Pablo Picasso, image courtesy of de Young Museum, San Francisco
Few key figures of 20th art embody so much the definition “multi-faceted genius” like Picasso. During his entire life, the Spanish artists had explored different styles and artistic means possibly like no other.
Born in the city of Málaga, southern Spain, in 1881, Pablo Ruiz y Picasso (Picasso was actually the family name of his mother María Picasso y López) moved to Barcelona with the family (Picasso’s father was an art teacher and artist as well) when he was thirteen, and three years later to Madrid to attend Spain’s most prestigious art academy, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.
Yet, his restless spirit and precocious ability led him to make art rather than spending the time to learn it at school; first, leaving the academy and then moving to Paris in 1901. In young Picasso’s works, it’s easy to discern prodigious technical skills as a figurative painter, together with a strong influence by Spanish old masters, especially Velázquez and El Greco.
Pablo Picasso, Two Acrobats with a Dog, 1905, gouache on board; image courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York
As widely known, the styles of Picasso’s famous works made subsequently, roughly between 1901 and 1907, are commonly called Pink Period for the first years and Blue Period from 1904 on, chiefly due to the predominant colors these paintings were showing.
Yet, such distinction – as well as that between the following Cubist post-Cubist, Surrealist, Abstract and Neo-Expressionist periods – is somehow reductive.
Picasso explored different styles simultaneously, indeed, frequently switching acrobatically from one to another, painting both figurative and cubist works in the same years and sometimes, especially in his later period, mixing different influences.
Pablo Picasso. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, oil on canvas; image courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York
At the same time, he liked to investigate the most various means of artistic expression spanning painting, etching, sculpture, costume design, mixed-media art, and decorative arts.
Pablo Picasso died in 1973 in Mougins, southern France, where he had lived for the last 12 years; he was 91 years old.
Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, oil on canvas; image courtesy Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid
The many museums dedicated to Picasso help us to understand his articulated approach to art and his insatiable appetite for creativity: from the Barcelona museum, focused on Picasso’s early period, to the small museum in Vallauris, French Riviera, dedicated to his ceramic pieces; from the recently-renovated Musée Picasso in Paris, to the many collections of his works exposed in museums and exhibitions throughout the world.
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