He has been called the most famous artist of the 20th century. His work single-handedly defined an artistic style. He was more loved and criticized than any other artist in history.
He created over 20,000 works, and legend says that he could pay for a meal with just his signature.
Learn more about Pablo Picasso, Spains greatest artist, on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.
This episode is sponsored by the Tourist Office of Spain.
Spain isn’t just the home of the world’s most famous painter, Pablo Picasso. It was and is home to many of the world’s greatest artists across many different mediums.
Chefs Ferran Adrià and Joan Roca have both had restaurants named the world’s best.
Painters Salvador Dali, El Greco, and Francisco Goya all hail from Spain.
Architects Antoni Gaudí and Santiago Calatrava….Spanish.
Actors Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Benicio del Toro. All from Spain.
Director Pedro Almodóvar as well as singers Julio and Inrique Ingleses, and opera star Plácido Domingo.
You can start researching your dream trip to Spain today by visiting Spain.info where you can get everything you need to know to plan your Spanish adventure.
To begin any discussion on Picasso, you first have to start with his full name. The full name of the artist known Picasso given to him at birth is:
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso
The name “Picasso” is actually an Italian name that came from his mother. Early in his career, he was playing around with different names. He tried “Picaz” and “Picasa” which were variations of his mother and father’s name.
He avoided his father’s surname of Ruiz just because it was too common in Spain. It didn’t think that Pablo Ruiz would stand out. He also may have been superstitious. His father was a failed painter and he didn’t want to use the same name he did for his work.
He explained the decision to use the name to Hungarian artist George Brassaï:
“[Picasso] was stranger, more resonant, than Ruiz … Do you know what appealed to me about that name? Well, it was undoubtedly the double s, which is fairly unusual in Spain. Picasso is of Italian origin, as you know. And the name a person bears or adopts has its importance. Can you imagine me calling myself Ruiz? Pablo Ruiz? Diego-José Ruiz? Or Juan-Népomucène Ruiz?”
Well, he was right.
So, the artist we call Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Malaga, Andalusia. His birth was difficult and the midwife who delivered him thought that he was stillborn.
As mentioned before, his father was a failed painter who mostly earned money teaching art and serving as curator for a museum.
He did excel in teaching art insofar as one of his pupils was his son.
Picasso was taking lessons with his father at the age of 7, and by the age of 9 had completed his first painting. Called Le Picador, and it is a painting of a man riding a horse in a bullfight. To be fair, it doesn’t at all look like something a 9-year-old would create. Compare this to what most kids have up on the refrigerator, and you’ll see a huge difference.
When he was 13, his family moved to Barcelona where he was admitted to the School of Fine Arts where his father had gotten a job. His father persuaded the school to allow his son to take an entrance exam for this advanced class. The testing usually took a month and was for students much older than him.
Picasso finished the test in a week and was admitted.
At 16, he was sent to Spain’s top art college, Madrid’s Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.
He wasn’t a great student. He didn’t care for formal study and he only really cared about art. However, in Madrid, he had access to museums with works of great masters which would influence his career.
Here is where I’m going to start to run into problems. Picasso was a painter and this is a podcast. To really understand paintings you have to see them, and podcasts are an audio medium. So, I encourage you to go and actually check out some of the works I’ll be referencing in this episode.
If you only think of Picasso as a cubist painter, there is really much more to him than that. Perhaps more than any other artist, his style changed many times over his life and changed dramatically.
Around the turn of the century, Picasso became a young man and began traveling and experiencing more which changed his artistic style.
Prior to 1900, his art was more realistic than anything else. In 1900 is traveled to Paris for the first time which was the center of the art world in Europe. Soon after he began what was known as his “Blue Period”.
His painting from this period is known for their use of the color blue and bluish greens. Many of the figures in the painting are gaunt and the overall mood is somewhat depressing.
His blue period lasted from 1901 to 1904.
From 1904 to 1906 he entered his Rose Period, where he painted images with warmer colors that were less somber and more light.
From 1907 to 1909, he began to create work that most people would think of as a Picasso. Known as his African period, his paintings used more angular images which were inspired by African sculptures he saw at an exhibition. One of his most famous paintings, The Young Ladies of Avignon, came from this period and it is currently in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Many historians call this period a proto-cubist period.
From 1909 to 1919, he began his Cubism period with which is probably best known for. Cubism is a style that takes geometric elements and assembles them together in a type of collage. In fact, he may have cut up images from magazines to experiment with the style.
In the 1920’s he changed his style yet again when he began experimenting with Neoclassicism and surrealism.
In the 1930s as Picasso entered his 50s, he didn’t really adhere to any one style. He changed styles and combined elements from different styles. He also became extremely prolific.
It is estimated that over the course of his life, he created approximately 147,800 works of art. This included 13,500 paintings, 100,000 prints and engravings, 300 sculptures and ceramics, and 34,000 illustrations. He also dabbled in writing, having written over 300 poems and 2 plays.
Much of this was done at the tail end of his career.
The stories about Picasso are almost as famous as his art.
In 1913, he was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa. Listen to my episode about the Mona Lisa for more about this, but basically he was accused by a police officer in Paris who just didn’t like modern artists and assumed that only a modern artist who hated classical art could have stolen it.
He was often photographed wearing a black and white striped shirt. That shirt was known as a Breton-striped shirt and was the uniform of French seamen in Brittany. It has exactly 21 stripes which represent the 21 victories of Napoleon. Coco Chanel brought it back in 1917 and that is when Picasso started wearing it.
In his later life, rumors floated around that he would often pay for his meals by just signing his name, or doing a quick drawing. He once refused to do so saying “I’m buying a meal, not the whole restaurant.”
In another anecdote, one of his fans in Paris asked him to draw a doodle on a piece of paper. Picasso then said “That will be $30,000 dollars”, “What?” The fan replied, “that only took 5 seconds.” “No,” Picasso said, “that took a lifetime.”
Picasso was famous for being a ladies’ man. Technically, he was only married twice, but he had many many affairs and mistresses. One of his most famous affairs was with Marie-Thérèse Walter. In 1927, when he was 45, he noticed her on the street, approached her and said, “Miss, you have an interesting face … I would like to do your portrait … I am Picasso”
Which, you have to admit, is a great pickup line. She was only 17 and had never heard of him, but they ended up spending years together and had a child.
Three of Picasso’s children are still alive as is one of his ex-wives. Françoise Gilot is still around at the age of 99 and painting in her studio in New York City.
Perhaps his more famous work is Guernica. It is an enormous wall-sized painting which was done in the cubist style in 1937. It was created after the bombing of the Basque city of Guernica by German and Italians on the behest of the Spanish government.
He lived in Paris during the German occupation during WWII. Once, a German officer came to his apartment and saw a photo of the painting. When he asked Picasso “Did you do this?”, Picasso replied, “No, you did.”
In 1939 Guernica was sent to the United States for safekeeping, and Picasso requested it not be brought back to Spain until democracy was restored.
It was returned to Spain in 1981 and today is on display at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.
Picasso became the first and only living artist to have a showing in the main gallery of the Louvre in Paris. It was in celebration of his 90th birthday.
Picasso passed away in 1973 at age of 91.
He was probably one of the first celebrity artists of the modern world. Many notable artists who predated Picasso often died in obscurity and didn’t become famous until after their deaths.
Picasso died with a net worth estimated to be around $500 million.
Today, several of his paintings have sold for over $100 million.
He is unquestionably one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. As he himself said:
“When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
Executive Producer of Everything Everywhere Daily is James Mackala.
The associate producer is Thor Thomsen.
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