Created | Updated Jul 11, 2011
Picasso was a great 20th Century painter who is famous throughout the world for his art. He was the inventor of the Cubism style and painted many abstract pictures. He also was very much opposed to war and many of his works reflect his search for peace in the world.
He was born on 25 October, 1881 in Málaga, Spain. Even Picasso's earliest drawings, made when he was about ten years old, were exceptional. When the family moved to Barcelona in 1895, Picasso attended La Lonja, the art school there, and in 1897 was admitted to the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid.
Picasso was a wonderful pupil and his paintings started to win awards and praise. He left the Academy and became a professional artist when he was 17. His first painting style involved strong colours and pictures of racecourses, dance halls, etc, but this bold, colourful style changed in 1901. Picasso began painting pictures of the victims of society: beggars, drunkards, etc. He used mainly blue for these paintings, so it was known as his Blue period (imaginatively.)
In 1904, Picasso left his gloomy previous style behind and entered what is now known as his Rose period, painting dancers and acrobats with warm colours and classical style, almost as if he had been previously in depression and just realised how wonderful life actually was.
Between 1906 and 1907 Picasso, influenced by paintings by Cézanne, Graeco-Iberian art, and African sculptures, produced a painting which is now called Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. This painting was completely different to most paintings of the time. The painting marked the beginnings of Cubism, a style of painting which broke objects up into angular shapes and displayed the shapes in such a way as to make an abstract picture. Picasso and his close friends greatly developed this style over the following years. Were people at the time thinking to themselves, what happened to the lovely dancers he used to paint? Why can't he paint something nice like that again? Thinking this, it is strange that now it is Picasso's abstract art that people appreciate - because it was so different and original.
In 1917, and until 1924, Serghei Diaghilev commissioned Picasso to produce the scenery for his Russian ballet company's productions, eg Parade, Le Tricorne, and Pulcinella. Pulcinella must have been a fabulous sight to see, with Picasso designing the scenery and Igor Stravinsky, the famous composer, composing the music! Picasso must have been becoming more and more popular as he changed style yet again!
After 1925, Picasso started to paint the strangely proportioned figures for which, perhaps, he is most famous. His interest in sculpture was also revived for some reason and he resumed sculpting as part of his artwork.
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 led to the bombing of a small town called Guernica and to Picasso's most famous painting. The painting is an enormous, abstract, black and white mural full of images representing war, destruction and great grief. Everything in it has at least one hidden meaning, if not a lot more. There are even subtle background details one might not notice at first, like the falling, screeching dove in the background of the picture, barely obvious against the black backdrop - could this be the Dove of Peace? There is a burning building, a dead warrior complete with broken sword, and a woman wailing and holding her child. At the top of the picture, a broken light or possibly a flash bulb illuminates the scene. Guernica is now in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.
After the war, most of Picasso's paintings still centred on war, peace and man's right to leisure and relaxation. Since 1944 Picasso had been a member of the Communist Party and in 1949 his dove lithograph had been adopted as the symbol of the World Peace Congress. In 1955, the theme of his paintings was mainly the artist and his magic powers (a little bit arrogant, perhaps, but no matter!)
Picasso died on 8 April, 1973, aged 92. Paintings by him are to be found in numerous art books and galleries throughout the world. Picasso did wonderful paintings in his life, and though some were cheerful, some sad, some carefree and others with deep meaning, without doubt they were all wonderful paintings which he devoted his life to creating. Thank you, Picasso, for all that brilliant artwork that can make people stop and think, even today, just as you meant them to 100 years ago.