October 25, 2012
On Oct. 25, 1881, perhaps the 20th century’s most interesting artist, Pablo Ruiz y Picasso* was born in Málaga, Spain; before he died in Mougins, France, in 1973, he co-founded the Cubist movement, the technique of “assemblage,” and is credited with co-inventing collage as an art style.
As Alden Whitman wrote in his New York Times obituary, “… Picasso, with a feverish creativity and lavish talent lasting into old age, was a man of many styles whose artistic life revealed a continuous process of exploration. He created his own universe, investing it with his own human beings and his own forms of beasts and myths.”
" ‘For me, a picture is neither an end nor an achievement but rather a lucky chance and art experience,’ [Picasso] once explained. ‘I try to represent what I have found, not what I am seeking. I do not seek -- I find.’ "
Picasso’s father, Don Jose Ruiz y Blasco, was a painter, mainly of natural scenes, and professor of art at the School of Arts in Málaga. He tutored his son, who quickly revealed his prodigy in drawing and oil painting, in classical style, copying the works of masters.
In 1895, after the tragic death of Picasso’s sister, age seven, the family moved to Barcelona. His father persuaded the Barcelona School of Fine Arts, where he had accepted a position, to admit his 13-year-old son into the advanced classes.
At 16, Picasso was admitted to Spain’s premier art school in Madrid. His extraordinary skills were balanced by a complete lack of academic discipline; he quit the Royal Academy within months, and frequented instead the Prado and the works of Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, Francisco Zurbarán, and El Greco.
After dropping out of the academy, Picasso lived in poverty. He co-founded an art journal in Madrid, serving as the magazine’s illustrator, mostly drawings of the plight of the poor. He began signing his works simply, Picasso. His Blue period, reflective of these financial straits, was 1901-1904.
After meeting and entering a romantic relationship with Fernande Olivier, his painting brightened; the Rose period, when the harlequins became symbolic of his painting, lasted for a couple of years.
He moved back to Barcelona, but began making regular visits to Paris. Leo and Gertrude Stein began supporting his work around 1905, and joined the Parisian gallery of the German art historian, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, in 1907.
Around 1909, Picasso, along with Georges Braque, began the Cubist movement, which, for Picasso, last until just after World War I; when he, like many other European artists, “returned to order,” and began painting in a neo-classical style, and introduced the minotaur as a recurring element in his paintings. The Spanish Civil War inspired perhaps the most famous of the paintings in this period, “Guernica” (1937). And during the war he financially supported the Republicans against the military coup of Francisco Franco.
But as Whitman wrote, “But masterpiece or something not so exalted, virtually all Picasso were interesting and provocative. Praised or reviled, his work never evoked quiet judgments.” And became very expensive, and reflective of the artist’s ego.
Picasso said, “There is no such thing as a bad Picasso. Some are just less good than others.”
In 1944, Picasso joined the Communist Party, and remained a member until his death. He is noted too for his romantic relationships, and in 1944, when he tired of his current mistress, he began an affair with an art student, Francoise Gilot, 40 years his junior. He did not remain faithful, but had two children, Claude and Paloma, with Gilot. Tiring of his infidelity, she left with the children in 1953, and pubished the best-selling “Life with Picasso” in 1964. (She married Jonas Salk in 1970.)
- Picasso’s baptism name, honoring his relatives and various saints, was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad, with the surnames of his father, Ruiz, y (and) his mother, Picasso. Perhaps his parents felt the need to bless their child with so many names as Pablo, their first child, was still born.