Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was undoubtedly the most famous artist of the twentieth century. During his artistic career, which lasted more than 75 years, he created thousands of works using all kinds of materials: paintings, sculptures, prints, and ceramics. He almost single-handedly created modern art. Pablo Picasso artwork changed art more profoundly than any other artist of this century. First famous for his pioneering role in Cubism, Picasso continued to develop his art with a pace and vitality comparable to the accelerated technological and cultural changes of the twentieth century. Each change embodied a radical new idea, and it might be said that Picasso lived several artistic lifetimes. Even today, original Picasso prints represent the peak of artistic innovation and achievement.
Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Malaga,Spain, the son of an artist Jose Ruiz and Maria Picasso. Rather than adopt the common name Ruiz, the young Picasso took the more uncommon name of his mother. Already an artistic prodigy at the age of 14, Picasso completed the one-month qualifying examination for the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona in one day. From there, he went to the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. Then returning to Barcelona in 1900, he frequented the city’s famous cabaret, Els Quatra Gats—a favorite of local intellectuals and artists.
From 1901 to 1904, Picasso entered his so-called Blue Period, named for the blue tonality of Picasso’s paintings. During this time, he frequently changed his residence between Barcelona and Paris. He spent his days in Paris studying the masterworks at the Louvre and his nights enjoying the company of fellow artists at cabarets like the Lapin Agile.
In 1905 and 1906, the color and mood of Picasso’s paintings radically changed. He became fascinated with the acrobats, clowns, and wandering families of the circus world. He started to paint in subtle pinks and grays, often highlighted in brighter tones. This period became known as his Rose Period.
In 1907, Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, considered the watershed work of the twentieth-century art and an emblem of the Cubist movement. Cubism was equally the creation of Picasso and Georges Braque, and from 1911 to 1913 the two men were in frequent contact. Analytic cubism involved the artists taking apart objects and analyzing them in terms of their shapes. It used monochrome brownish and neutral colors. Synthetic cubisim, which came about around 1912, evolved cubisim so that the process now included cutting paper fragments and pasting them into compositions. This marked one of the first uses of collage in fine art.
For Picasso, the 1920s were years of rich artistic exploration and great productivity. Picasso continued to design theater sets and painted in Cubist, Classical, and Surreal modes. From 1929 to 1931, he pioneered wrought iron sculpture with his old friend Julio Gonzalez. In the early 1930’s, Picasso did a large quantity of graphic illustrations.
Picasso was a major innovator in the medium of printmaking. He altered his methods to achieve singular expressive qualities in his multiples. He worked with multiple ateliers over the decades. These collaboration proofs illustrate the unique working relationship Picasso maintained with his printers and their ateliers. Works created in collaboration with the great printers represent the breadth of Picasso’s considerable oeuvre in linocuts, etching, and lithography.
Picasso had a deep affinity for the expressive experimental potential of the print medium, as well as a deep enthusiasm for it as a popular medium. In Pablo Picasso artwork, both prints and painting, he often revisited an image over and over, reworking it in multiple states and completely reframing it in various compositions. Many of the themes, including the minotaur, the bullfight, and of course women, would continue to fascinate Picasso. Each of his proofs is a unique manifestation of this exploration of the medium and subjects as art objects.
In late April 1937, the world learned the shocking news of the saturation bombing of the civilian target of Guernica, Spain by the Nazi Luftwaffe. Picasso responded with Guernica, his great anti-war painting.
During World War II, Picasso lived in Paris, where he turned his energy to the art of ceramics. From 1947 to 1950, he pursued new methods of lithography. The 1950’s saw the beginning of a number of large retrospective exhibits of his works. During this time, he began to paint a series of works conceived as free variations on old master paintings.
In the 1960’s, he produced a monumental 50-foot sculpture for the Chicago Civic Center. The 60s also saw Picasso achieve some of his most innovative work alongside the printer Hidalgo Arnera. He experimented with different methods, from physical carving and inking of the plates, to experimenting with the actual chemical make-up of the ink. The relationship between Arnera and Picasso was extremely collaborative. Arnera encouraged Picasso to try a subtractive method of one-plating. He also helped Picasso develop a new level of expression in his prints, using methods as unique as sanding the plate for texture and wetting an ink sheet to achieve new textural effects. During this time, Picasso created about 200 linocuts.
Picasso also worked closely with Fernand Mourlot, a fine art printer who worked with artists like Edouard Manet and Joan Miro. Picasso and Mourlot began working together in 1945, with a portrait of Francoise Gilot as the first of over 300 lithographs he would create at Mourlot’s atelier. Picasso collaborated with Aldo Crommelynck frequently as well, creating number series, named for the number of etchings created for that particular series.
In 1970, Picasso donated more than 800 paintings to the Berenguerde Aguilar Palace Museum in Barcelona.
Pablo Picasso died on April 8, 1973 in southern France at the age of 91. At the time of his death, many of his artwork was off the market. In addition, Picasso had a considerable collection of works by his contemporaries. Because Picasso left no will, his estate tax was paid in the form of artwork from his collection, including many original Picasso prints and paintings. These works would go on to form the core of the collection at the Musee Picasso in Paris. In 2003, Picasso’s family inaugurated the Museo Picasso Malaga, dedicated to the Pablo Picasso artwork.
Art Institute of Chicago
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
Corcoran Gallery, Washington DC
Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK
Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Guggenheim Museum, New York City
Hammer Museum of UCLA
Harvard University Museum, Boston
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana
Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
Musée National Picasso de Paris
Musée National Picasso La Guerre et la Paix, Vallauris, France
Musée National Picasso, Paris
Musée Picasso d’Antibes
Musée Picasso de Vallauris
Museo Picasso Málaga, Spain
Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil
Museu Picasso de Barcelona
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
National Gallery, Australia, Canberra
National Gallery, Canada
National Gallery, Edinburgh
National Gallery, London
National Gallery, Prague
National Gallery, Washington DC
Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany
Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona
Portland Art Museum, Oregon
Portland Museum of Art, Maine
Reina Sofía National Museum, Madrid
Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Belgium
Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri
San Diego Museum of Art, California
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA
Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art,Amsterdam
Tate Gallery, London, Great Britain
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Iran
The Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
The Hunt Museum, Limerick, Ireland
The Museum of Modern Art, NY
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Yale University Gallery, New Haven
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