Pablo Picasso  

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"The extremely backward attitude toward a Picasso painting changes into a highly progressive reaction to a Chaplin film." --Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction


"Everyone wants to understand art, why not try to understand the song of a bird?" --Picasso

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Pablo Ruiz Picasso (October 25, 1881April 8, 1973) was a Spanish painter and sculptor. One of the most recognized figures in 20th century art, he is best known for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the wide variety of styles embodied in his work. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) and Guernica (1937), his portrayal of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

Picasso demonstrated uncanny artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence; during the first decade of the twentieth century his style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas. His revolutionary artistic accomplishments brought him universal renown and immense fortune throughout his life, making him one of the best-known figures in twentieth century art.

Personal life

After studying art in Madrid, he made his first trip to Paris in 1900, the art capital of Europe. In Paris, he lived with Max Jacob (journalist and poet), who helped him learn French. Max slept at night and Picasso slept during the day as he worked at night. There were times of severe poverty, cold, and desperation. Much of his work had to be burned to keep the small room warm. In 1901, with his friend Soler, he founded the magazine Arte Joven in Madrid. The first edition was entirely illustrated by him. From that day, he started to simply sign his work Picasso, while before he signed Pablo Ruiz y Picasso. In the early years of the twentieth century, Picasso, still a struggling youth, divided his time between Barcelona and Paris, where in 1904, he began a long term relationship with Fernande Olivier. It is she who appears in many of the Rose period paintings. After acquiring fame and some fortune, Picasso left Olivier for Marcelle Humbert, whom Picasso called Eva. Picasso included declarations of his love for Eva in many Cubist works.

In Paris, Picasso entertained a distinguished coterie of friends in the Montmartre and Montparnasse quarters, including André Breton, Guillaume Apollinaire, and writer Gertrude Stein. He maintained a number of mistresses in addition to his wife or primary partner. Picasso was married twice and had four children by three women.

In 1918 Picasso married Olga Khokhlova, a ballerina with Sergei Diaghilev's troupe, for whom Picasso was designing a ballet, Parade, in Rome. Khokhlova introduced Picasso to high society, formal dinner parties, and all the social niceties attendant on the life of the rich in 1920s Paris. The two had a son, Paulo, who would grow up to be a dissolute motorcycle racer and chauffeur to his father. Khokhlova's insistence on social propriety clashed with Picasso's bohemian tendencies and the two lived in a state of constant conflict. In 1927 Picasso met 17 year old Marie-Thérèse Walter and began a secret affair with her. Picasso's marriage to Khokhlova soon ended in separation rather than divorce, as French law required an even division of property in the case of divorce, and Picasso did not want Khokhlova to have 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.

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 Maar who documented the painting of Guernica.

After the liberation of Paris in 1944, Picasso began to keep company with a young art student, Françoise Gilot. The two eventually became lovers, and had two children together, Claude and Paloma. Unique among Picasso's women, Gilot left Picasso in 1953, allegedly because of abusive treatment and infidelities. This came as a severe blow to Picasso.

He went through a difficult period after Gilot's departure, coming to terms with his advancing age and his perception that, now in his 70s, he was no longer attractive, but rather grotesque to young women. A number of ink drawings from this period explore this theme of the hideous old dwarf as buffoonish counterpoint to the beautiful young girl, including several from a six-week affair with Geneviève Laporte, who in June 2005 auctioned off the drawings Picasso made of her.

Picasso was not long in finding another lover, Jacqueline Roque. Roque 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 Gilot. Gilot 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 Roque after Gilot had filed for divorce in order to exact his revenge for her leaving him.

Picasso had constructed a huge gothic structure and could afford large villas in the south of France, at Notre-dame-de-vie on the outskirts of Mougins, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Although he was a celebrity, there was often as much interest in his personal life as his art.

In addition to his manifold 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 April 8, 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 interred at Castle Vauvenargues' park, in Vauvenargues, Bouches-du-Rhône. Jacqueline Roque prevented his children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral.

Commemoration and legacy

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. At the time of his death many of his paintings were in his possession, as he had kept off the art market what he did not need to sell. In addition, Picasso had a considerable collection of the work of other famous artists, some his contemporaries, such as Henri Matisse, with whom he had exchanged works. Since Picasso left no will, his death duties (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. In 2003, relatives of Picasso inaugurated a museum dedicated to him in his birthplace, Málaga, Spain, the Museo Picasso Málaga.

The Museu Picasso in Barcelona features many of his early works, created while he was living in Spain, including many rarely seen works which reveal his firm grounding in classical techniques. The museum also holds many precise and detailed figure studies done in his youth under his father’s tutelage, as well as the extensive collection of Jaime Sabartés, his close friend and personal secretary.

Several paintings by Picasso rank among the most expensive paintings in the world. Garçon à la pipe sold for US$104 million at Sotheby's on 4 May 2004, establishing a new price record. Dora Maar au Chat sold for US$95.2 million at Sotheby’s on 3 May 2006. On 4 May 2010, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust was sold at Christie's for $106.5 million. The 1932 work, which depicts Picasso's mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter reclining and as a bust, was in the personal collection of Los Angeles philanthropist Frances Lasker Brody, who died in November 2009. Christie's won the rights to auction the collection against London-based Sotheby's. The collection as a whole was valued at over $150 million, while the work was originally expected to earn $80 million at auction. There were more than half a dozen bidders, while the winning bid was taken via telephone. The previous auction record ($104.3 million) was set in February 2010, by Alberto Giacometti's Walking Man I.

As of 2004, Picasso remains the top ranked artist (based on sales of his works at auctions) according to the Art Market Trends report. More of his paintings have been stolen than those by any other artist; the Art Loss Register has 550 of his works listed as missing.

The Picasso Administration functions as his official Estate. The U.S. copyright representative for the Picasso Administration is the Artists Rights Society.

In the 1996 movie Surviving Picasso, Picasso is portrayed by actor Anthony Hopkins.

See also

Picasso's African Period




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pablo Picasso" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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