Biography of Pablo Picasso
Even forty years after his death, the legacy of Pablo Picasso, the most influential and versatile artist of the 20th century, has remained unwavering. Artists, art historians and the wider public are all still in awe of his astonishing ability and sheer inventive genius. The son of an art teacher, Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in Spain in 1881 and as a child he drew and painted constantly. It did not take long for his startling talent to be recognized.
Pablo Picasso’s early works can be characterized by their melancholic shades of blue—unsurprisingly this became known as his Blue Period. In 1907, now living in Paris, Pablo Picasso had developed a new form of painting known as Cubism. Alongside fellow artist Georges Braque, Picasso experienced unparalleled artistic innovation which was first heralded by his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. This painting of five prostitutes is an extraordinary work, so ahead of its time that even Picasso himself was unnerved by it and kept it tucked away in a corner of his studio for two years. Its geometric features and distorted faces would come to profoundly influence 20th century art. During this period Picasso was at the center of an intellectual, philosophical, and bohemian circle that included Gertrude Stein, André Breton, and poet Guillaume Apollinaire.
From the mid 1920s Pablo Picasso became caught up in Surrealism which was itself a product of Cubism. Completed in 1937, Guernica—Picasso’s response to the Spanish Civil War and the horrific development of targeting innocent civilians during wartime—is now considered one of the greatest paintings in art history.
After a horrific few years in Nazi-occupied Paris during the second World War, Picasso was free again to enjoy his ever-increasing fame. Following the war, his work became more simplified and embraced at times a child-like technique. Equally adept as a draughtsman, painter, ceramicist, stage designer, and sculptor, Picasso always argued that his radical shifts in style were a result of having evaluated each subject wholly independently.
Pablo Picasso was well-known for his enjoyment of the good life, an incorrigible womanizer who had a string of mistresses and fathered four children with three different women. He died in 1973 at age 91, but was still full of energy. Major retrospectives of his work continue to be held worldwide including recent shows at the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Among the museums dedicated to him are the Musée Picasso in Paris, the Museo Picasso Málaga and the Museu Picasso in Barcelona each of which have an immense collection of his work. Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Algers broke world records in 2015 when it sold for $179.3 million. It was the highest price ever paid for a painting at auction—it has since been beaten by Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi which sold for $450 million in 2017.