Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.
— Pablo Picasso
The names read like an invocation of art: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso.
Pablo Picasso remains one the most influential artists in the world.
Because not only did he change the entire course of the art world but he remains relevant today, having created works of enduring appeal and impact. His influence continues to resonate.
Born 25 October 1881 Picasso was a Spanish painter, draughtsman and sculptor. Best known for founding the Cubist movement and for the wide variety of styles embodied in his work, his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles (1907) and Guernica (1937), his portrayal of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.
By the time he died on 8 April 1973 he had revolutionized the art world.
‘Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.’
– Pablo Picasso.
His father was a professor of art and by the time Picasso was a teenager his father felt his son had surpassed him and he vowed to give up painting.
Picasso was a child prodigy, capable of painting elaborate classical portraits and his teachers at university found he was so advanced they were unable to teach him anything.
He toured the galleries of Europe as a young man, studying the masters.
He painted in poverty in Paris, often burning his canvases to keep warm.
He developed cubism during the time he lived with George Braque, the lesser known cubist painter. Together they pioneered the cubist movement, which consisted of deconstructing the world as we see it.
Analytic cubism is a style that uses monochrome brownish and neutral colours. Objects are deconstructed and analysed in terms of their shapes.
One of the reasons we look at art is to see at the world differently, a great painting will show a fresh perspective, it will make the world new.
And that is exactly what Picasso achieved in his paintings.
By breaking up form he forced the viewer to look at the canvas and reinterpret the world around him.
Iconoclastic and irreverent towards the art world, Picasso had so many imitators by the end of his life, that he would often walk round art galleries pointing at paintings that bore his name saying they were not his.
Sometimes they were, and he enjoyed taunting the gallery owners with their own ignorance.
The road to fame was a hard one, in which Picasso endured much poverty and hardship.
However, by 1905 he had become a favourite of American art collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein.
In Paris, Picasso entertained a distinguished coterie of friends in the Montmartre and Montparnasse quarters, including Andre Breton, poet Guillaume Apollinaire, and writer Alfred Jarry.
Then there were the women.
In 1927 Picasso met Marie-Therese Walter and began a secret affair with her while still married to Khokhlova. He chose not to divorce her and separated from her instead, since he did not want her to obtain half his wealth. The two remained legally married until Khokhlova’s death in 1955.
Picasso carried on a long-standing affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter and fathered a daughter, Maia, with her. Marie-Thérèse lived in the vain hope that Picasso would one day marry her, and hanged herself four years after Picasso’s death. Throughout his life Picasso maintained a number of mistresses in addition to his wife or primary partner. He was married twice and had four children by three women.
During the Second World War, Picasso remained in Paris while the Germans occupied the city. His artistic style did not fit the Nazi views of art. They wanted political propaganda, so Picasso was not able to show his works during this time.
In 1944, after the liberation of Paris, Picasso started a new relationship with a young art student, named Francoise Gilot. Having grown tired of his mistress Dora Maar, Picasso and Gilot began to live together. After his relationship with Gilot fell apart, and she left; Picasso continued to have affairs. While still involved with Gilot in 1951 Picasso had a six-week affair with Genevieve Laporte (1926), who in June 2005 auctioned off drawings that Picasso made of her and gave to her as a gift.
Eventually Picasso began to come to terms with his advancing age and his waning attraction to young women, by incorporating the idea into his new work, expressing the perception that, now in his 70s, he had become a grotesque and comic figure to young women. A number of works including paintings, ink drawings and prints from this period explore the theme of the hideous old dwarf as accompaniment to a doting lover of a beautiful young model.
He depicted himself as tumescent bull lusting after women.
In addition to his artistic accomplishments, Picasso had a film career, including a cameo appearance in Jean Cocteau’s Testament of Orpheus. Picasso always played himself in his film appearances. In 1955 he helped make the film Le Mystère Picasso (The Mystery of Picasso) directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.
Pablo Picasso died on 8 April 1973 in Mougins, France, while he and his wife Jacqueline entertained friends for dinner. His final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.” He was buried at the Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and lived in with Jacqueline between 1959 and 1962. Jacqueline Roque prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Devastated and lonely after the death of Picasso, Jacqueline Roque took her own life by gunshot in 1986 when she was 60 years old.
The legacy he left is monumental.
Picasso’s work spanned various periods. The Blue period consisted of sombre paintings rendered in shades of blue and green. The Rose Period was characterised by a cheery style with orange and pink colours. The African-influenced period gave way to Cubism. And towards the end of his life he returned to classicism, coupling it with surrealism.
Femme aux Bras Croises, 1902, Blue Period
Garcon a la Pipe, 1905, Rose period
Picasso was exceptionally prolific throughout his long lifetime. The total number of artworks he produced has been estimated at 50,000, comprising 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.
He was innovative throughout.
One of his most striking and arresting sculptures consists simply of a pair of bicycle handle bars placed on a bicycle seat.
It is a sculpture of a bull’s head and its realism is all the more powerful when you consider the simplicity of the materials he used to make it.
Picasso said that art is everywhere and he would find objects and use them for his sculptures.
His virtuosity isn’t surprising when you consider the speed with which he worked, visible in the films taken of him in his studio and the comment he once made when asked why he was always working.
‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.’
Bio: RICHARD GODWINis a prolific writer of powerful, dark fiction.His essential blog is here .His short story ART is here. His short story The Iconoclast is here. Links to his other work can be found here.