Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

Style: Cubism, Expressionism

Lived: October 25, 1881 - April 8, 1973 (20th century)

Nationality: Spain

Picasso's father, José Ruiz y Blasco, was a painter himself and for most of his life he was a professor of art at Spanish colleges. He taught Picasso the basics of formal academic art training – figure drawing, and painting in oil. There's many examples of precise and detailed figure studies done in his youth under his father's tutelage that clearly demonstrate his firm grounding in classical techniques. Although Picasso attended art schools thoughout his childhood, often those his father taught at, he never finished his college level course of study at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, where he left after less than a year.

Picasso remained neutral during the Spanish Civil War, World War I and World War II, refusing to fight for any side or country. He never commented on this but encouraged the idea that it was because he was a pacifist. Some of his contemporaries though (including Braque) felt that this neutrality had more to do with cowardice than principle.

As a Spanish citizen living in France, Picasso was under no compulsion to fight against the invading Germans in either world war. In the Spanish Civil War, service for Spaniards living abroad was optional and would have involved a voluntary return to the country to join either side. While Picasso expressed anger and condemnation of Franco and the Fascists through his art he never took up arms against them.

He also remained aloof from the Catalan independence movement during his youth despite expressing general support and being friendly with activists within it. No political movement seemed to compel his support to any great degree.

After the Second World War, Picasso joined the French Communist party, and even attended an international peace conference in Poland. But party criticism of a portrait of Stalin as insufficiently realistic cooled Picasso's interest in Communist politics.

Picasso had a long string of lovers, four children by three women, and two wives. In early 20th century, Picasso began a long term relationship with Fernande Olivier. It is she who appears in many of the Blue and Rose period paintings. After garnering fame and some fortune, Picasso left Fernande for Marcelle Humbert, whom he called Eva. When it became clear that Eva was dying, Picasso left her as well. Picasso frequented brothels throughout his life and had numerous affairs.

In 1918 Picasso married Olga Koklova, a ballerina with Sergei Diaghilev's ballet. Olga introduced Picasso to high society, formal dinner parties and the life of the rich in 1920s Paris. The two had a son, Paulo.

Olga's insistence on social propriety clashed with Picasso's bohemian tendencies, and the two lived in a state of near constant conflict. In 1927 Picasso met the then underage (17) Marie Thérèse Walter, and began a secret affair with her. His marriage to Olga soon ended in separation, as French law required an even division of property in the case of divorce, and Picasso did not want Olga to have half his wealth. They remained legally married until Olga's death in 1955.

Picasso carried on a long standing affair with Marie Thérèse, and fathered a daughter, Maya, with her. Marie Thérèse lived in the vain hope that Picasso would one day marry her, and eventually killed herself after Picasso's death.

The photographer and painter Dora Maar was also a constant companion and lover of Picasso. The two were closest in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and it was Dora who documented the painting of Guernica. Like all women in his life, Dora was abused emotionally by the narcissistic Picasso.

After the liberation of Paris in 1944, Picasso began to keep company with a young art student, Françoise Gilot. They eventually became lovers, and had two children together, Claude, and Paloma. Uniquely among Picasso's women, Françoise eventually left Picasso in 1953 because of his abusive treatment, and infidelities. This came as a severe blow to Picasso, who was used to submissive women who lived for whatever scraps of affection or attention he deigned to give them.

He went through a difficult period after Françoise's departure, coming to terms with his advancing age, and his perception that he was an old man, now in his seventies, who was no longer attractive to young women. A number of ink drawings from this period explore this theme of the hideous old dwarf as counterpoint to the beautiful young girl.

Picasso was not long in finding another lover, Jacqueline Roque. She worked at the Madoura Pottery, where Picasso made and painted ceramics. The two remained together for the rest of Picasso's life, marrying in 1961. Their marriage was also the means of one last act of revenge against Françoise. Françoise had been seeking a legal means to legitimize her children with Picasso, Claude and Paloma. With Picasso's encouragement, she had arranged to divorce her then husband, Luc Simon, and marry Picasso to secure her children's rights. Picasso then secretly married Jacqueline after Françoise had filed for divorce in order to exact his revenge for her leaving him.

In his 80s and 90s, Picasso, no longer quite the energetic dynamo he had been in his youth, became more, and more reclusive. His second wife, Jacqueline Roque, screened all but the most important visitors, and closest friends, even excluding Picasso's two children, Claude and Paloma.

This reclusive existence intensified after Picasso underwent surgery for a prostate condition in 1965. This surgery is rumored to have left him largely impotent. To a man for whom sexual adventure was such an important part of life, this was a serious change, and Picasso seems to have dealt with it by redoubling his already prolific artistic output.

Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colorful and expressive, and from 1968 through 1971 he produced a torrent of paintings and hundreds of copperplate engravings. At the time these works were dismissed by most as pornographic fantasies of an impotent old man, or the slapdash works of an artist who was past his prime. One long time admirer, Douglas Cooper called them "the incoherent scribblings of a frenetic old man in the antechamber of death". Only a decade later, after Picasso's death, when the rest of the art world had moved on from abstract expressionism, did the critical community come to see that Picasso had already discovered neo-expressionism, and was, as usual, ahead of his time.

Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973 at Mougins, France, and was interred at Castle Vauvenargues' park, in Vauvenargues, Bouches-du-Rhône. Jacqueline prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral.

At the time of his death, Picasso, by now a multi-millionaire, owned a vast quantity of his own work, consisting of personal favorites which he had kept off the art market, or which he had not needed to sell. In addition, he had a considerable collection of the work of other famous artists, like Henri Matisse, with whom he had exchanged works. Since Picasso left no will, his death duties, or estate tax to the French state were paid in the form of his works, and others from his collection. These works form the core of the immense, and representative collection of the Musée Picasso in Paris. And recently in 2003, relatives of Picasso inaugurated a museum dedicated to him, in his hometown of Malaga, Spain, called the Museo Picasso Málaga.

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