Pablo Picasso was born in October 1881 in Málaga, Spain. The son of an academic painter, he began to draw at an early age and although he attended art schools throughout his childhood, he never received a formal degree and left the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid after one year of study. In 1900, Picasso’s first exhibition took place in Barcelona. Picasso settled in Paris in April 1904, and soon his circle of friends included Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as two dealers, Ambroise Vollard and Berthe Weill.
Picasso’s early works are known as the Blue and Rose periods, so called for the colour tones in which they are rendered. With their wistful elongated figures of Spanish and French life, they are examples of late 19th century Symbolism. In the summer of 1906, during Picasso’s stay in Gosol, Spain, his work entered a new phase, marked by the influence of Greek, Iberian and African art. Along with the French artist Georges Braque, Picasso broke down and analysed form as ‘little cubes’, ushering in the age of Cubism. It proved to be the most influential movement of the early twentieth century.
As if to distance himself from his imitators, Picasso then went to the opposite extreme of embracing the classical past. He expressed a renewed interest in drawing and figural representation and in 1932, with large exhibitions at the Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, and the Kunsthaus Zurich, and the publication of the first volume of Christian Zervos’s catalogue raisonné, Picasso’s fame increased markedly.
Picasso was an innovator in every art form that he worked in, from painting, to ceramic, to printmaking. As with all those these other techniques he used, with linocuts too he pushed the boundaries of the possible, and made the medium, which he had taken up seriously well into his late 70s, his own.
In the decades following World War II, Picasso continued to produce paintings and prints of considerable power, always remaining relevant and influential. As the first artist to enjoy the attention of mass media, his restless changing of style and love of controversy projected him into genuine superstardom, perhaps never to be surpassed again in the art world. He died in 1973 at the age of 91.