Pablo Picasso – Did You Know?

He’s one of the most famous and most influential artists of the 20th century. He invented multiple genres and was multi-faceted in the mediums he used to make art. Pablo Picasso is well-known and deeply interesting. There’s a lot to know about this incredible man.

Since you probably know a lot about Picasso already, we’ve gathered some intriguing truths about one of the most beloved artists to ever live. So, did you know…?

Picasso’s work reflected his life.

From his blue and rose periods to his more traditional portraits of his wife and son, Picasso thought of his paintings as a sort of diary and would, in the process, create defined artistic genres that changed rather dramatically as things would change in the real world for the artist.

It’s obvious that much of Picasso’s work depicts various women in an abstract fashion. In some cases, it’s clear who the painting represents based on the titles or distinguishing features. Others are more ambiguous and Picasso himself would explain that bits of different women inspired some of his paintings. 

Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust is one of Picasso’s most famous works and depicts his mistress, Marie Therese.
Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust is one of Picasso’s most famous works and depicts his mistress, Marie Therese.

Nonetheless, if you look at his body of work in chronological order, you’d be able to, without too much difficulty, be able to see what he was going through – what woman he was in love with, which of his children were young, how he felt, and what was important to him.

Picasso’s first word was lapiz, the Spanish word for pencil.

Picasso’s father Don Jose Ruiz was a drawing teacher and aspiring painter so it makes sense that Picasso was able to draw before he was able to speak. His first words were piz piz, shortened for lapiz and it seems that he was destined to be an artist. 

Pigeons were the first things he learned to draw but living in Spain, he was soon completely enthralled by bull fighting which became a major inspiration in his life and art. From his pigeon drawings, his father saw Picasso as a prodigy and sent him to receive formal art training at the Prado in Madrid. 

There, he learned about Spanish realism and father hoped Picasso would continue in a classical style, but the young artist had other plans. He started to compose self-portraits in a way that was rather removed from tradition.

Picasso experienced death early on.

First, his seven-year-old sister died of diphtheria when Picasso was about 13 years old and then, as a young man gallivanting around Paris, one of his closest friends, Carlos Casagemas took his own life. This suicide spurred Picasso’s haunting blue period which lasted from 1901 to 1904. 

Throughout his life, Picasso was determined to paint what he felt, not what he saw. These early experiences could have a lot to do with this mantra. 

Picasso felt a rivalry with Henri Matisse.

The Turkish Bath by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres overwhelmed Picasso but when Henri Matisse presented his piece inspired by it, The Joy of Life, Picasso burned with a rivalry he hadn’t felt before for another artist.

By deconstructing both of these paintings, Picasso composed Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (originally named The Brothel of Avignon) which broke with all traditions of Western art since the Renaissance and became one of his most important works.

Picasso was more than a painter.

Picasso found photography while living in Paris and his work with this medium would eventually lead to cubism, of which he is considered the godfather. His interest in photography was in some ways based in despair. Picasso, at times, would resign to the idea that if photographs existed to capture real life, what was the point of painting?

He felt that in order to make painting mean something, he had to take his work beyond what seemed real. Picasso would go on to take geometrical shapes and push them to the limits in order to create volume and dimension to the subjects of his art.

By taking a photograph and translating it into this newly established cubism style, his genius took hold.

Beyond paintings, Picasso created cubist sculptures using similar techniques and at the end of World War I, he would go on to work with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes and design their production of Parade in the summer of 1918. His first wife, Olga Khokhlova was a Diaghilev ballerina.

Costume design by Picasso
Costume design by Picasso

Later, in the 1930s, Picasso would also explore surrealist poetry as he would surround himself with poets and passionate political activists.

Then, in the late 40s, Picasso moved away from Paris with his second wife (although never formally married), Francoise Gilot where they had a son and he had a ceramic shop in addition to his painting and sculpture. Although ceramics was a new medium for Picasso, the subject of his work remained the same – the female body.

Picasso loved bull fighting.

Born in Spain, Picasso had a deep love affair with the country but in the 1940s, he was unable to live there. Since he was a child, Picasso was enthralled with bull fighting and it became a huge theme in some of his work, especially during the Marie Therese era.

Since he couldn’t return to Spain, he would frequent bull fights in France to feel closer to his roots and it was a joy in his life. Throughout his career, you can see bulls time and time again in paintings and sketches. 

In many ways, Picasso saw himself as a bull and would portray himself as a mythical bull-like creature with an insatiable appetite for women that would devour the female form. 

Picasso was brilliant and complicated with a lot of story to tell. Surely, there’s more to any life than what ends up in a biography but for now, if someone asks, did you know about Pablo Picasso, you can hopefully say yes.

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