Pablo Picasso, often considered to be among the most important and influential artist of the twentieth century, was prolific across multiple media – painting, gouache, watercolor, drawing, collage, monotype, sculpture, assemblage, prints, lithographer, among others – as well as spanning movements, including pioneering the watershed Cubist movement in the first decades of the century. Born in Málaga, Spain in 1881 as Pablo Ruiz y Picasso (the artist dropped his father’s surname in 1901 during his first trip to Paris), Picasso’s early artistic talent was recognized and encouraged by his father, who was an academic painter at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios. The Ruiz y Picasso family moved to Barcelona in 1895 when Pablo was fourteen, where he enrolled in the Escuela de Bellas Artes de la Lonja and ensconced himself in the active scene of the Els Quatre Gats, a popular café for Barcelona’s artistic and intellectual youth.
Picasso made his way to Paris in 1900, where he would remain for the next several years with only a few brief returns to Spain. He set up house and studio in the Montmartre district of the city at number 13 Rue Ravignon, in a house nicknamed the “Maison du Trappeur” (Trapper’s House), which was later renamed “Bateau-Lavior” (Washhouse) by Guillaume Apollinaire, with his model and lover Fernande Olivier. During these early years, Picasso met and became close friends with Max Jacobs, Kees van Dongen, André Salmon, Guillaume Apollinaire, Henri Matisse, André Derain, and Georges Braque, all acquaintances that would influence the subsequent course of his work.
The Russian art collector Sergei Shchukin bought Picasso’s early works in 1908-1909, officially ending the artist’s years of poverty and allowing him to enter into his so-called Blue, Rose, and African periods without financial concern – an experimental period that ultimately culminated in his development of Cubism along with Braques. Picasso signed
over exclusive rights to his works to the young Parisian art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler in 1912, and then migrated to Montparnasse with the majority of the Parisian art community, which soon dispersed at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, at which time Picasso moved to Avignon, where he stayed for three years until he left for Italy in 1917.
While in Rome, Picasso became associated with Jean Cocteau, Serge Diaghilev, Léonide Massine, Igor Stravinsky, and Erik Satie, and was commissioned by Diaghilev, who was standing in for Apollinaire as director for the Ballet Russes, to design the sets and costumes for Cocteau’s and Satie’s ballet Parade. He then married the ballet dancer Olga Kokhlova in 1918, with whom he had a son Paulo in 1921; the couple separated in 1934 but never divorced. Picasso’s work from the 1930s consists largely of portraits of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter (with whom he had a son), as well as paintings that developed his Minotaur theme and his reflections of the civil war in Spain, such as his 1937 Guernica, his most poignant and violent political work. Picasso spent the entire four years of Germany’s occupation of France in Paris.
Picasso settled in Southern France after World War II with Françoise Gilot, with whom he fathered two children, Claude and Paloma. He worked in the Château Grimaldi, which would later become the first Musée Picasso. He then moved to Vallauris in 1948, and then Cannes in 1955 following his separation from Gilot. His official wife, the dancer Olga Kokhlova, died that same year, allowing Picasso to remarry in 1958 to Jacqueline Roque; the couple settled in Mas Notre-Dames-de-Vie in Mougins, where he remained until his death in 1973 at the age of 92.
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