PABLO RUIZ
PICASSO
(1881-1973)
 



 
  • Biography:
     
         Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in the Adalucian city of Málaga, on the 25th October 1881, in nº 36 Riego Square to be precise. Possibly the most inspired of the modern painters, he showed for the first time the light of the Mediteranean sea, light and color reflected in all his works. His interest in painting and drawing started early, encouraged both by his father, José Ruiz Blasco, teacher in the School of Fine Arts in the Andalucian capital, and his mother, María Picasso López.
     
    At the age of ten, his family moved to La Coruña, where his father was offered a post to teach in the School of Fine Arts there, and where Pablo was admitted at only 11 years old.
     
    And so began his professional career, to travel later to Barcelona in order to carry on with his official study in the Catalan capital.
     
    His first public work was possibly "First Communion", presented by the young Picasso in April 1896 at the Third Municipal Exhibition of Fine Arts in Barcelona. Later, he was to receive a mention of honour for "Science and Charity", a painting which he presented in Madrid, while he studied at the San Fernando School of Fine Art. His innovative character allowed him to digress from the dogmatism of the official schools, which led him to paint freely and meet relevant personalities of the art world. At the beginning of the century, he paid his first visit to Paris, where he met the Catalan dealer Pere Mañach, and where he showed his first collective exhibition in the festive city. Moreover, he also painted his first French work, "Le Moulin de la Galette".
     
    His "blue period" began in 1901 (1901 - 1904), with the sketches for his basic work in this colorist line, "Life". Shortly afterwards, 1905-1906, began his "pink period", showing in the Serrurier Gallery in Paris, where they began to appreciate and buy his works. And it was also at this time when he met Henri Matisse.
     
    In 1907, he painted his famous "Las demoiselles d'Avignon" and cubism began. Along with Geroges Braque, he formed what was known as the "cubist revolution". Within this style he also created scupltures, of which the "Head of Fernande" is his best example, which is a sculptural portrait of his partner Fernande Olivier, with whom he lived until 1912. In 1911, he exhibited for the first time in New York, in Stieglitz's Photo-Secession Gallery. His artistic activity was frenetic and his exhibitions continuous, and this, together with his relationship with Eva Gouel - who inspired his works like "Ma Jolie " - caused Fernande to leave him. Eva then went to live with him, precisely when his father died, on the 2nd May, 1913.
     
    By this time, the Málagan painter was known throughout the world, and showed his first retrospective exhibition in Munich. The First World War started, and many of his friends joined up. Eva became ill with tuberculosis and died at the end of 1915. Because of this, Picasso didn´t undertake any commercial work until the following summer. His interest in other arts, especially music and ballet, led him to meet great masters such as Stravinsky and Manuel de Falla. One of the Russian Ballet´s dancers from Diaghilev, Olga Koklova, was soon afterwards to become his wife. From this moment, Picasso created several sets and dressing rooms for ballet performances. His son Paulo was born on the 4th February 1921.
     
    At the beginning of the 20´s, a surprising "neoclassical" tendency appeared, with his versions of "Three Musicians" and later "Pan´s Flute" masterly reflecting this style.
     
    The appearance in his life of another woman (Marie-Thérèse Walter) and his surrealist tendencies were reflected in his erotic works "Les Metamorphoses". He met Miró and Dalí, and was to become great friends with the former, but his relation with Dalí was one only of professional admiration.
     
    He returned to Spain around 1935 when the influence of bulls appeared in his works, and he produced the "Minotauromaquia" etchings and other works where the minotaur and bullfights were the centre of his inspiration. His happiness in Spain was not to last long, as Civil War was declared in 1936, when Picasso joined the republicans, who named him director of the Prado Museum. But this was a post he never carried out.
     
    On the 1st May 1937, began the most famous work of contemporary art, the "Guernica", which was commissioned by the Republic to represent Spain in the Universal Exhibition pavillion in Paris. At that time, Picasso was living with a new partner, the photographer Dora Maar. At the end of the war, he exhiled himself in France. Shortly before that, in January 1939, his mother died in Barcelona. These experiences added together to another World War, drew Picasso to take up a political postion committed to the French Communist Party in 1944.
     
    Shortly afterwards, and between work and exhibitions, he met his new love, Françoise Gilot, with whom he had two children, Claude y Paloma. Through his political committment, he carried out several pacific works, like "The Dove", "Killing in Korea" and "War and Peace" ... But his personal life broke down once again, Françoise and the children leaving him, and the painter taking up with Jacqueline Roque Hutín, whom he would marry later, in 1961. During the 50´s he devoted himself to organising grand retrospectives throughout the world and carried out studies on classic works like "The Maids of Honour" by Velázquez.
     
    In 1963, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona was inaugurated. This was an important institution to which Picasso himself donated all the works he owned in 1970. Recognitions and exhibitions were innumerable during these years: "American Tribute to Picasso", "Picasso et le Théâtre", "Picasso and Man", "Hommage á Picasso"...
     
    He undertook his last works at the age of nearly 91. They are titled "Embrace" and "Reclining Figures", and are a painting and a drawing respectively.
     
    He died shortly after, in 1973, in Notre-Dame-de-Vie de Mougins and was buried in his castle in Vauvenargues.
     
  • Picasso´s pictures:

     
  • Primera Comunión, 1895-96, Oil on canvas, Museo Picasso, Barcelona.
    Pablo Picasso began painting at the early age of 11, when he was admitted to La Coruña Arts School. He started painting this picture at 14 and it shows mastery of color, composition and technique.
    Picasso himself said in his later years: "... at 15 I painted like Velazquez, and it took me 80 years to paint like a child...". Possibly both are true, but he really reflected the necessity to explore and innovate new artistic ways since the beginning of his career.
  • Ciencia y caridad, 1905, 88 x 68 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Picasso, Barcelona.
  • Guernica, 1937, 349 x 776 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
          This is more a cartoon on canvas than a picture. A cartoon without text because everything "is written" in this image. Picasso (later affiliated to the French Communist Party) was a defendant of the Spanish Republic, which made him a loyal artist, well-know all over the world.
    In fact, in January 1937, the picture was commissioned by the Republican government to decorate the Spanish stand at the 1937 Universal Exhibition in Paris, with a clear propaganda context. That's why the painting is so big: it was to be admired by a lot of people at the same time in a scene that wasn't like a showing.
    Two months later the terrible bombing of Guernica took place (26th April 1937) and it was turned into the ideal subject for the picture. But curiously and thanks to the painter's great ability there are no signs of war in it, no bombs, nor soldiers or guns. The main subjects are from bullfighting: horse and bull in a moment of bullfighting and a fugitive mother with her dead son in her arms. As usual of Picasso, his private life is reflected in his artistic themes. In this case and due to its political undertone, it caused great controversy, though years later this painting became a pacifist manifesto.
    Picasso took a month in finishing the picture, which was made in black and grey tones to emphasize dramatism and highlight the message. Short of time, he used sketches from his previous works to get the painting finished quickly. His partner at that time, photographer Dora Maar, took photographs of the process of development of the painting.
    Today, this painting is fundamental to Modern Art and anyone who looks at it closely cannot be left feeling indifferent.
  • Mujer en Azul, 1901, 133 X 100 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
                When only 20 years old, Picasso began to escape from the academic ways and, while he studied in the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid, he set up a studio near Zurbano Street, where he painted this canvas with his innovate chromatic idea. He entered this work in a contest - National Art Exhibition -, but it was failed by the jury and left, forgotten, for a long time.
    The model´s mysterious eyes, her expressiveness, the exuberant dress and the two background colors, make a composition with a new style, with a new naturalist influence.
  • La vida, 1903, Oil on canvas, Cleveland Museum of Art.
          This is the most representative painting of his "blue period", which presents ordinary poverty-stricken people: skeletal forms, alcoholics, beggars, prostitutes. All of them in this style - which remind us of the compositions of that other genius, El Greco - are pictured with blue shades as the basis of the composition, which highlights the desolated atmosphere of the message.
    It was painted in Barcelona and we can see the road of life represented by a nude couple, which watch a mother with her baby, both dressed. In the background there are nude persons too, which depict the course of life towards loneliness in old age. Everything is surrounded by an atmosphere of melancholy, which was characteristic of this period.
  • La tragedia, 1903, 105 x 69 cm, óleo sobre tabla, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
         Another "blue period" painting, in which the whole content is shown in its title. All characteristics of this period can be found in this work. Melancholy, misery, misfortune, all concentrated in the family, which gives even more dramatism.
    Blue colors and large shapes contribute to the coldness of the picture.
  • Familia de Saltimbanquis, 1905, 213 x 229 cm., Oil on canvas,National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
         On his way to his "pink period", we see the begining of happier themes and expressions. Picasso often worked with circus subjects and acrobats. The characters´ faces in this picture still remain melancholic, but the lines, colors and brush-strokes indicate another more cheerful and dynamic spirit.
  • La toilette, 1906, Oil on canvas, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo.
         In the middle of the "pink period" his paintings sold and he began to meet other painters who were to influence him, like Henri Matisse. Picasso still used simple two-shaded area backgrounds: the structure is the same, but changes in colors make it completely different. This is one of his first erotically themed pictures that he was later to paint in abundance.
  • El harén, 1906, 154,3 x 109,5 cm., Oil on canvas,Cleveland Museum of Art. Ohio.
         Also belonging to his "pink period" but in its latter moments, this picture is considered by reviewers to be the predecessor of "Les demoiselles D'Avignon". The Herculean figure of the man eating with the wine jug who is looking at the object of desire: the woman, who is the subject of the picture. An old woman appears in the background representing "La Celesina". Central women, combing their hair, dancing or washing themselves are the main point of interest for the other two characters. In "Les demoiselles D'Avignon" this role is given to the onlooker.
  • Las Señoritas de Avignon, 1907, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
         Primitive and classical, Greek and African influences show up in Picasso, emerging as a new concept of pictorial structure: "Cubism". This is the first example of a new style that a lot of other painters would follow. Softness and sensibility traditionally used in female nudes change suddenly into tough angles and planes, barely understood by critics of this time.
    This was, without doubt, the beginning for Picasso and for a lot of other artists who displayed this cubism style. This is taken to be one of the most important art movements of the 20th century.
    In spite of being the most extended theory, there are many differences of opinion about this picture being included as representing cubism, pre-cubism or pre-abstract. It is also a controversial theme, because of the appearance of male figures in his previous drawings - those of a sailor and a student. This possibly led to the creation of one of his "pink period" paintings, "The Harem", in which the theme is probably the view of a brothel. In "The Harem" Picasso painted males and in "Les Demoiselles D´Avignon" decided to paint only women in a "showcase", allowing the onlooker to share actively with the participants in the picture.
    Primitivism is very clear in the women´s faces, who are situated on the left of the picture. Reference is also made to the "black" sculpture. The two women situated in the middle are influenced by this Iberian art.
  • Los Pájaros muertos, 1912, 46 x 65 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
         Cubism; dislocated forms, angles, many superpositioned planes, refferences to reality... Picasso and George Braque initiated and studied this style and there's no doubt about the painter from Malaga's better works. This picture is one of them, from the last stage of cubist creation. Main characters - dead birds - are hard to find, feathers appear in different planes, beaks, feet mixed with elements that approach reality, like newspaper headlines or isolated texts.
  • La flauta de pan, 1923, 205 x 174,5 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Picasso. París.
  • Instrumentos de música sobre una mesa, 1925, 162 x 204,5 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
         Picasso's evolution is obvious, painting more classical works while using pseudocubist innovations. The friendly relationship Picasso-Miró, is reflected in his pictures; and we can see too in his works, the common investigation between both artists, which Miró gives so far. This picture clearly displays this tendency.
  • Figure, 1928, 73 x 60 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
         Continúa con nuevas ideas e influencias, la simplicidad de líneas y colores, el arte decorativo. Este cuadro supone una incursión expresiva fuera de sus épocas artísticas temporales.
  • La nageuse, 1934, 182 x 216 cm., Carboncillo sobre lienzo, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
         In this picture we can see expressive forms which Picasso would adopt in the "Guernica". The artist´s drawing is very much based on this work (cubism, involved forms, light...). These elements make a basically expressive style, ideal for transmitting ideas and emotions.
  • Madre con Niño Muerto, 1937, 55 x 46 cm., Barra de color, grafito y óleo sobre lienzo, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
         A study of Guernica. A big difference can be seen between Picasso's first studies and the final result. The previous works are much more complicated, with more lines, planes and even in color. The reason for this later simplification, was to make the different studies suitable for a huge cartoon, in which details would go unnoticed.
  • Mujer sentada en un sillón gris, 1939, 130 x 97 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
         Picasso makes use of this theme - woman sitting in an armchair - as a model for several womens´ portraits. Influences of works made for Guernica can be seen in this picture: exessive deformation of the face with round shapes and the body formed with rectangular colored masses. Influence of the Spanish Civil War is also obvious in this work, where facial expression is quite dramatic.
  • Naturaleza Muerta, 1944, 81 x 100 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
         At the same time as Picasso began enthusiastically making lithographs, he painted classical-theme works, fundamentally, still lifes. Color reappears in this painting, with contrasted basic shades. The picture is dramatically divided in two by the use of light, the upper part lit and the lower one shaded.
  • Las meninas, 1957, 194 x 260 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Picasso en Barcelona.
         In the mid 50's, Picasso began to do studies of classics and painted a series of art history´s great paintings. He chose "Las Meninas" by Velázquez. Other examples of this time are Manet's "Breakfast on the Grass" or David's "Sobbins' Kidnapping" . We can´t say that this is the final picture of "The Maids of Honour", because he made more than 50 versions of this study. His interpretations are so bold: the horizontal format, not vertical as in the original picture, to include more narrative elements and new characters, like Jaqueline´s portrait, his partner at that time, doves... His admiration for Velázquez is obvious, whose figure is enormous, from the base to the top of the picture. He is the pricipal theme of the painting. To Picasso, the painter was more important than his pictures, however special they may be.
    As a curiosity, Picasso began"The Maids of Honour"study in August and finished in December 1957, during which time nobody saw it except Jacqueline.
  • El Pintor y la Modelo, 1963, 130 x 195 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid.
         Most of Picasso´s colourist works were painted from 1960 in Nòtre-Dame-de-Vie, where he settled down. As shown in this picture with ridiculous faces, he had the skill of transmitting the painting´s main character´s feelings. It could possibly be the interpretation of a period of his private life, with characters - painter and model - and situations of his own setting.

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