Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

Was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France. Regarded as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), and Guernica (1937), a portrayal of the Bombing of Guernica by the German and Italian airforces at the behest of the Spanish nationalist government during the Spanish Civil War.


Painting was part of Picasso’s life and at the same time, his life meant art. Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, region of Andalusia as José Ruiz Blasco’s son, a painter and professor at the School of Fine Arts in Malaga and his wife, Maria Picasso y López. Pablito’s talent stands out since childhood and as a teenager, he amazes his teachers at the Institute of Fine Arts in La Coruna, although he was hardly able to bear the rigor of tradition and academic education. In 1895, the family moved to Barcelona. His father gave him his brushes, a gesture through which he recognizes the young boy’s talent. Young Picasso continues his studies at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona (1896) and at the Academy of Painting in Madrid (1897-1898). In 1900, Pablo, aged 19 years old, exhibits his first works in the Els Quatre Gats (“The Four Cats”) cafe in Barcelona, where the artistic vanguard and intellectuals of Catalunya’s capital gather. In 1901, Pablo begins to sign his works with his mother’s name, believing that Picasso “sounds very good.” He spent the following years traveling between Spain and France. In Paris, Picasso is influenced by the works of Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet. He exhibits some paintings at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery, where he meets painter Max Jacob, with whom he will have a lasting friendship.

In 1904, Picasso decides to settle permanently in Paris, in an old house, known as “Bateau Lavoir”, where students, painters, sculptors and actors used to live. At first, he paints sad pictures, using cold blue tones (it’s the so called blue period), expressing loneliness, suffering and poverty, reflecting an affective melancholic mood. Pablo meets Fernande Olivier, a young and elegant brunette, with whom he falls in love and will live together.

Picasso deviates from the classic, figurative way of presenting the human face, being more interested in the Iberian sculpture before the Roman domination, and thus, he starts painting models exclusively from his imagination. This process is crowned by the painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907), which foretells the birth of Cubism.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Boy Pipe
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Boy Pipe


Between 1908 and 1914, along with Georges Braque, Picasso draws forth a revolutionary way of treating forms, which will gain the name of “Cubism”, from critic Louis Vauxcelles’ article: “… they despise forms, they reduce everything: from places, faces, houses to elementary geometric shapes, like cubes”. In reality, Picasso and Braque tried to represent three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface of the painting without using any illusionist means, bringing together the shape and the surface by using the means of a painting without distinctions between the foreground and background in perspective.

These years would represent a turning point for Picasso. The manner of painting and his financial situation radically changed. The prices of his paintings grew and he will never know the feeling of poverty again. Picasso rented a house in the bourgeois Montparnasse district, where he moved with his new girlfriend, Marcelle Humbert. In 1915, he met writer Jean Cocteau and Sergei Diaghilev, avant-garde ensemble leader of “Les Ballets Russes”. Picasso designed the sets and costumes for the ballet “Parade” (1917), staged by Jean Cocteau. Pablo went to Rome with the ballet dancers and fell in love with dancer Olga Koklova, whom he married in the summer of 1918.

During his trip to Italy, Pablo Picasso visits the city of Napoli and the ancient ruins of Pompeii, where he admires the Roman murals. Picasso reintroduced the figurative compositions style, represented in a naturalist manner with contrasts of light and shadow. His elegant drawing sometimes only limits at the representation of the women or children’s body contours (“Seated Nude”, 1923). The use of light colours recalls his pink period (“Harlequin with folded hands”, 1923). For Pablo, it is a time of quiet family life and work. In 1921, his first child is born, Paul. Soon, however, the relation between the couple broke. Picasso began an affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter.

In 1925, Picasso participated with his painting, “Three dancers”, at the first surrealist exhibition in Paris. Picasso wasn’t an artist in the surreal sense and he hasn’t been part of the Parisian circle formed around André Breton. However, he is sometimes regarded as surreal by the fact that his work doesn’t reflect a tangible reality, but renders an internal representation (“Painter”, 1933 and “Nude in the middle of a landscape”, 1933). During this time, Picasso painted a cycle, devoted to bullfighting (“Bullfight: Death of a Toreador”, 1933) and resumed the ancient myth of the Minotaur, which symbolized virility.



In 1935, he splits from Olga Koklova. Pablo met Dora Maar, a painter and photographer, who had many friends in the circle of the surrealists. In his new love, the painter finds an intellectual correlation which he lacked until then. However, he will not leave Marie-Thérèse and will divide his life between the two women.

In 1949, his daughter, Paloma, was born, whose name recalls the famous “dove” on the poster of the World Peace Congress. In 1953, Pablo separated from Françoise and withdrew from the Communist Party, but ends up with a new romance, Jacqueline Roque. Jacqueline was 26 years old when they married in 1961. In 1963, the “Picasso Museum” opens in Barcelona, which will later include most of his works.

Pablo Picasso died on 8 April 1973 in Mougins, near Cannes, at the age of 91 years old. Picasso transformed his life into a legend. After years spent among bohemians in Montmartre, he has become, thanks to its innovative genius and spirit, but also because of his famous friendships and amorous adventures, the most famous painter of the 20th century.

Picasso was one of the 250 sculptors who exhibited in the 3rd International Sculpture held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the middle of the year 1949. In the 1950’s, Picasso’s style changed once again, as he took to producing reinterpretations of the art of the great masters. He made a series of works based on Velázquez’s painting of “Las Meninas”. He also based paintings on works by Goya, Poussin, Manet, Courbet and Delacroix.

He was commissioned to make a maquette for a huge 15 meters, high public sculpture to be built in Chicago, known usually as “The Chicago Picasso”. He approached the project with a great deal of enthusiasm, designing a sculpture which was ambiguous and somewhat controversial. What the figure represents is not known. It could be a bird, a horse, a woman or a totally abstract shape. The sculpture is one of the most recognizable landmarks in downtown Chicago and was unveiled in 1967. Picasso refused to be paid 100,000 $ for it, donating them to the people of the city.

Picasso’s final works were a mixture of styles, his means of expression in constant flux until the end of his life. Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colourful and expressive, and from 1968 to 1971, he produced a torrent of paintings and hundreds of copperplate etchings. At the time, these works were dismissed by most as pornographic fantasies of an impotent old man or the slapdash works of an artist who was past his prime. Only later, after Picasso’s death, when the rest of the art world had moved on from abstract expressionism, did the critical community come to see that Picasso had already discovered Neo-Expressionism and was, as so often before, ahead of his time.

Picasso painted mostly from imagination or memory. According to William Rubin, Picasso “Could only make great art from subjects that truly involved him … Unlike Matisse, Picasso had eschewed models virtually all his mature life, preferring to paint individuals whose lives had both impinged on, and had real significance for, his own.” Art critic, Arthur Danto said Picasso’s work constitutes a “vast pictorial autobiography” that provides some basis for the popular conception that “Picasso invented a new style each time he fell in love with a new woman”. The autobiographical nature of Picasso’s art is reinforced by his habit of dating his works, often to the day. He explained: “I want to leave to posterity a documentation that will be as complete as possible. That’s why I put a date on everything I do.”

Other personalities

Discover some other popular persons who live / lived in Spain.


Diego Velázquez

Was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, […]


Rafael Nadal

He is widely regarded as the greatest clay court player in history, and due to his dominance and success on the surface, he has been titled “The King of Clay”. His evolution into an all court threat has established him as one of the greatest players in tennis history, with some considering Nadal to be […]


Ignatius of Loyola

Was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and, on 19 April 1541, became its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. Loyola’s devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by absolute obedience to the […]

Julio Iglesias

Julio Iglesias

Is a Spanish singer and songwriter who has sold over 300 million records worldwide in 14 languages, has released over 80 albums, and has more than 2.600 gold and platinum records certified, making him one of the best selling artists of all time and the best selling Latin artist in history. Julio Iglesias was born […]

Francisco Goya

Francisco Goya

He is considered the most important Spanish artist of late 18th and early 19th centuries and throughout his long career was a commentator and chronicler of his era. Immensely successful in his lifetime, Goya is often referred to as both the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. Francisco de Goya […]

Francisco Franco

Francisco Franco

Was a Spanish general and the Caudillo of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. Coming from a military family background, he became the youngest general in Spain and one of the youngest generals in Europe in the 1920’s. As a conservative monarchist, he rejected the removal of the monarchy and its replacement with […]

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.