He was born Pablo Ruiz Picasso on October 6, 1881, in Malaga, Spain. He was the first child of Jose Ruiz y Blasco and Maria Picasso y Lopez. His father was an artist and professor of art at the School of Fine Arts, and also a curator of a museum in Malaga, Spain. Picasso began studying art under his father’s tutelage, continued at the Academy of Arts in Madrid for a year, and went on his ingenious explorations of the new horizons. He went to Paris in 1901 and found the environment conducive for his experiments with new art styles. Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire and Andre Breton were among his friends and collectors.
Constantly updating his style from the Blue Period, to the Rose Period, to the African-influenced Period, to Cubism, to Realism and Surrealism, he was a pioneer with a hand in every art movement of the 20th century. He made some softer and neo-classic artworks during his cooperation with the Russian Ballet of Sergei Diaghilev in Paris. In 1917, Picasso joined the Russian Ballet on tour in Rome, Italy. There he fell in love with Olga Khokhlova, a classical ballerina from the Russian nobility (her father was a General to the Russian Tsar Nickolas II). Picasso painted Olga as a Spanish girl in his painting “Olga Khokhlova in Mantilla” to convince his parents for their blessing, and his idea worked. Picasso and Olga Khokhlova wed in Paris, in 1918, and had one son, Paolo. After their marriage, Olga’s high society lifestyle clashed with Picasso’s bohemian manners. They separated in 1935, but remained officially married until her death in 1954. Meanwhile, his most famous lovers, Marie Therese Walter and Dora Maar, were also his inspirational models for a series of experimental portraits.
Picasso was a pacifist. His outcry for peace was expressed in the large-scale painting Guernica (1937), created after the German bombing of this Spanish city. This powerful composition, showing the brutal inhumanity of war, became his most famous work and turned him into a political celebrity. In 1940, Picasso applied for French citizenship, but was denied it and remained Spanish. Protected by his fame, he was untouchable even to the Nazis in the occupied Paris. A skillful self-promoter, he used politics, eccentricity and provocation as a selling tool. Sarcastic harlequin and dominating minotaur were his personal symbols, frequently used in his artworks. His life turned into a PR campaign, playing with scandals: viciousness to his own children, exaggerated virility and beastly treatment of his women. However, he was forgiven by the public. Even his membership in the Communist party and his controversial comments about Joseph Stain, who awarded Picasso the Stalin Prize for Peace in 1950, were ignored by his admirers. His life-long extraordinary artistic dialogue with Henri Matisse took a form of a “visual conversation” and exchange of their paintings with mutual respect. After WWII, he returned to “classical” style and created the “Dove of Peace”.
An innovator and a multi-faceted personality, Picasso dominated 20th century Western Art, spreading his influence beyond art into many aspects of culture and life. In his several film appearances, Picasso always played himself. His lifestyle remained as bohemian and vivacious as it was in his youth. Picasso died in style while entertaining his guests at a dinner party on April 8, 1973, in Mouglins, in southeastern France. Picasso’s last words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.” He was interred at Castle Vauvenargues’ park, in Vauvenargues, Bouches-du-Rhone, in the South of France.
Pablo Picasso’s paintings rank among the most expensive artwork in the world, establishing a price record with $104 million sale of “Garson a la pipe” in 2004. Picasso produced over 13 thousand paintings or designs, 100,000 prints and engravings, 34 thousand book illustrations and 300 sculptures, becoming the most prolific artist ever.