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Biography of
Pablo Picasso
(Malaga, Spain, 1881 -
Mougins, France, 1973)

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, known by his second last name, was born in Malaga, Spain on October 25, 1881. He is the son of José Ruiz y Blasco, professor in the School of Fine Arts, and María Picasso y López. His father introduced him to drawing and painting. When Picasso was ten years old, his family moved to Corunna, where he continued his art studies. In 1895, they moved to Barcelona, and Picasso enrolled in the School of Fine Arts. At the age of fifteen, he set up his first studio at Ciudad Condal. Until 1898, Picasso used both his maternal and paternal last names to sign his works, but as of 1901 he signed using only his mother's last name.

In 1897, Picasso exhibited his painting Science and Charity in the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Madrid.

In Barcelona, Picasso frequented the pub Els Quatre Gats, and here he was exposed to anarchist thinking. The war in Cuba and the poverty in Spain had created a hotbed for the social violence that inspired some of Picasso's works.

He resided in Barcelona for nine years, moving to Madrid and Paris for shorter periods of time. Between 1900 and 1902, Picasso made three trips to Paris and finally moved there in 1904, attracted to the Bohemian atmosphere. His works depict dance halls and cafés. The work of Edgar Degas and the style of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec influenced Picasso. In his work The Blue Room, the influence of both painters can be seen. This period, which spanned from 1901 to 1904, is known as the Blue Period because Picasso used the color blue almost exclusively in his work, which allowed him to portray the solitude of his characters whose figures appear elongated, recalling the style of El Greco.

Toward 1904, Picasso set up in his friend the sculptor Paco Durrio's studio in Paris. He changed his pallet and themes, moving from the Blue Period to the Rose Period, which depicted pink and red tones with an emphasis on line and color more than on the drawing. The themes alluded to the zoological and circus world, with harlequins, animal tamers, and clowns; they also alluded to motherhood. In 1905, he painted Family of Saltimbanques. In the figure of the harlequin he painted his other self, the person he loved but could not be, someone who was different than him. This presentation would be repeated in later works as well.

Also in 1904, Picasso met the woman who would become his first true love: Fernande Olivier, model for artists and known in the Spanish community of Bateau-Lavoir as "Beautiful Fernande." They were both twenty-one years old. Fernande became his source of inspiration. Their relationship entered into crisis at the end of 1907, but it lasted until 1912.

After 1906, Picasso left the harlequin theme and was attracted to classicism, Iberian sculpture, and African art. The result of all of these expressions is the painting The Young Ladies of Avignon, which finally came to light in 1907. This is the pinnacle work in which these influences are combined with the elements taken from El Greco and Cézanne. Here, Picasso broke with traditional painting outlines, representing the nude woman with sharp, angular lines and planes.

Picasso's studio became a focus of discussion and debate, and not only about Picasso's works. Braque brought his paintings there; Matisse and Picasso exchanged paintings. The relationship between Picasso and Matisse went from competition to mockery, passing into intense mutual admiration. Matisse said that nobody looked at his work the way Picasso did, and nobody looked at Picasso's work like he did.

In 1908, Picasso, along with Braque, painted a series of landscapes whose design gave rise to cubism. (The critics of the time described the paintings as though they had been made with "little cubes.") This was the turning point for the avant-garde artists who would abandon the naturalist description in favor of abstract forms of conventional perception. The monochromatic pallet prevailed in these representations of completely fragmented motifs depicted from several sides simultaneously. Picasso's favorite subjects were musical instruments, still lifes, and his friends.

As a friend of the Steins, who bought pieces from him, Picasso began to be known and appreciated by collectors who would acquire his works to grow their collections. In September of 1909, after having stayed in Horta Sant Joan with Fernande visiting relatives and painting landscapes, Picasso returned to Paris. Between 1910 and 1911, Picasso and Braque maintained a very close relationship, and by not signing their paintings, they made it difficult to distinguish the work of each.

In 1912, Picasso completed his first collage, Still Life with Chair Caning, where he combined paper and a piece of oilcloth on a canvas painted only in some areas. In this phase of cubism, color played a more prominent role. Picasso also completed his first sculpture, Guitar, made of cardboard, string, and wire. Additionally, Picasso made sculptures such as the bronze bust of Fernande Olivier and Glass of Absinthe, 1914, a sculpture in colored bronze. Violin Hanging on the Wall is from the same period. For its completion, Picasso added sand to the painting and simulated the collage effect with planes that look like paper cuttings.

During the war in 1914, Picasso traveled to Rome to make the sets for Sergei Diaghilev's Russian ballets. In that time, his work centered on cubist still lifes and naturalist portraits. The styles had coexisted in his work only since 1917. He met Olga Koklova, whom he would later marry. Picasso painted her several times in a figurative and realistic style, as he did with his son Paulo, dressed as a harlequin, and his many friends.

In 1918, Picasso began the Duchess period, which would end around 1923. In May of 1918, Picasso moved with Olga to Hotel Lutetia and his lifestyle changed. He frequented the Russian ballet circle and moved among the high society.

He continued working on realist and cubist paintings simultaneously. In May of 1919, Picasso arrived in London, still with the Russian ballet. This gave Picasso the opportunity to interact with English society, where he met many artists and writers. In 1920, Massine and Diaghilev presented The Three-Cornered Hat in the Paris Théâtre National de l'Opera. Picasso made the sketches for the sets, as he did for Pulcinella.

After his marriage to Olga and the birth of his first child, Picasso enjoyed a happy home life; he had a very active social life, alternating between the aristocracy and Parisian intellectuals. Accepted by society and art critics, Picasso was considered part of the French tradition that stood out above the anti-bourgeois Dadaists, who began to be replaced by a group known as the Surrealists.

In the summer of 1924, Picasso developed a series of pre-surrealist drawings in a folder of sketches, although he never officially joined the surrealist movement.

In 1927, he met Marie-Thèrése Walter and they maintained a secret relationship until the birth of their daughter, Maya, in 1935. Picasso's relationship with Olga became very complicated as he tried to keep this relationship a secret.

In 1928, Picasso completed a large collage, Minotaur, and in March of 1928, he resumed his friendship with sculptor Julio González to learn welding techniques. In the autumn of 1930, he completed a series of sculptures, and Marie-Thèrése moved in front of the apartment where Picasso lived with Olga. From 1936, both ladies had to share the painter with a third woman, photographer Dora Maar.

In 1935, Picasso finished a series of engravings called Minotauromachy, where he mixed the minotaur and bullfight themes; in this work, the figure of the bull and the disemboweled horse prefigure the images of Guernica, the great mural considered by the majority to be one of the most important individual works of art of the 20th century.

The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War gave Picasso greater political awareness, and as a result, in 1937, he painted one of his most well-known works, Guernica. In 1943, he met Françoise Gilot. Picasso had two children with her: Claude and Paloma. He then began his Vallauris Period, in which he worked on magnificent ceramics. In 1944, Picasso joined the French Communist Party and exhibited seventy-seven new works in the Salon d'Automne (Autumn Salon).

In the 1950s, Picasso finished numerous series relating to great classic paintings, which he reinterpreted in homage to them.

In 1954, Picasso became fascinated with a mysterious adolescent named Sylvette with a delicate profile and long blonde hair. She agreed to pose for him in exchange for the portrait of her choice. They made the deal, and as a result, Picasso produced some of his most well-known and reproduced works, such as Portrait of Sylvette in Green Chair.

In 1961, Pablo Picasso entered into his second marriage, with Jacqueline Roque; it would be Picasso's last sentimental relationship of importance.

In 1968, and over the course of seven months, he created a notable series of 347 engravings with which he returned to his earlier themes: the circus, the bullfight, the theater, and erotic scenes. He continued making engravings and drawings, some exhibited in the Gallerie Louise Leiris in Paris. In October, when Picasso turned ninety, the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris organized a large exhibition of Picasso's works.

On June 1, 1972, he completed his last painting, Embrace. His final drawing, Reclining Figures, was completed on November 5. In January of 1973, the Galerie Louise Leiris exhibited 156 prints completed in the previous two years.

Having become a living legend and the epitome of avant-garde art, Picasso and Jacqueline retired to the Vouvenargues castle, where he would continue to work tirelessly until the day he died, April 8, 1973, in Mougins, France.

Picasso left behind the largest and richest collection of personal artistic work of the last century and a fantastic inheritance, which provoked bitter disputes until it went to a woman with a peaceful name: his daughter Paloma.