A prolific and tireless innovator of art forms, Pablo Picasso impacted the course of 20th-century art with unparalleled magnitude. Inspired by Primitivism and developments in the world around him, Picasso contributed significantly to a number of artistic movements, notably Cubism, Surrealism, Neoclassicism, and Expressionism. Along with Georges Braque, Picasso is best known for pioneering Cubism in an attempt to reconcile three-dimensional space with the two-dimensional picture plane, once asking, “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” Responding to the Spanish Civil War, he painted his most famous work, Guernica (1937), whose violent images of anguished figures rendered in grisaille made it a definitive work of anti-war art. “Painting is not made to decorate apartments,” he said. “It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Picasso’s sizable oeuvre includes over 20,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, theatre sets, and costume designs.
The son of a professional artist, Pablo Picasso became his father’s artistic superior at the age of ten. With his father’s training and professional assistance, Picasso held his first exhibition in 1894 at the age of 13. The following year, he passed the entrance examination to the Barcelona School of Fine Arts where he was permitted to skip most classes due to his precocious development. While in Barcelona, Picasso began to experiment with abstraction and a different colour palate due to the influence of an intellectual community he spent time with at the cafe Els Quatre Gats. Picasso soon grew weary of the academic world and set off for Madrid in what would be the first in a series of life-long travels.
In 1900, Picasso and his friend and fellow artist Casagemas left for Paris, where they opened a studio in Montmartre. While in Paris, they formed an avant garde artist’s society with local artists like Henri Matisse, Joan Miro and George Braques. At this time, Picasso began his Blue Period which is characterised by his use of different shades of blue and melancholic subjects. In 1905, the artist’s style moved toward his Rose Period for which he used pink and yellow tones and painted more jovial subjects like circus performers and harlequins. In 1906 the art dealer Ambrose Villard bought most of the work produced during the Rose Period, which gave Picasso a comfortable income. The following year Picasso produced his first cubist painting, Les Demoiselles D’Avignon, after many studies and variations. His style moved from analytic cubism to synthetic cubism, which is characterised by the use of collage and mixed media. In 1937, Picasso exhibited Guernica at the Spanish Pavilion of Paris’ World’s Fair. The work is a protest against the contemporary Spanish Civil War and perhaps the painting for which he is best known.
Picasso retreated to a large villa near Cannes where he began his Classicist period, which is defined by a return to Classical subjects and an academic style. . He passed away in 1973 in France and was buried on the grounds of his estate. By this time he was undoubtedly one of the most famous, and influential artists in the world. Today Picasso’s prominence and influence upon both art and popular culture continues to grow.