Pablo PICASSO ( 1881 - 1973 )
Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881. His father was Don José Ruiz Blasco, a painter and art teacher. A serious and prematurely world-weary child, the young Picasso possessed a pair of piercing, watchful black eyes that seemed to mark him destined for greatness. "When I was a child, my mother said to me, if you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk you'll end up as the pope.Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso". Though he was a relatively poor student, Picasso displayed a prodigious talent for drawing at a very young age. Picasso's father began teaching him to draw and paint when he was a child, and by the time he was 13 years old, his skill level had surpassed his father's. Soon, Picasso lost all desire to do any schoolwork, choosing to spend the school days doodling in his notebook instead. In 1895, when Picasso was 14 years old, he moved with his family to Barcelona, Spain. where he quickly applied to the city's prestigious School of Fine Arts. Although the school typically only accepted students several years his senior, Picasso's entrance exam was so extraordinary that he was granted an exception and admitted. Nevertheless, Picasso chafed at the School of Fine Arts' strict rules and formalities, and began skipping class so that he could roam the streets of Barcelona, sketching the city scenes he observed. In 1897, a 16-year-old Picasso moved to Madrid to attend the Royal Academy of San Fernando. However, he again became frustrated with his school's singular focus on classical subjects and techniques. During this time, he wrote to a friend: "They just go on and on about the same old stuff: Velázquez for painting, Michelangelo for sculpture." Once again, Picasso began skipping class to wander the city and paint what he observed: gypsies, beggars and prostitutes, among other things. In 1899, Picasso moved back to Barcelona and fell in with a crowd of artists and intellectuals who made their headquarters at a café called "El Quatre Gats". Inspired by the anarchists and radicals he met there, Picasso made his decisive break from the classical methods in which he had been trained, and began what would become a lifelong process of experimentation and innovation. At the turn of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso moved to Paris to open his own studio. Art critics and historians typically break Picasso's adult career into distinct periods, the first of which lasted from 1901 to 1904 and is called his "Blue Period," after the color that dominated nearly all of Picasso's paintings over these years. Lonely and deeply depressed over the death of his close friend, Carlos Casagemas, he painted scenes of poverty, isolation and anguish, almost exclusively in shades of blue and green. Picasso's most famous paintings from the Blue Period include "Blue Nude," "La Vie" and "The Old Guitarist," all three by 1905, Picasso had largely overcome the depression that had previously debilitated him. Not only was he madly in love with a beautiful model, Fernande Olivier, he was newly prosperous thanks to the generous patronage of art dealer Ambroise Vollard. The artistic manifestation of Picasso's improved spirits was the introduction of warmer colours in what is known as his "Rose Period" from 1904 until 1906. His most famous paintings from these years include "Family at Saltimbanques", "Gertrude Stein"and "Two Nudes". In 1907, Pablo Picasso produced a painting unlike anything he or anyone else had ever painted before, a work that would profoundly influence the direction of art in the 20th century: "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon", a chilling depiction of five nude prostitutes, abstracted and distorted with sharp geometric features and stark blotches of blues, greens and grays. Today, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" is considered the precursor and inspiration of Cubism, an artistic style pioneered by Picasso and his friend and fellow painter Georges Braque. In Cubist paintings, objects are broken apart and reassembled in an abstracted form, highlighting their composite geometric shapes and depicting them from multiple, simultaneous viewpoints in order to create physics-defying, collage-like effects. At once destructive and creative, Cubism shocked, appalled and fascinated the art world. The outbreak of World War I ushered in the next great change in Picasso's art. He grew more somber and, once again, became preoccupied with the depiction of reality. His works between 1918 and 1927 are categorized as part of his "Classical Period," a brief return to Realism in a career otherwise dominated by experimentation. His most interesting and important works from this period include "Three Women at the Spring", "Two Women Running on the Beach/The Race" and "The Pipes of Pan". From 1927 onward, Picasso became caught up in a new philosophical and cultural movement known as Surrealism, the artistic manifestation of which was a product of his own Cubism. Picasso's most well-known Surrealist painting, deemed one of the greatest paintings of all time, was completed in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. After German bombers supporting Francisco Franco's Nationalist forces carried out a devastating aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica. In 1937, Picasso outraged by the bombing and the inhumanity of war, painted "Guernica." Painted in black, white and grays, the work is a Surrealist testament to the horrors of war, and features a minotaur and several human-like figures in various states of anguish and terror. "Guernica" remains one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. In the aftermath of World War II, Picasso became more overtly political. He joined the Communist Party and was twice honored with the International Lenin Peace Prize, first in 1950 and again in 1961. By this point in his life, he was also an international celebrity, the world's most famous living artist. While paparazzi chronicled his every move, however, few paid attention to his art during this time. In contrast to the dazzling complexity of Synthetic Cubism, Picasso's later paintings display simple, childlike imagery and crude technique. Pablo Picasso continued to create art and maintain an ambitious schedule in his later years, superstitiously believing that work would keep him alive. He died in 1973, at the age of 91, in Mougins. His legacy, however, has long endured. Inarguably one of the most celebrated and influential painters of the 20th century, Picasso continues to garner reverence for his technical mastery, visionary creativity and profound empathy, and, together, these qualities have distinguished him as a revolutionary artist. Picasso also remains renowned for endlessly reinventing himself, switching between styles so radically different that his life's work seems to be the product of five or six great artists rather than just one.