No other artist is more associated with the term Modern Art than Pablo Picasso. He created thousands of paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramics during a time span of about 75 years. For many Picasso is the greatest art genius of the twentieth century. For others he is a gifted charlatan. Undisputed is the fact that he influenced and dominated the art of the twentieth century like no other modern artist.
Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain, as the son of an art and drawing teacher. He was a brilliant student. He passed the entrance examination for the Barcelona School of Fine Arts at the age of 14 in just one day and was allowed to skip the first two classes. According to one of many legends about the artist’s life, his father, recognizing the extraordinary talent of his son, gave him his brushes and palette and vowed to paint never again in his life.
Blue and Rose Period
During his lifetime, the artist went through different periods of characteristic painting styles. The Blue Period of Picasso lasted from about 1900 to 1904. It is characterized by the use of different shades of blue underlining the melancholic style of his subjects – people from the grim side of life with thin, half-starved bodies. His painting style during these years is masterly and convinces even those who reject his later modern style.
On the Beach, 1937
During Picasso’s Rose Period from about 1905 to 1906, his style moved away from the Blue Period to a friendly pink tone with subjects taken from the world of the circus.
After several travels to Paris, the artist moved permanently to the “capital of arts” in 1904. There he met all the other famous artists like Henri Matisse, Joan Miro and George Braques. He became a great admirer of Henri Matisse and developed a life-long friendship with the master of French Fauvism.
Inspired by the works of Paul Cezanne, he developed together with George Braque and Juan Gris developed the Cubist style. In Cubism, subjects are reduced to basic geometrical shapes. In a later version of Cubism, called synthetic cubism, several views of an object or a person are shown simultaneously from a different perspective in one picture.
Picasso and Guernica
Guernica, Exhibited in Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
In 1937 the artist created his landmark painting Guernica, a protest against the barbaric air raid against a Basque village during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso’s Guernica is a huge mural on canvas in black, white and grey which was created for the Spanish Pavilion of the Paris World’s Fair in 1937. In Guernica, Picasso used symbolic forms – that are repeatedly found in his works following Guernica – like a dying horse or a weeping woman.
Guernica was exhibited at the museum of Modern Art in New York until 1981. It was transferred to the Prado Museum in Madrid/Spain in 1981 and was later moved to the Queen Sofia Center of Art, Madrid in 1992. Picasso had disallowed the return of Guernica to Spain until the end of the rule of Fascism by General Franco.
Pablo Picasso and Women
Picasso changed his companions at least as often as his painting styles.
The relationships with women influenced his mood and even his art styles. The shift from the “blue” to the “rose period” was probably a result of meeting Fernande Olivier, his first companion. The artist made numerous portraits of his wives and companions and of his children.
During his early years in Paris, he lived with Fernande Olivier for seven years. During World War I, from 1914 to 1918, Picasso worked in Rome where he met his first wife, Olga Koklova, a Russian ballet dancer. In 1927 he met Marie Therese Walther, a seventeen year old girl and began a relationship with her. In 1936 another woman, Dora Maar, a photographer, steped into his life. In 1943 he encountered a young female painter, Francoise Gilot. In 1947 she gave birth to Claude, and in 1949 to Paloma, Picasso’s third and fourth child. The artists’s last companion was Jacqueline Roque. He met her in 1953 and married her in 1961.
In 1965 Pablo Picasso had to undergo a prostrate operation. After a period of rest, he concentrated on drawings and a series of 347 etchings. In spite of his health problems, he created a number of paintings during his last years. On April 8, 1973 he died at the age of 91.
* “I think about Death all the time. She is the only woman who never leaves me.”
Picasso as a Printmaker
Picasso was not only a very prolific printmaker, but also a very diverse one in the use of a great variety of different techniques. He created lithographs, etchings, drypoints, lino cuts, woodcuts and aquatints. Always on the search for something new, he experimented a lot with these techniques. Some of Picasso’s graphic works are combinations of several techniques.
Picasso created his first prints in 1905 – a series of 15 drypoints and etchings, Les Saltimbanques, published by the art dealer Vollard in 1913. More graphic works were produced in the early 1930’s. But it was in the years after World War II that most of Picasso’s prints were created.
Like Chagall, also Picasso worked with the Atelier Mourlot, a renowned art publisher and print workshop in Paris. Pablo Picasso created about 200 lithographs from 1945 to 1949 in close cooperation with Henri Deschamps, a professional printmaker from the Mourlot studio.
Was he a Charlatan?
There are numerous books and articles with anectodes, citations and interviews by Picasso. It is hard to figure out what is real and what are inventions or fakes. Picasso did not seem to care too much what the press wrote about him as long as they wrote about him at all. Whether by intuition or carefully planned, he was a marketing genius, spinning his own legend at lifetime.
Pablo Picasso/I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar
Picasso had an excellent business sense. He paid even small amounts by cheque: “People rather keep the cheque for my famous signature than to cash it.” He enjoyed being famous and rich. He was charming and witty and he liked to confuse, to provoke and to have his fun with the public.
After visiting an exhibition of children’s drawings: “When I was their age I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them.”
About art: “You expect me to tell you what art is? If I knew it, I would keep it for myself.”
About abstract art: “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality.”
Collecting Picasso Prints
Picasso had created a total of more than 20,000 art objects during his lifetime – enough to keep the art market for his works in continuous movement.
Picasso prints are a wide hunting ground for art aficionados. Prices vary widely, depending on edition size, whether a print is signed and numbered, on age and on the attraction of the subject. In 1999, an aquatint called La Femme au Tambourin, signed in pencil and numbered 30/30 was sold for US$376,500 at Christie’s in New York. But you can also buy an original Picasso print for a few hundred dollars from a large and unsigned edition or an edition that was made by a skilled printmaker after Picasso. These prints were often produced after drawings of the great master and with the approval or at least his knowledge. Some have his signatures on the plate, some have no signature at all. Such prints are by no means of any minor artistic value. They may not be the first choice from an investment value aspect. But they are a great way for art lovers who want to own an original piece of art by Picasso without having to spend a fortune.