Picasso, Pablo

Picasso, Pablo
b. 1881, Málaga; d. 1973, Mougins (France)
   Painter and sculptor
   Picasso's name conjures up an image of creative freedom and protean energy, epitomizing the spirit of twentieth-century art. The stylistic versatility of his oeuvre, which opened the way to many artistic movements of the first half of the century, encompasses a wide range of artforms: painting, sculpture, drawing, collages, prints and ceramics. His work has often been explained and judged in terms of his life. In particular his relationship to women—both within and outside his canvases-has been the object of critical scrutiny. Picasso attended art school in Barcelona where his family had moved in 1895, and frequented the city's artistic circles such as that around the tavern of Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats), a centre for modernist culture in whose premises Picasso had his first exhibition in 1900. That same year he travelled to Paris for the first time. The trip was followed by longer stays in the French capital with occasional visits to Spain to see family and friends, among whom was the Catalan poet Jaume Sabartés who was later to become Picasso's personal secretary until his death in 1968. Picasso immersed himself in Parisian bohemian life, getting acquainted with Leo and Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob. His early work is characterized by a melancholic lyricism and a subdued palette (blue and rose periods, 1901–6). A growing interest in primitivism-African masks and Iberian sculpture—together with the rediscovery of Cézanne, prompted the development of his career, which was also spurred by his rivalry with Henri Matisse. In 1907 he painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon which revolutionized the concept of form and space in painting, despite access to it being restricted for many years to the artist's friends. By then Picasso had already acquired a certain notoriety but it was the German dealer Kurt Kahnweiler who freed the painter from financial difficulties and thereby enabled him to experiment in this, one of his most innovative periods. Together with Braque, Picasso made his greatest contribution to modern art with cubism, which in many ways anticipated abstract expressionism. With their invention of collage in 1912, analytic cubism was transformed into synthetic cubism and Picasso, true to his Spanish inheritance, became one of the greatest still-life artists. After WWI he returned to figuration in a neo-classical mode which gradually acquired a quality of surreal expressionism, particularly in his series of women bathers. In the early 1920s and as his reputation grew he became interested in performance and collaborated, together with Cocteau, Satie and Stravinsky, in Diaghilev's Ballet Russe designing decor and costumes. The presence of the surrealist movement began to be felt in the Paris art scene, and Picasso's drawing Le Minotaure appeared on the cover of the first number of their review La Révolution Surréaliste. However, his relationship with Breton's acolytes never went beyond a cordial mutual acknowledgement. In the 1930s he made a series of a hundred etchings: the enigmatic and erotic Suite Vollard. At the same time his painting acquired a darker, more violent tone. With his personal life in turmoil he entered a creative crisis coinciding with the political malaise which preceded the Spanish Civil War. After 1936 he settled permanently in France, for the most part in the French Midi, in self-imposed exile, and was never to return to Spain, becoming a member of the French Communist party in 1944. However, he never abandoned his interest in things Spanish as is attested by his homages to Velázquez and Goya, in the variations on Las meninas (1950s), and in the Tauromaquia aquatints series (1960), respectively. His Spanishness is particularily evident in the constant presence in his work of bullfighting, of which he was a life-long aficionado. The imagery of the bullfight is present in one of his most famous works: Guernica. The bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Luftwaffe in April 1937, gave Picasso the subject matter for the mural that had been commisioned by the Republican Government for the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Art and Techniques Exhibition which was to open in June 1937. Surrounded by controversy from its inception for its ambiguous symbolism, it became a powerful statement against war crimes and fascism in particular. After a nomadic period, the mural was finally housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Its return to Spain in September 1981 was a boost to the young Spanish democracy still shaken by the Tejerazo in February of the same year. From the Casón del Buen Retiro, an annexe to the Prado, Guernica was moved in 1992 to the permanent collection of the new Queen Sofía Museum in Madrid.
   One aspect of Picasso's work that has been reassessed is his sculptures, on which he worked assiduously from 1906, but which were hardly exhibited until late in his life. The sculptural work consists mainly of Cubist constructions and assemblages, but also of odd, discarded objects, like Bull's Head, made from a bicycle seat and handlebars. Here, his collaboration with the Catalan sculptor Julio González, as earlier with Braque, brought a surge of inspiration into his work.
   Extraordinarily prolific right up to the end of his life, his oeuvre is scattered among the world's major collections, but there are also some institutions devoted entirely to his work. The Museu Picasso in Barcelona, housed in the Palacio Aguilar in the city's old town, opened in 1963 and contains among some 3,000 pieces (drawings, lithographs, engravings and sculptures) many youthful works donated by the artist and Sabartés; the Antibes Museum, which Picasso used as his studio for a while, was renamed Musée Picasso in 1946, and contains a large series of ceramics made from the late 1940s; and the Musée Picasso in Paris, which contains the artist's personal collection and his legacy to the French government after his death in 1985.
   See also: exile; visual arts
   Further reading
   - Brown, J. (1996) Picasso and the Spanish Tradition, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press (a superb collection of essays, including one by Jonathan Brown, which deal with Picasso's reworkings and debts to the Spanish Old Masters).
   - Chipp, H.B. (1988) Picasso's Guernica: History, Transformations, Meanings, Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press (includes a chapter by Javier Tusell on the vicissitudes of its return to Spain).
   - Daix, P. (1993) Picasso: Life and Art, London: Thames & Hudson (comprehensive account and excellent discussion; very readable).
   - Richardson, J. (1991–6) A Life of Picasso, 2 vols, London: Jonathan Cape (authoritative, scholarly biography, offering a sympathetic view).
   - Museu Picasso, Musée Picasso and Musée Bonnat (1993) Picasso: toros y toreros, Paris and Barcelona: Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux/ Ajuntament de Barcelona (this catalogue for the exhibition held by Museu Picasso, Barcelona, Musée Picasso, Paris and Musée Bonnat, Bayonne includes a series of interesting essays on the use and significance of bullfighting imagery in Picasso's work, and contains related documents!!!
   - Warncke, C.P. and Walther, I.F. (1994) Picasso, 2 vols, Köln: Benedikt Taschen (comprehensive catalogue raisonné; a forceful attempt to map out Picasso's entire output: paintings, drawings, etchings, lithographs, sculptures and ceramics).
   XON DE ROS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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  • Picasso,Pablo — Pi·cas·so (pĭ käʹsō, kăsʹō), Pablo. 1881 1973. Spanish artist. One of the most prolific and influential artists of the 20th century, Picasso excelled in painting, sculpture, etching, stage design, and ceramics. With Georges Braque he launched… …   Universalium

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  • Picasso, Pablo (Ruiz y) — born Oct. 25, 1881, Málaga, Spain died April 8, 1973, Mougins, France Spanish born French painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer. Trained by his father, a professor of drawing, he exhibited his first works at 13. After… …   Universalium

  • Picasso, Pablo (Ruiz y) — (25 oct. 1881, Málaga, España–8 abr. 1973, Mougins, Francia). Pintor, escultor, grabador, ceramista y escenógrafo francés de origen español. Formado inicialmente por su padre, un profesor de dibujo, expuso sus primeras obras a los 13 años de edad …   Enciclopedia Universal

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