Today, October 25th, is Pablo Picasso’s 137th birthday. The famous painter was born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain to Don Jose and Maria. His full baptized name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, which is a list of Catholic saints. Ruiz is his father’s name and Picasso his mother’s.
Don Jose was a nature painter of the middle class and worked as a teacher and museum curator. It was he who taught his son artistic principles and oil painting. From his father, he studied the work of the masters and became fascinated quickly. A story goes that when Picasso was 13, Ruiz believed that he had surpassed his own ability and may have even become discouraged that there wasn’t a point in continuing his own work.
After Pablo’s young sister died of illness, the family moved to Barcelona, a place where Picasso felt right at home in and thrived. Upon moving to Barcelona, as well, Ruiz convinced the officials at the art academy where he worked to teach Picasso at just 13. They felt that he was talented enough and quickly moved him to an advanced class.
You might think that an early childhood of such formal education is incongruous with being a pioneer of Cubism, although his earliest work is more realist. You might also think that such structure would eventually be too much pressure on a young person, and you’d be correct. When Picasso was 16, he was sent to Madrid to study at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. This was the first time he was out on his own. Soon after enrollment, he left the academy because of his distaste for the instruction. In Madrid, he found plenty to inspire him, such as the colorful designs of Greek painter El Greco.
Early on in his career, he created a series of haunting and grim cartoons which depict the state of the poor in Spain. He himself was very poor at this time, too. He continued to painted subjects of poverty and melancholy throughout what is known as his Blue Period. But what Picasso is most known for is his Cubist works. Cubism is inspired by African designs, which he was very interested in, as well as the act of studying shapes and breaking them down into simpler components.
During the Spanish civil war, he moved more towards surrealism and produced some of his most recognizable works, which depict the German attacks and bombings of Spain. His works in this period were very brutal, a fitting representation of the brutality of the state of his country. During World War II, he was living in Paris and was not allowed to display his artwork because the Nazis didn’t approve of it. Instead, he wrote poetry during this time.
In the last years of his life, Picasso became a successful and respected sculptor. He is one of the few artists who you could say reached high levels of acclaim and recognition in their lifetime.
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