Pablo Picasso is no doubt one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, transforming the course of art history. Picasso started to show his talent as a child prodigy and at the end of his life was one of the most renowned artists of the 20th century.
Picasso was trained in a classical manner but he became a groundbreaking artist for his time. His genius started showing when he was just a child. He completed his first painting at the age of 9 and started his art education in Barcelona as early as 13 years old. Even as a young art student he had a reputation of having a unique style.
His famous Blue Period (1901-1904) yielded some of the most valuable paintings in the art market today, although Picasso failed to sell them at the time. Sank in severe depression, he painted grim subjects like beggars and prostitutes mainly in monochrome blue or blue-green. His Blue period was followed by a more cheerful Rose period where he painted circus artists, harlequins and other nightlife elements, in line with the Expressionist fashion of the era. In this period he was more optimistic and found people to sell his paintings and art dealers interested in him. It was then when he met American Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo, his main first patrons in Paris. They introduced him to the avant-garde movement and Picasso realized he needed to change his style radically. He started studying African masks. This was also the period he painted the portrait of his friend and patron Gertrude Stein. He never lacked self-belief: When he was told she does not look like the portrait, he said “she will”. His famous painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon) show the influence of the African masks on the mask-like faces of the ladies. This painting paved the way for Cubism, which was co-founded by Picasso along with Georges Braque, revolutionizing art as we know it. They were trying something that was never done before but soon the wave of Cubism was going to spread across international art circles and transform the avant-garde movement. By 1918, Picasso’s financial troubles were behind him while his fame continued to grow. He continued to paint, creating hundreds of masterpieces before his 45th birthday.
In 1927, he met his muse Marie Therese Walter when she was seventeen years old; he was 45 and still living with his first wife, Olga Khokhlova. He portrayed her as blonde, bright and sunny in many paintings unlike his later muse and mistress Dora Maar, whom he depicted as a tortured weeping woman.
One of his most famous paintings “Guernica” was created in 1938 and depicts the Spanish Civil War. This combination of the personal and the political spheres made one of the most powerful political paintings of all time and the tapestry of which now hangs in the United Nations building in New York.
During the WWII, Picasso stayed in Paris and continued to paint although he couldn’t exhibit his works because it didn’t fit Nazi ideals. His studio was often raided by the Gestapo. The famous masterpieces he created in this period include Still life with Guitar and the Charnel House. Nothing could stop his creative process: When Germans banned bronze casting in Paris, he continued making sculptures with the bronze smuggled in for him by the French resistance. When the war was over, he was 63 years old and moved on to a new muse after Dora Maar; Françoise Gilot, whom he had two children with.
After the war his works ranged in many styles such as Surrealism, Neoclassicism to pottery. Picasso couldn’t be limited to one style or medium. When we look back to his oeuvre, it looks as if it was created by 5 or 6 great artists because the styles are so diverse.
Picasso had an irrepressible urge to produce and his artistic expression never stopped until his death in 1973, aged 91. He produced for 80 years of his life, always searching, always trying to be better, more different, magical. He is considered the greatest artist after Rembrandt. His works are ever so popular and always on the rise in the art market. His painting “Les Femmes d’Alger, Version O” sold for $179.4 million including fees, a record price for the most expensive work of art to ever sell at auction.