Pablo Picasso had a long name. There’s no other way to say this. Written fully, it’s Pablo, Diego, José, Francisco de Paula, Juan Nepomuceno, Maria de los Remedios, Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad. That’s right, his name was long enough for it to have commas. Also, there’s a distinct lack of ‘Picasso’, which was added to honor his mother. Spanish people really screw their kids over with their names.
In addition to having a name that required two pages on a passport, Picasso is known for being one of the most well-known painters ever and the co-founder of a branch of painting called cubism. So let’s get started.
Give Me A Frikkin’ Pencil
Born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain, Pablo’s first word according to his mother was ‘piz’, short for lapiz which is the Spanish word for pencil. The kid started young and knew what he wanted. From the age of 7, Picasso was receiving formal artistic training from his father, and by the time he was 13, he was able to astound his father with his capabilities by the way he painted a pigeon. The pigeons we drew at the age of 13 were mostly giant Vs on paper.
Picasso briefly attended classes at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, but eventually got so bored that he wrote to a friend, “They go on and on about the same stuff: Velazquez for painting, Michaelangelo for sculpture.” And no, he wasn’t referring to the Ninja Turtle. But it is around this time that his own painting skills were getting awesomely good, and slowly, Picasso the painter was born.
If You’re Moody And You Know It
Picasso was a prolific artist who churned out over 1800 paintings. That’s the equivalent of one painting per day for five years. But because his paintings largely reflected his prevailing mood, they can be neatly categorized into phases.
The first major phase started in 1901 when he moved to Paris, and is called his Blue Period. Why is it called that, you ask? Well…
The phase was influenced to a large extent by the suicide of his friend Carlos Casamegas, with Picasso himself saying that “I started painting in blue when I learnt of Casamegas’ death”. His psychological state can also be reflected in his subject matter – beggars, street urchins, and what Keith Richards will look like in another 20 years.
This is also around the time he started signing his works Picasso instead of his full name.
In 1904, Picasso met Fernando Olivier, who became his mistress. Yeah, Fernando’s a girl’s name. Just go with it. Anyway, Picasso fell in love with her, got all mushy and romantic, and thus started his Rose Period, where his paintings are all cheerful and warm and red and pink. His subjects were clowns and circus performers and harlequins.
This was followed by a brief African Period, inspired by African Sculpture, when he painted one of his most famous works, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (NSFW-ish, in case you work at an art gallery).
But then in 1908, bored of painting love-dovey stuff, Picasso went ahead and co-founded a new method of painting, called Analytic cubism along with George Braque. His paintings became a little more abstract and reflected the use of geometrical cubes to draw out the subject of his paintings. His works became the inspiration for the more abstract pieces of cubism you see these days, so the next time you see a painting where you can’t tell which side is the top and which is the bottom, you blame Picasso.
Picasso’s works during the First and Second World Wars were more sombre, and The Guernica, one of his most famous paintings, depicts the German bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. He was often harassed by the Gestapo during the Second World War and during one search of his apartment, an officer saw a photograph of the painting Guernica. “Did you do that?” the German asked Picasso. “No,” he replied, “You did“.
The Women Around The Man
Picasso was, to put it delicately, a bit of a sexist pig. He once famously said that, “For me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats.” He had many relationships, many mistresses and many affairs, and left many tragedies in his wake. Indeed, of the seven most important women in his life, two killed themselves, two went mad, and one died four years into their relationship. Indeed, his last relationship, which culminated in marriage, was with Jacqueline Roque, and this was when he was 72 and she was 27. He created over 400 portraits of her, which I guess takes the sting out of marrying someone your grandfather’s age.
Picasso died of a heart attack in 1973, at the age of 91. Unlike van Gogh, Picasso tasted international fame and considerable wealth during his lifetime, and got a share of the good life. His painting La Rêve sold in 2013 for $155 million. And he ended up not killing himself in a fit of despair as painters tend to do, so I guess you can call his a life well lived.
Featured image: The Guernica by Pablo Picasso