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Born on October 25, 1881, Pablo Picasso lived a life so notorious and had a career so full of highlights that we could likely list one interesting factoid for every year since his birth, but we will settle for sharing these nine things to remember about this modernist ringleader instead. Enjoy!
#1 Co-Father of Cubism
Along with Georges Braque, Picasso is acclaimed for pioneering “Cubism,” a radical and influential art movement that revolutionized European painting, sculpture and architecture in the early 1900s.
Instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, Cubist artworks break-up, analyze and then re-configure their subjects from multiple vantage points. The end result is an angular abstraction of the object in an ambiguous space, often representing the emotional state of the subject or its illustrator.
As Picasso once said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.”
#2 Always with the Ladies
Picasso dominated 20th century modern art scene and is famed for many things, including his portraits of women: his muses, models, wives and mistresses. He was married twice and fathered four children by three women.
Throughout his life’s work, Picasso’s female subjects inspired a range of stylistic inventions and experimental techniques in portraiture. In these intimate works, the artist’s own complicated desires, fears, hopes and anxieties are exposed.
Explore your own relationship with portrait and self-portraiture with Mixed-Media Self-Portraits and Art Journey Portraits and Figures — resources available to you right now!
#3 Numbers Don’t Lie
Picasso had no less than seven careers during his lifetime. He worked, and excelled, as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, poet, ceramicist, playwright and stage designer.
In terms of just his artistic output, prolific might be an understatement. It has been estimated that he produced 1,885 paintings, 1,228 sculptures, 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, and many thousands of prints.
#4 Suspected of Stealing the Mona Lisa
Picasso was in the right place — Paris — at the right time — 1911. Turns out he was close friends with another one of the suspects of the heist, Guillaume Apollinaire, who blubbered about Picasso to the police while being interrogated.
Police followed up and brought young Pablo in for questioning. No surprise, given that Picasso had been involved in buying stolen art from the Louvre before! Naughty artist!
But innocence will out and two years after the theft, when the true thief was caught red-handed, Picasso was fully exonerated.
#5 Made a Masterpiece More than Once
Picasso created artwork after artwork that would eventually end up in the hallowed halls of art history. His two most famous works are typically listed as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), and Guernica (1937), a starkly powerful portrayal of the bombing of Guernica by the German and Italian air forces during the Spanish Civil War.
It’s also interesting to note that Picasso’s work is broken up into periods. The names of his later periods are widely debated, but the most commonly accepted categorizations are his Blue Period (1901–1904), the Rose Period (1904–1906), the African-influenced Period (1907–1909), Analytic Cubism (1909–1912), and Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919), also referred to as the Crystal period.
Much of his output in the late 1910s and early 1920s is labelled as neoclassical. His art in the mid-1920s often has components of Surrealism. His later work often combines elements of his earlier styles that many critics disparage as derivative. “Picasso ended up often mired in vain, backward-looking riffs on grander achievements,” wrote Michael Kimmelman of The New York Times.
#6 A Child Prodigy
The story goes that Picasso’s first word was “piz,” short for lápiz, the Spanish word for pencil. His father was an artist and professor and recognizing Pablo’s interest and talent, began schooling him in art at the age of seven. By the time Picasso was 13, his father had given up painting himself because he felt that his son had already surpassed him.
Picasso completed his first painting, Le Picador, at just nine years old. The piece shows a bullfighter atop a horse. Picasso continued making art until his death in 1973.
#7 Top Ranked with Most Works Stolen
As of 2015, Picasso remained the top-ranked artist based on sales of his works at auctions, according to the Art Market Trends report. Several of his paintings are ranked among the most expensive paintings in the world, with price tags ranging to well over $100 million.
More of his paintings have been stolen than any other artist’s as well. In 2012, the Art Loss Register had 1,147 of his works listed as stolen.
#8 A Polarizing Figure
Upon his death, the gloves of both Picasso’s opponents and fans came off. His supporters say that he was the greatest artist alive during his lifetime and steered the course in the very best way for modern art.
His critics said he had a corrupting, domineering influence and failed to appreciate the contributions of many artists of the past as well as his own contemporaries.
#9 A Legacy of His Own Making
When Picasso died he still had many of his own paintings among his possessions. He’d deliberately kept a significant amount of work off the art market, selling only when he needed to.
He also had a substantial collection of the art by other significant artists, many happened to be his contemporaries, like Henri Matisse, with whom Picasso had exchanged works.
Picasso left no will, so his estate taxes to the French government were paid in the form of his works and others from his collection. They form the backbone of the expansive and impressive collection of the Musée Picasso in Paris. In 2003, Picasso’s descendants opened a museum dedicated to him in his birthplace of Málaga, Spain. A third museum devoted to him is the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, which houses many of his early works made when he was still a young artist in Spain.
Most recently and not museum related at all, Picasso was played by Antonio Banderas in the second season of a TV series created by National Geographic, appropriately titled, Genius.