Who was Pablo Picasso? Life, works and curiosities

Pablo Picasso was one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century . Co-founder of the Cubist movement , inventor of the techniques of collage and assemblage , through his work he denounced the horrors of wars, dictatorships and violence. Through his art he tried to understand himself, man and the world around him, experimenting and changing his point of view over the years (Picasso’s “periods”, all marked by different colors).

Painter, draftsman, sculptor, engraver, lithographer, collage and assemblage author , ceramist, graphic designer, costume designer, poet, playwright, illustrator and more, Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga , Spain (in the region of Andalusia) on the 25th October 1881 . Very precocious and gifted with irrepressible creativity, he was followed in the graphic arts, from an early age, by his father José Ruíz y Blasco , a drawing teacher at the School of Fine Arts in La Coruňa and an artist of little success. Still a teenager, the rebel Pablo went to Madrid, Barcelona and then to Paris, the latter city which was the artistic and cultural capital of the time and in which he befriended many important artists. Tireless experimenter of techniques and expressive languages, Pablo drew, painted and sculpted incessantly since he was a boy, and despite having crossed various genres and currents, his art has always been recognizable.

The world knows him as Pablo Picasso, but in reality the full name of the great artist is an incredible challenge for memory: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruíz y Picasso . The last two are the paternal and maternal surnames respectively. All the other names are homages of the parents to a large group of saints.

Not everyone knows the Italian origin of the great painter nor that the surname he adopted is that of his mother Maria Picasso y López . This she, in fact, she was of Argentine nationality but of a Genoese family . The adoption of his mother’s surname, Picasso, took place in Barcelona when the artist was 20 years old. His friends told him that it was less common than Ruíz (his father’s surname) and more pleasant to the hearing. He agreed with them, and took the ball to push the father figure away from himself, a man with whom he had many personal and artistic frictions and from which he was separated by a considerable difference in age (43 years) and views.

Pablo Picasso

Picasso was a child prodigy, an innate genius of art. His first painting, The Picador , is from 1889, when the Spanish artist was only … 8 years old ! It is a painting that is very difficult to attribute to the ability of a child, in which a man on horseback is portrayed with three spectators watching him. At 11, Pablo began attending drawing courses at the La Coruňa School of Fine Arts , under the teachings of his father.

His drawing entitled Male Torso dates back to 12 , an exceptional work in itself, regardless of age. During his adolescence, from 14 to 16 years, he created paintings of absolute beauty, true masterpieces, among which Salmeron and Academic study of 1895, Self -portrait of 1896, First communion and Portrait of the mother of the same year and charity of 1897.

Much later Picasso declared: «At 12 I painted like Raphael. But it took me a lifetime to learn how to paint like a child ». But his relationship with his father broke down; Pablo was rebellious and indomitable, he didn’t want anyone to control his creativity and life choices. It was the beginning of a journey in which he totally removed his father, who died at 75 years of age, when Pablo was 32 and was now an established and famous painter.

Up to over 25 years of age, now traveling around Spain and France for years, Pablo Picasso lived for a long time in conditions of extreme poverty . He had a very difficult character from a very young age, not inclined to compromise and always looking for new experiences. His early works often portray poor people, beggars, circus artists, marginalized people, people seen and known in Spanish and Parisian brothels, street people. He was described by some biographers as “a caged animal”, always in search of absolute freedom. A characteristic feature also of his art of him, constantly looking for new languages ​​and new expressions.


It is said that Pablo Picasso and the artist Georges Braque, observing that the shadow cast by a nail driven into the wall was longer and different from the nail itself, and went diagonally due to the effect of light, took this illusion effect as basis for inventing, in 1912, the collage technique (the first collage in history, signed by Picasso, was titled Still life with straw chair . Two years later Picasso was still experimenting with the first assemblage , initially called “cubist construction”).

With the collage, in fact, through pieces of different images , new figures are created that give an effect of illusion. The same goes for assemblage , a form of collage made with solids: for example, you take a bike handlebar and a cushion, attach the first one over the second and create a bull’s head with horns.


Picasso’s pictorial production has been divided by art historians into various periods. The first of them is the so-called “blue period” (from 1901 to 1904), in which the Spanish artist expresses, using above all the blue color and cold shades, all his pain , his nostalgia, his melancholy, his his sadness. The paintings of these years come after the tragedy that struck Picasso in February 1901, when his best friend of his, with whom he shared a house in Madrid, Carlos Casagemas, had taken his life in Paris because of the woman’s betrayals. that he loved. In Paris his works were noticed by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard , who had him exhibit 64 paintings in his gallery. But Picasso was unsuccessful and, marked by economic poverty and pain, he plunged into a period of depression.

After commuting between Barcelona and Paris, Picasso settled permanently in the French capital in 1904. A happy period began for Picasso, who despite his economic condition was able to make friends with many artists, including Max Jacob and Guillaume Apollinaire. The paintings from this period, renamed the “pink period” (1904 to 1907), are full of hope and warmer colors, especially pink. In 1907, together with Georges Braque, he founded Cubism. Some historians and art critics affirm that the idea of ​​Cubism is based on the in-depth study of the works of Paul Cezanne, which in a certain sense anticipated Cubism by a few years. But there are some who affirm that at the basis of Cubism are the drawings of the Genoese artist, who lived in the 16th century and long forgotten, Luca Cambiaso .

The idea of ​​Picasso and Braque at the base of Cubism is the representation of a subject from multiple points of view , breaking it down and simplifying it through geometric shapes. The symbolic paintings of this pictorial current are Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon , from 1907, and Case all’Estaque  by Braque, from 1908. The term cubism was coined by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles in 1907, with the intention of denigrate the works of the artists of this movement. However, even in a polemical way, the term was chosen by these painters to give a name to their artistic current.

Les demoiselles d'Avignon by Picasso

In his youth, spent first in Barcelona and later in Paris, Pablo Picasso spent his days between the making of his works and drinking in badly-known clubs with his friends, artists like him. Among these, in Paris, there were also Amedeo Modigliani , the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and others who would have played an important role in the history of 20th century art. It happened that, in 1911, the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s most enigmatic painting, was stolen at night from the Louvre Museum in Paris. The poet Apollinaire was arrested for having been secretary and friend of Pieret, the main suspect in the theft. When he was questioned, Apollinaire mentioned Picasso as a possible author of what was considered “the theft of the century”. Picasso was arrested and tried . Both Picasso and Apollinaire were acquitted and released. But the robber of the Mona Lisa was not even Pieret.

In fact, in 1913 the Mona Lisa was found in Florence. It had been stolen from the Louvre by the Italian Vincenzo Peruggia , a former employee of the Louvre, who committed the crime with the intent of “bringing the Mona Lisa back to Italy” (but we know that the Mona Lisa was brought to France by Leonardo himself in 1516, sold to King Francis I of France, a nation in which the theft of 1911 has always remained apart and for some exhibitions).


His famous painting entitled Guernica , from 1937, of almost 8 meters by 3 and a half meters, represents the massacre that took place in the Spanish city of Guernica following the bombing , which took place on April 26, 1937, carried out by the German and Italian Nazi-fascists in support to the fascist general Francisco Franco against the republican government of Spain. Guernica was razed to the ground and hundreds of victims were killed.

Most famous paintings

Apparently Picasso initially worked on a work depicting the death of the bullfighter José Gómez Ortega . But after the bombing of Guernica, he decided to abandon the project to create the masterpiece we know. The work portrays a mother crying to the sky with her dead child in her arms, a horse, a bull, a dove that is about to fall to the ground. All distorted figures, immersed in gray, white and black tones, lifeless. A painting of rare power and drama. Shortly after the construction of the work, in 1939, General Francisco Franco established the military dictatorshipfascist throughout Spain for 36 years, until 1975. Picasso’s painting is one of the most famous masterpieces in the history of art, a symbol of the pain and tragedy of war and dictatorship. A copy of him, a tapestry, has been on display at the UN for many years.


Pablo Picasso is considered to be the most prolific artist in the history of art . In his long life – he died in 1973 in France, at the age of 92 and still in business – he produced about 13,500 works including paintings and drawings, over 100,000 engravings and lithographs , about 34,000 book illustrations , hundreds of ceramics and about 300 sculptures ! Not only that: various works by the Spanish artist have entered the Guinness Book of records for having been sold at very high prices.

In 2015, his painting Women of Algiers sold for $ 179 million (up until a few years ago, the expensive picture of history). Other Picasso works sold at auction for really crazy prices : Girl with a basket of flowers for 115 million dollars, Woman sitting by a window sold for over 103 million dollars, The boy with a pipe for 104 million . of dollars in 2004, Dora Maar with a cat for 95 million dollars in 2006, Woman with crossed arms  for 55 million in 2000, Pierrette’s wedding for 51 million in 1989, Women sitting in a gardenfor 49 million in 1999, The dream for 48 million in 1997, Me, Picasso for 47 million in 1989, Reading for 40 million in 2011, Self-portrait of Harlequin for 40 million in 1989.


Pablo Picasso was a genius among the greatest in the history of art. But his complex and complicated character did not only express noble aspects. While his charisma and personality were overwhelming, just as noble was his social and political commitment, his generosity with friends and his courage in denouncing the atrocities of the dictatorship, his inner drive in trying to understanding men and the world, on the other hand, was intractable, capricious and contradictory , excessively volcanic and stubborn, angular and irascible, bloodthirsty and vengeful, at times despotic and overbearing.

These latter characteristics are revealed above all in his relationship with women . Many are those who have fallen in love with him and whom he has betrayed. He couldn’t resist the attraction to the fairer sex and his every relationship was stormy and passionate to say the least. He has four children, two wives he had, but endless lovers of him, some of whom then experienced the devastating consequences of their relationship with the painter. An absolute genius next to which it was almost impossible to live .