Pablo Picasso
Collection
Pablo Picasso, (1881–1973)

Pablo Picasso was a groundbreaking and highly influential painter, who transformed modern art through his exploration and engagement in many mediums, themes, and art movements. The first-born child to middle-class parents, María Picasso and Don José Ruiz, Picasso grew up in Málaga in the Andalusian region of Spain and received formal artistic training from his father, an art professor and curator at the local School of Crafts. Following the traumatic death of his younger sister, Concepcion, in 1895, Picasso and his family moved to Barcelona, where the artist, despite his young age, was offered acceptance to the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts, known as La Lonja. Soon Picasso’s talent surpassed his father’s, who happily conceded his paintbrushes to his son, in a gesture of artistic transference from one generation to the next.

In 1900, at the age of nineteen Picasso moved to the infamous Montmartre district in Paris, where he embarked on his blue period, characterized by paintings with a monochromatically blue color palette. There he was influenced by artists such as Delacroix, Ingres, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Degas. Between the years of 1901 and 1904 Picasso moved back and forth between Barcelona and Paris, working in both locations. Finally in 1904, he decided to settle in Paris, where he began painting works from the rose period. In Paris, Picasso led a destitute life, until the summer of 1905, when he was approached by writer and art collector, Gertrude Stein. The Stein family’s enchantment with his art soon elevated Picasso’s artistic status, and led to his introduction to Henri Matisse. Though the two artists’ personalities and work ethic were vastly different, they formed a lasting friendship, constantly challenging and reaffirming each others’ works.

In 1907 Picasso painted arguably his most famous work, ‘Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.’ This painting elevated him to the forefront of the new Cubist style, and gave him a reputation as an internationally known painter of the most controversial subject in artistic discussions. After World War I, Picasso briefly returned to a more realist style, as cubism and the dissolution of form was seen as an inappropriate aesthetic following the devastation of the war. Picasso’s many love affairs also motivated him to approach his paintings during this period with great enthusiasm and zest, embodying the notion that “erotic drive transformed into artistic desire.” In Paris, Picasso also became acquainted with Ambroise Vollard, an art dealer, publisher, and patron who was integral in promoting the impressionists, Cézanne and many masters of the late 19th and early 20th century artists at a time when their art was unpopular or unknown. Between the years of 1930 and 1937, Picasso executed the “Vollard Suite,” a collection of one hundred intaglio prints inspired by Vollard and classical subjects, such as the minotaur (man-beast) and the Pygmalion (the artist obsessed with his model). In this series, Picasso oftentimes represented himself as the Minotaur, exploring notions of artistic liberation and unbridled sexuality. The Pygmalion prints, inspired by his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter examined the role and relationships between muse, artist, and creation. In response to the German attack on Guernica during World War II, Picasso painted “Guernica.” With its graphic depiction of violence and the dramatic black and white palette influenced by newsprint, this painting became one of Picasso’s most famous works and an incredibly influential force in modern art.

In his later years, Picasso continued to work feverishly and again was inspired by his many lovers, who served as muses and sources of inspiration and innovation. The artist’s meeting with lithographer Fernando Mourlot in 1945, confirmed his interest in the graphic arts, and propelled him to pursue mediums such as etchings, linocuts and lithographs with a sort of erotic and fast-paced frenzy. This new style was later defined as Neo-Expressionism, proving once again that Picasso was ahead of his time. His “347 series” of erotic prints, begun in 1968, represents one of the greatest achievements of modern printmaking. In defining the combination of sexuality and art Picasso simply stated, “They are the same thing, because art can only be erotic.” In the spirit of his joyous lifelong companionship with countless friends and acquaintances, Picasso’s final words, “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more,” before his death in April of 1973, gaily encouraged the prosperity of the next generation, while remembering the good times of his past.
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