Pablo Picasso Biography Essay Rubric

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    • Self Portrait, 1901
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    • Bullfight:Death of the Toreador, 1933
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Pablo Picasso

Paintings, Quotes, and Biography

Pablo Picasso Biography


Picasso is not just a man and his work. Picasso is always a legend, indeed almost a myth. In the public view he has long since been the personification of genius in modern art. Picasso is an idol, one of those rare creatures who act as crucibles in which the diverse and often chaotic phenomena of culture are focussed, who seem to body forth the artistic life of their age in one person. The same thing happens in politics, science, sport. And it happens in art.

Early life

Born in Malaga, Spain, in October of 1881, he was the first child born in the family. His father worked as an artist, and was also a professor at the school of fine arts; he also worked as a curator for the museum in Malaga. Pablo Picasso studied under his father for one year, then went to the Academy of Arts for one year, prior to moving to Paris. In 1901 he went to Paris, which he found as the ideal place to practice new styles, and experiment with a variety of art forms. It was during these initial visits, which he began his work in surrealism and cubism style, which he was the founder of, and created many distinct pieces which were influenced by these art forms.

Updates in style

During his stay in Paris, Pablo Picasso was constantly updating his style; he did work from the blue period, the rose period, African influenced style, to cubism, surrealism, and realism. Not only did he master these styles, he was a pioneer in each of these movements, and influenced the styles to follow throughout the 20th century, from the initial works he created. In addition to the styles he introduced to the art world, he also worked through the many different styles which appeared, while working in Paris. Not only did he continually improve his style, and the works he created, he is well known because of the fact that he had the ability to create in any style which was prominent during the time.

Russian ballet

In 1917, Pablo Picasso joined the Russian Ballet, which toured in Rome; during this time he met Olga Khoklova, who was a ballerina; the couple eventually wed in 1918, upon returning to Paris. The couple eventually separated in 1935; Olga came from nobility, and an upper class lifestyle, while Pablo Picasso led a bohemian lifestyle, which conflicted. Although the couple separated, they remained officially married, until Olga's death, in 1954. In addition to works he created of Olga, many of his later pieces also took a centralized focus on his two other love interests, Marie Theresa Walter and Dora Maar. Pablo Picasso remarried Jacqueline Roque in 1961; the couple remained married until his death 12 years later, in 1973.

Work as a pacifist

Pablo Picasso was a pacifist, and large scale paintings he created, showcased this cry for peace, and change during the time. A 1937 piece he created, after the German bombing of Guernica, was one such influential piece of the time. Not only did this become his most famous piece of art work, but the piece which showed the brutality of war, and death, also made him a prominent political figure of the time. To sell his work, and the message he believed in, art, politics, and eccentricity, were among his main selling points.

Conflicting with social views

Many things Pablo Picasso did during the 1950s, conflicted with the general public. Viciousness towards his children, exaggerated virility towards women, and joining the Communist party, were some of the many scandals which he was involved in during his lifetime. Although most of the things he did were viewed negatively by a minority of the general public, admirers of Pablo Picasso turned a blind eye, and still accepted him as a prominent figure in their society. Following the end of WWII, Pablo Picasso turned back towards his classic style of work, and he created the "Dove of Peace." Even though he became a member of the Communist party, and supported Stalin and his political views and rule, Pablo Picasso could do no wrong. In the eyes of his admirers and supporters, he was still a prominent figure, and one which they would follow, regardless of what wrongs he did. He was not only an influence because of the works he created, but he was also an influential figure in the political realm.

Influence outside of art

Although Pablo Picasso is mainly known for his influence to the art world, he was an extremely prominent figure during his time, and to the 20th century in general. He spread his influences to the art world, but also to many aspects of the cultural realm of life as well. He played several roles in film, where he always portrayed himself; he also followed a bohemian lifestyle, and seemed to take liberties as he chose, even during the later stages of his life. He even died in style, while hosting a dinner party in his home.

Collection of work

Pablo Picasso is recognized as the world's most prolific painter. His career spanned over a 78 year period, in which he created: 13,500 paintings, 100,000 prints and engravings, and 34,000 illustrations which were used in books. He also produced 300 sculptures and ceramic pieces during this expansive career. It is also estimated that over 350 pieces which he created during his career, have been stolen; this is a figure that is far higher than any other artist throughout history.

Sale of his works

Pablo Picasso has also sold more pieces, and his works have brought in higher profit margins, than any other artist of his time. His pieces rank among the most expensive art works to be created; with a price tag of $104 million, Garson a la Pipe, was sold in 2004.

Although he had a conflicting lifestyle, Pablo Picasso was admired by many, and was one of the most influential figures of his time. Not only during his life, but also after his death, he is still one of the most well known artists, and political figures, of his time. With thousands of pieces to his name, and art works which have been seen by millions, around the world, he has been a great influence to society, he has influenced the art world, and he introduced many new styles of art, which helped shape modern art, and modern styles artists follow today.

Picasso loved a bullfight. He liked to sit in the arena in Nimes and see blood saturate the sand. So he might enjoy the intellectual bullfight that has just broken out over his art and life.

There I go, painting a falsely intimate biographical image of Picasso as a bullfight aficionado – as if celebrity photos of the old man at the arena, in evocative 1950s black and white, tell us anything about Picasso as an artist.

"Abominable" – that's the word the art historian Tim Clark applies to such writing about the 20th-century art hero in his new book Picasso and Truth. He condemns almost all writing on Picasso, "its prurience, its pedantry" and the prevailing obsession with biography.

Picasso's most eminent biographer, John Richardson, whose epic life of the artist currently runs to three volumes and has yet to reach Guernica, takes the dismissal personally, reports The Times. Richardson says Clark's book is an obvious attack on his work: "It's wholly aimed at me."

Clark told The Times that Richardson's claim is "pathetic", and that his book has just a couple of pages that take issue with biography as a way of understanding Picasso. But when Clark mocks, in Picasso and Truth, "the pretend intimacy ('I remember one evening in Mougins...')" of Picasso biographers, it reeks of Richardson who did, indeed, know Picasso. And when he condemns Picasso writing as "second-rate celebrity literature" I can't help thinking of Richardson's association with the magazine Vanity Fair. Anyway, Richardson's Life is by far the most famous biography of Picasso. Of course he's in the line of fire.

So Richardson is right to think he's being attacked. Does Clark have a point? Is it stupid to try and understand Picasso's art from his life?

Clark's new book is brilliant, lofty and seductively serious – but he is wrong about biography, wrong about Richardson, and wrong about Picasso.

There is a very good reason for seeing Picasso's art as a mirror of his life. Picasso himself tells us that it is, again and again. In the personal collection of his art that he left to the French state and now forms the Musée Picasso in Paris, works are dated not just by year, but by season or even month: Picasso was careful to catalogue his output that precisely. Why? Because his art is in part a diary. Time and again, he makes images that root themselves in raw experience. His Head of a Woman at Tate Modern, a sensual, eviscerating portrait of his lover Fernande Olivier, makes you feel you are there, then, right when he made it. Their relationship hangs around the silent work; their passions haunt it. How is this not a work that demands a biography?

The same goes for so much of Picasso's art – from his homage to a suicided young friend, The Death of Casagemas, to his last desperate self-portraits.

Clark wants to make us recognise the difficulty and strangeness of Picasso's modernism: yes, of course, Picasso is an artist who should shock and disconcert you, if you are looking at him properly. But he is also (and here's the magic of the man) an artist who exults in the shared reality of the human condition, whose art is about being alive, and that's why Picasso keeps depicting his lovers, his rage, his … life.

Clark is also wrong about Richardson. It is not all that "pathetic" for a scholar who has spent much of his life researching an authoritative (and enjoyable) book to take offence when his efforts are publicly deconstructed. There are indeed a lot of bad, gossipy biographies and memoirs of Picasso – but Richardson's is not one of them. It is manifestly a loving, serious, important endeavour. I think Clark should acknowledge that.

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