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Pablo Picasso

The pioneer, Spanish artist of the 20th century

"In my opinion to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing". Pablo Picasso left an extensive amount of work, consisting of an estimated 50.000 paintings, drawings, graphics, collages, sculptures and ceramics. With his radical functioning he reinvented himself over and over again during his entire productive period. Thereby he developed his own defining artistic style, such as the cubism and thus influenced the modern art in a crucial way.

Although the search appeared insignificant to him, he still sought over 75 years permanent in art history.

Pablo Picasso, actually Pablo Ruiz Picasso, was born on October 25th in 1881 in the Andalusian city Málaga. His parents came from this city, which is located in the far south of the European continent, where the African-Moorish influence is clearly noticeable. Because of his father José Ruiz Blasco, who was a freelance painter and lectured at an art school, Picasso encountered painting very early. Already in his childhood, his extraordinary talent became visible. At the age of seven, Picasso already started painting portraits under the guidance of his father.

Picasso Museum in Barcelona

Picasso Museum in Barcelona

Picasso's success story began in Barcelona, but rather late the museum was founded. The occasion of the foundation was a bequeathed by a larger collection to the city of Barcelona.

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Relocation of Familia Ruiz Picasso to Barcelona

In 1896 the family moved to Barcelona and Picasso’s father set up a studio for his son. At the age of 15 Picasso was admitted to the renowned School of arts "La Lotja". In order to connect to Barcelona’s art scene, he was socialising a lot at the café "Els 4 Gats". For the first time the young Pablo learned about the art scene beyond the academic traditions. It was the meeting place of all modernistic bohemians, that wanted to have discussions about current topics, such as the Viennese modernism. Picasso used these diverse suggestions especially on his works on paper. However he was far away from his hown style in 1900, when he exhibited his art work at "Els 4 Gats" for the fitst time. It was only logical to travel to Paris, which at the time was the capital of arts.

Pablo’s Stay in Paris

Once in Paris, he changed his signature from "Pablo Ruiz Picasso" to "Pablo Picasso" and thereby determinedly emancipated himself from his painter-father. As before in Barcelona, Picasso tried again to make acquaintances with the Parisian bohemian environment. Nevertheless, his mistrustful behavior made him an outsider trying to break into the European art scene of the early 20th century.

Blue and Pink Period

In the time from 1901-1905 he transported social topics and motifs from the world of outsiders into his so-called "blue and pink period". While in the "blue phase" grief over human suffering was predominant, with the introduction of the fundamental tone pink in 1904 there was a change of mood. It is likely that his new acquaintance with Fernande Olivier influenced him and was responsible for the mood change. His later partner was the most frequent motif of his works of incipient cubism.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

In the summer of 1905 Picasso undertook a journey to Holland and the impressions of foreign landscapes and people changed his style again. The scenery became more dense and the figures more plastic, reduced to their essential volume. In 1907 he carried out a detailed research on the ladies (prostitutes), who worked in the brothels on the Carrer d'Avignon in the Gothic district of Barcelona.

From hundreds of works on paper (some of them are located at the Picasso Museum Barcelona) the oil painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" arose. In the course of the working process, however, all the disreputable elements disappeared, such as the figure of the John with the bouquet of flowers entering the girl's room. Nevertheless, this painting caused a sensation in the art scene because of its obscenity. It initiated cubism and at the same time became the key to classical modernism.

Picasso and the Cubism (1908–1914)

In 1908 Picasso spent a summer in La Rue-des-Bois, north of Paris. There he created, similar to his painter friend Georges Braque, a new individual style of nothing but nested cubes. Unlike Picasso, Braque exhibited his works in November of the same year, and in a preliminary discussion on the exhibition the new expression "Cubes", which was mentioned for the first time in the art journal Gil Blas, shaped the art scene.

In the early days of Cubism, the Cubists painted their pictures with only a few and rather pale colors. In their opinion, the foregrounded shapes and figures would be lost by a lush choice of colors. Only at a later point, the Cubist artists dared to experiment more with color. The analytic or early cubism, created around 1907-1911, is about the disassembly of objects. Geometric figures are used which together represent the object composed of these figures.

Guernica and the Spanish Civil War

Besides "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon", the monumental painting "Guernica" (1937) is one of Picasso's most important works. The picture emerged as an artistic realisation of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and as a reaction to the destruction of the Basque city Gernika by the air raid of the German Legion Condor and the Italian Corpo troupe Volontarie. These fought on the side of the conservative monarchist military general Francisco Franco. Under the direction of the Nazi government of the German Reich and the Italian dictator Mussolini, the large-scale bombardment of Gernika was carried out as a test run for the Second World War. The air raids were one of the first bombings aimed at wiping out the civilian population.

Picasso processed these terrible events in a gigantic, disturbing picture, which was shown publicly for the first time in 1937 at the World Fair in Paris. Immediately after the attack on Gernika he rejected the original image idea of a painter with model and commented to it with the words:

“It is my wish to remind you that I was always convinced and am still convinced, that an artist who lives and works with spiritual values cannot behave indifferently when faced with a conflict in which the highest values of humanity and civilisation are at risk.”

Picasso expresses the suffering through the civil war in the painting Guernica. For example, the chaotic arrangement of the figures suggests the chaos of war in Spain. The achromatic coloration refers to the monotony and sadness of the war. Additionally, the painting shows typical Spanish symbols like the bull.

Personal Life of the Artist

In Italy, Pablo got to know and fell in love with a prima ballerina during the design work for the costume and set design of "Ballet Russes". Olga Khoklova came from the Russian nobility and impressed Picasso with her exotic nature. In 1918 they got married and exchanged the bohemian world to a bourgeois milieu.

In 1921, the first son Paolo Picasso was born. About fourteen years later, they separated but never got a divorce. Picasso’s next muse was the 17-year-old Marie-Therese Walther. He was fascinated by her grace and beauty and started having an affair with her. After separating from his wife in 1935, she gave birth to a daughter named Maya.

Thus, the ease of the relationship was over and he escaped. Finally, Dora Maar, a photographer, entered Picasso's life. An intellectual relationship about work combined the two of them. With her Picasso led a life in the spirit. In the painting "Weeping Woman" he immortalized her wonderful nature. This was followed by another nine years of stormy relationship with the young artist Françoise Gilot. She gave him two children, Claude and Paloma. The presence of the young family influenced his work and the children's world became his favorite motif in the following years. These works carry a spirit of bourgeoisie and harmony.

In 1953, Françoise, as the first woman, separated from Picasso. After that, Picasso met Jacqueline Roque, who was his faithful companion, and shortly afterwards, after Olga had died, became the second wife. Because of her, Picasso almost completely broke off contact with his former companions and children. She accompanied him in his last years.

Picasso’s extensive collections are shown in museums in Paris, Barcelona and Madrid. His works are prominently featured in many of the world's major art museums, which show exhibitions of the 20th century art. The Museu Picasso in Barcelona and the Musée Picasso in Antibes were already created during his lifetime. He had a major impact on Spain’s art history.

Book here tickets for your Picasso experience

  • Articket: free admission to 6 museums
  • Barcelona Card: many discounts. The museums of the Artickets included.
  • Picasso guided tour: including admission to the Picasso Museum