Pablo Picasso’s name is now synonymous with the development of modern art. Even before he and Georges Braque had invented Cubism, one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century, he had been blazing a trail as one of the most innovative artists working at the time, having already moved through various phases of work which themselves have become highly celebrated, for instance the Blue Period and Rose Period. Works by Picasso crown the collections of a number of museums throughout the world; his influence remains crucial even today.
Pablo Ruiz Picasso, as he was originally known, was born in 1881 in Malaga, the son of a painter and art teacher who was best known for his pictures of doves. During his early years, Picasso lived in Andalusia, in Galicia, in Madrid and in Barcelona.
It was in Barcelona that Picasso became increasingly linked to the avant-garde, not least through the legendary artists’ haunt, Els Quatre Gats. Through his connections there, he developed an increasingly vigorous style. His incredible draughtsmanship meant that he was soon aware of the constraints of life as an artist in Barcelona and, in his late teens he travelled to Paris. This was his first visit to the French capital, where he would soon make his home. It brought about an immediate watershed in his pictures, as he became bolder and more experimental. He enjoyed great success with an exhibition in the legendary gallery of Ambroise Vollard in 1901, when he was still only 19 years old.
Soon, influenced by the suicide of his friend Carles Casagemas, Picasso embarked upon the Blue Period, which was followed by the wistful melancholy of the Rose Period. Gradually, an interest in volumes and in direct means of representation, in part influenced by African sculpture and by early Iberian art, developed into volumetric forms in his pictures; after meeting Braque, who was immersed in the legacy of Paul Cézanne, the pair developed Cubism, an artform that involved seeing the world in an entirely new way, incorporating volume, time and multiple viewpoints into their works. This was a crucial break that would spawn a thousand more, as artists felt the increasing validity of abstract ways of representing the world, and indeed the validity of abstract art.
Picasso continued to develop throughout the rest of his career, be it in his neo-classical works from the late 1910s and early 1920s or the lyrical surrealism of his pictures from the early 1930s, the angst-ridden portraits of Dora Maar of the years of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, to the gestural passion of his later pictures. His various shifts in style are often linked to the women in his life. Early muses included Fernande Olivier and Eva Gouel; he married the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova but became distant from her during his affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter; he then met the photographer Dora Maar, who was supplanted by fellow artist Françoise Gilot. He ultimately married Jacqueline Roque, his muse throughout the later decades of his life. Picasso spent most of the post-war years in the South of France, in the often sun-drenched land of Cézanne and Van Gogh and bullfighting, painting in an increasingly free manner that culminated in a posthumous exhibition at the Palais des Papes in Avignon.
06 June – 28 July 2023
25 September – 12 December 2015
14 October – 13 December 2014