1. Picasso's Early Genius
Pablo Picasso, hailing from Málaga, Spain, born in 1881, exhibited extraordinary artistic talent from his earliest years, reportedly sketching before speaking. By the tender age of 13, he had surpassed his father, an art instructor, who is said to have relinquished his painting tools to Picasso, vowing to never paint again. Picasso's quest for formal training led him to an art school in Barcelona, where he astoundingly completed the month-long entrance exam in a mere day. Reflecting on his early skills, Picasso once remarked that he could "draw like Raphael" in his youth, but that his life's work was learning to "draw like a child."
2. Picasso's Evolving Artistic Vision
Picasso's initial works as a teenager were realistic portraits and landscapes. However, between 1901 and 1906, he ventured through his Blue and Rose periods, capturing the plight of the impoverished and the life of circus performers. In 1907, he unveiled "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon," a groundbreaking portrayal of five women that paved the way for Cubism, which abstracted figures into geometric shapes. By 1912, Picasso pioneered the use of collage, and his style evolved from Analytic to Synthetic Cubism. Throughout his life, Picasso dabbled in Neoclassicism, reinterpreted works of old masters, and infused elements of Surrealism, Expressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Symbolism into his diverse body of work.
3. The Collaborative Birth of Cubism
In the bohemian enclaves of artists and writers like Henri Matisse and Gertrude Stein, Picasso found his kindred spirit in Georges Braque. Together, they co-created Cubism around 1909. Influenced by Iberian sculpture, African masks, and the work of Paul Cézanne, Picasso and Braque worked in close tandem, likened by Braque to "two mountaineers roped together." Their partnership, which led to a shared abstract technique, lasted until Braque's enlistment in 1914 at the onset of World War I.
4. Picasso's Multifaceted Artistry
Renowned primarily for his paintings, Picasso's creative endeavors spanned sculpture, ceramics, drawing, and printmaking. From 1917 to 1924, he also immersed himself in the world of theater, designing curtains, sets, and costumes for ballets, notably "Parade." His first wife, a dancer in "Parade," bore his first child; he had three more children, all from different relationships. Picasso also expressed himself through poetry, starting in 1935, and later penned two plays in the 1940s.
5. Picasso's Political Stance Against Franco
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 saw Picasso, a supporter of the Republic, engage in anti-Franco activism through his art, including a series of etchings. His most poignant political statement was the painting "Guernica" (1937), a response to the bombing of civilians in the Basque town by Nazi German aircraft aiding Franco. This powerful work, laden with symbols of suffering and chaos, spent much of Franco's regime in New York's Museum of Modern Art before being moved to Madrid's Reina Sofía Museum in 1981.
6. Picasso's Life Abroad
Picasso's early years were marked by moves within Spain, but by 1904, he had made Paris his permanent home, never to reside in Spain again, although he visited before the Spanish Civil War. He remained in France even during the Nazi occupation in World War II, despite being prohibited from exhibiting his work. Post-war, he settled in the south of France, continuing his prolific output until his death.
7. Picasso's Late Turn to Communism
At 62, Picasso embraced communism, joining the French Communist Party in 1944 after the liberation of Paris. He found camaraderie among the intellectuals and resistance fighters within the party. His political art included "Massacre in Korea" (1951), critiquing U.S. military actions, and a portrait of Stalin, which drew criticism from the French Communist Party for not being sufficiently flattering. Picasso also engaged in activism, such as protesting the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and advocating for Greek communist leader Nikos Beloyannis.