Pablo Ruiz Picasso (b. 1881, d. 1973) is probably the most important figure in 20th Century art. Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes once said that "To say that Pablo Picasso dominated Western art in the 20th century is, by now, the merest commonplace. Before his 50th birthday, the little Spaniard from Malaga had become the very prototype of the modern artist as public figure. No painter before him had had a mass audience in his own lifetime."
He was born October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain and by the time he died in France in April of 1973, had created a staggering 22.000 works of art in a variety of mediums, including sculpture, ceramics, mosaics, stage design and graphic arts. As critic Hughes notes, "There was scarcely a 20th century movement that he didn't inspire, contribute to or--in the case of Cubism
, which, in one of art history's great collaborations, he co-invented with Georges Braque--beget." Quite simply, as well as being a force of culture, Picasso was also a force of nature.
Early Life and Work
Picasso's artistic production is usually described in terms of a series of overlapping periods. In his "Blue Period" 1901-4 he depicted the world of the poor. Predominantly in tones of blue, these melancholy paintings (such as The Old Guitarist, 1903; Art Inst. of Chicago) are among the most popular art works of the century. Canvases from Picasso's "Rose Period" 1905-06 are characterized by a lighter palette and greater lyricism, with subject matter often drawn from circus life. Picasso's Parisian studio attracted the major figures of the avant-garde at this time, including Matisse
, and Gertrude Stein. He had already produced numerous engravings of great power and began his work in sculpture during these years. Cubism
In 1907 Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
(Mus. of Modern Art, New York City), a radical departure from the artistic ideas of the preceding ages and now considered the most significant work in the development toward cubism and modern abstraction (see modern art). The influence of Cézanne
and of African sculpture is apparent in its fragmented forms and unprecedented distortions. The painting heralded the first phase of cubism, called analytic cubism. This severe, intellectual style was conceived and developed by Picasso, Braque, and Gris c.1909-12. Picasso's Female Nude (1910-11; Philadelphia Mus. of Art) is a representative painting and his Woman's Head (1909; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City) a representative sculpture of this style. Other Stylistic Innovations
The artist sought to strengthen the emotional impact of his work and became preoccupied with the delineation of agony. In 1937 the bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica impelled him to produce his second landmark painting, Guernica
(Queen Sophia Center of Art, Madrid), an impassioned allegorical condemnation of fascism and war. Long held by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the work was transferred to Spain's Prado in 1981, and was moved to the Queen Sofia Center of Art, Madrid, in 1992. The profits Picasso earned from a series of etchings and prints on the Guernica theme made in the 1930s went to help the Republican cause. Biography from Picasso.com.