in full Pablo Ruiz y Picasso
( 1881 – 1973 )
(born October 25, 1881, Málaga, Spain—died April 8, 1973, Mougins, France) Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century and the creator (with Georges Braque) of Cubism.
The enormous body of Picasso's work remains, and the legend lives on—a tribute to the vitality of the “disquieting” Spaniard with the “sombre . . . piercing” eyes who superstitiously believed that work would keep him alive. For nearly 80 of his 91 years Picasso devoted himself to an artistic production that contributed significantly to and paralleled the whole development of modern art in the 20th century.
Life and career
Pablo Picasso was the son of José Ruiz Blasco, a professor of drawing, and Maria Picasso López. His unusual adeptness for drawing began to manifest itself early, around the age of 10, when he became his father's pupil in La Coruña, where the family moved in 1891. From that point his ability to experiment with what he learned and to develop new expressive means quickly allowed him to surpass his father's abilities. In La Coruña his father shifted his own ambitions to those of his son, providing him with models and support for his first exhibition there at the age of 13.
The family moved to Barcelona in the autumn of 1895, and Pablo entered the local art academy (La Llotja), where his father had assumed his last post as professor of drawing. The family hoped that their son would achieve success as an academic painter, and in 1897 his eventual fame in Spain seemed assured; in that year his painting Science and Charity, for which his father modeled for the doctor, was awarded an honorable mention in Madrid at the Fine Arts Exhibition.
The Spanish capital was the obvious next stop for the young artist intent on gaining recognition and fulfilling family expectations. Pablo Ruiz duly set off for Madrid in the autumn of 1897 and entered the Royal Academy of San Fernando. But finding the teaching there stupid, he increasingly spent his time recording life around him, in the cafés, on the streets, in the brothels, and in the Prado, where he discovered Spanish painting. He wrote: “The Museum of paintings is beautiful. Velázquez first class; from El Greco some magnificent heads, Murillo does not convince me in every one of his pictures.” Works by these and other artists would capture Picasso's imagination at different times during his long career. Goya, for instance, was an artist whose works Picasso copied in the Prado in 1898 (a portrait of the bullfighter Pepe Illo and the drawing for one of the Caprichos, Bien tirada está, which shows a Celestina [procuress] checking a young maja's stockings). These same characters reappear in his late work—Pepe Illo in a series of engravings (1957) and Celestina as a kind of voyeuristic self-portrait, especially in the series of etchings and engravings known as Suite 347(1968).
Picasso fell ill in the spring of 1898 and spent most of the remaining year convalescing in the Catalan village of Horta de Ebro in the company of his Barcelona friend Manuel Pallarès. When Picasso returned to Barcelona in early 1899, he was a changed man: he had put on weight, he had learned to live on his own in the open countryside, he spoke Catalan, and most importantly he had made the decision to break with his art school training and to reject his family's plans for his future. He even began to show a decided preference for his mother's surname, and more often than not he signed his works P.R. Picasso (by late 1901 he had dropped the Ruiz altogether).
In Barcelona Picasso moved among a circle of Catalan artists and writers whose eyes were turned toward Paris. These were his friends at the café Els Quatre Gats (“The Four Cats,” styled after the Chat Noir [“Black Cat”] in Paris), where Picasso had his first Barcelona...