Mona Lisa, was stolen from the Louvre. Picasso was actually arrested and questioned as a suspect for the theft, but was cleared of any involvement soon after.
Synthetic cubism represented the culmination of Picasso's deep exploration of the style in the 1910s. Rather than abstractly analyzing the geometry of objects, this second version of cubism synthesized different objects and perspectives into one. For this, Picasso used cut paper fragments and pasted them together to compose new pictures. This marked the very first use of collage in the solemn world of the fine arts.
Relationships and violent phase
Picasso became involved with Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes as World War I was drawing to a close, and he soon married one of the ballerinas, Olga Khokhlova, who introduced him to high society. They attended dinner parties, formal balls, and several such events that radically changed Picasso's social circles. They even had a son together, Paulo.
However, Picasso's bohemian lifestyle and preferences didn't take long to produce conflict and tension as he delved deeper into Olga's circle of propriety and wealth. Eventually, the marriage broke down, and Picasso began a relationship with Marie-Therese Walter shortly after.
This tumultuous period of highs and lows was well reflected in Picasso's work, which became far more erotic and violent during this time. With the relationship between Picasso and Khokholva over, so too did his interest in dance as a subject matter for his paintings.
He was also well-known for keeping several mistresses, most of whom he actually depicted in his paintings. Among his most famous lovers were Eva Gouel, Dora Maar, and Françoise Gilot.
So, as the years went by, Picasso's interests and motifs changed accordingly, and his style adapted to the circumstances—generally become more refined with the passing seasons. He engaged in other artistic collaborations, most importantly with sculptor Julio González, with whom he produced many influential welded metal sculptures that also marked an important trend in the art world for decades thereafter.
But perhaps his most striking phase came with the advent of the Spanish Civil War and World War II after that. The unthinkable atrocities in the town of Guernica led him to create what is arguably his most famous painting, aptly named Guernica.
During World War 2, the Nazis left him mostly alone throughout the Occupation of France, but did confiscate a few of his paintings. More importantly, though, the Germans murdered many of Picasso's Jewish friends, which profoundly affected him. He commemorated them with several works of both sculpture and painting, most notably The Charnel House (1945).
During the '50s and '60s, Picasso once again shifted interests and turned to establishing his legacy next to the Old Masters. As such, he produced several of his own versions inspired in canonical masterpieces from the likes of El Greco and Velazquez. In 1961, he married his muse, Jacqueline Roque. This was Picasso's second and final marriage.
For the final years of his life, Picasso attempted to retreat from the chaotic happenings of fame and public life. After reimagining the Old Masters, he focused on portraits and ceramic or bronze sculptures. He was prolific during this time, but most of his works were dismissed by most contemporary art critics as the fantasies of an impotent old man.
More recently, however, critics have come to recognize Picasso's genius even in those later works as an important predecessor to Neo-Expressionism.
One dark night, as he and Jacqueline were entertaining dinner guests, Picasso collapsed. On April 8, 1973, he died from a massive heart attack. Devastated and unable to recover from the loss, Jacqueline Roque committed suicide in 1986.