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(1881 – 1973), Spain

Pablo Picasso Biography

With his revolutionary approaches to modes of representation and creation in paintings, sculptures, ceramics, drawings, collages, and prints that contributed to several art movements, including Cubism and Surrealism, Pablo Picasso is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

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Born in 1881 in Málaga, Spain, Picasso learned drawing and painting from his father, who was also an artist. His talent was recognised at an early age, leading him to be admitted to the Barcelona School of Fine Arts at 14. By 1897, he had enrolled to study at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. Early paintings such as First Communion (1896), which depicts his sister Lola kneeling before the altar, reveal his mastery of perspective and lighting. Despite his education, however, he was dissatisfied with the academic system, instead frequenting The Prado Museum to familiarise himself with the works of artists such as El Greco, Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Zurbarán.

Picasso left Spain for Paris in 1900, but returned not long after, visiting again for extended periods in 1901 and 1902. During the so-called 'Blue Period' (1901–1904), he portrayed subjects living on the margins of society—the poor, prostitutes, vagrants—with a palette of mainly blue, fostering an air of melancholy. He often depicted his figures with elongated limbs and sombre expressions, not only adding to the blue tone of his works but also recalling the solemn saints found in El Greco's paintings.

After relocating to Paris in 1904, Picasso found better prospects, including the patronage of American art collector and writer Gertrude Stein. In the years known as the 'Rose Period' (1904–1906), he primarily painted with varieties of pink and moved to Montmartre, a district populated by entertainers. One of his best-known paintings, Boy with a Pipe (1905) shows a lean boy dressed in blue, holding a pipe and wearing a garland; behind him is an orange background with pink and white flowers.

Picasso also began to experiment with elements of ancient Iberian and African culture. Early examples include Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1905), in which Stein appears seated with a mask-like face. In 1907, he completed Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, a large oil painting featuring five naked women composed of bold shapes and simple, angular masses evocative of African art. The profile of the figure on the left, for example, evokes ancient Egyptian portraiture. The artist also drew from the ancient Iberian sculpture he had seen at the Louvre and an African mask that his friend Henri Matisse owned. While his close friends and the art world reacted negatively at first, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon came to be recognised for its radical departure from figurative painting—especially idealised female beauty—as it was understood by academic painting at the time.

Picasso's subsequent stylistic changes can be found in his representation of human figures over the decades. In paintings such as Portrait of Ambroise Vollard (1910) and Ma Jolie (1911–1912), human forms are almost unrecognisable, having been segmented into intersecting planes and lines. This approach is characteristic of Cubism, a style he and his fellow painter Georges Braque invented around 1907, exploring new ways of representing reality by using multiple viewpoints.

In 1912, Picasso introduced the element of collage to his work, incorporating materials such as newspaper advertisements, wallpaper, and wickerwork. The early 1920s saw him briefly paint in the Neoclassical fashion, returning to figurative representation with paintings such as Woman in White (1923), while Nude Standing by the Sea (1929) shows the influence of Surrealism with a female nude composed of geometric limbs and a curved body.

In the 1930s Picasso began to portray figures with inventively sinuous contours, rendering these distortions in bold colours or monochrome. Guernica (1937)—a large mural painting created in reaction to the Nazi bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War—depicts the horrors of war through contorted human bodies and animals. Many of his post-War works directly reference canonical paintings in Western art history—in both titles and compositions—such as Las Meninas (1957), after Velázquez, or Luncheon on the Grass (1961), after Edouard Manet.

Picasso was the first great 20th-century art world star. He was inventiveness personified, a poet and an intellectual: a wealthy celebrity greatly admired for his phenomenal drawing skills but also, posthumously, criticised for his poor treatment of his wives and lovers. After a long and extraordinarily creative life he died in Mougins, France, in 1973.

Ocula | 2019

Exhibitin view: Group Exhibition, Printemps, Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Düsseldorf (19 May–31 July 2021). Courtesy Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art.

Pablo Picasso Featured Artworks

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Pique (noir et beige) by Pablo Picasso contemporary artwork
Pablo PicassoPique (noir et beige), 1959Linocut (one plate: black, brown, beige) on Velin d'Arches
53 x 64 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Homme et Femme Nus by Pablo Picasso contemporary artwork
Pablo PicassoHomme et Femme Nus, 1968Oil and ripolin on canvas
162 x 129.8 cm
He Art Museum
Vase de fleurs by Pablo Picasso contemporary artwork
Pablo PicassoVase de fleurs, 1901Oil on canvas
66 x 46.5 cm
Lévy Gorvy Contact Gallery
Prow Figure (Figure de proue) by Pablo Picasso contemporary artwork
Pablo PicassoProw Figure (Figure de proue), 1952Turned vase; white earthenware clay, decoration in engobes, partially engraved, and glazed; blue, black, beige

Suerte de Muleta [The Luck of the Red Cape] by Pablo Picasso contemporary artwork
Pablo PicassoSuerte de Muleta [The Luck of the Red Cape], 1957Aquatint with sugar on paper
19.9 x 29.9 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Casagemas mort (The Dead Casagemas) by Pablo Picasso contemporary artwork
Pablo PicassoCasagemas mort (The Dead Casagemas), 1901Oil on cardboard
52.1 x 34 cm
Pace Gallery
Autoportrait avec deux femmes by Pablo Picasso contemporary artwork
Pablo PicassoAutoportrait avec deux femmes, 1972Etching
50 x 65.5 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris
Tête de Faune by Pablo Picasso contemporary artwork
Pablo PicassoTête de Faune, 1956Decorated (slip and ceramic pastel) and glazed ceramic, rectangular plaque
25.5 x 14.5 cm
Galerie Gmurzynska Contact Gallery

Pablo Picasso Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Printemps at Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Düsseldorf
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19 May–31 July 2021 Group Exhibition Printemps Beck & Eggeling International Fine ArtDüsseldorf
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Eternal Seasons 春華秋實 at Lévy Gorvy, Hong Kong
25 March–28 April 2021 Group Exhibition Eternal Seasons 春華秋實 Lévy GorvyHong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group exhibition, Zóbel and The Great Post-War Generation at Fundación PONS, Barcelona
12–21 March 2021 Group exhibition Zóbel and The Great Post-War Generation Fundación PONSBarcelona

Pablo Picasso Represented By

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Bailly Gallery contemporary art gallery in Paris, France Bailly Gallery Geneva, Paris
Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA Gagosian New York, Athens, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Le Bourget, Geneva, Basel, Rome, Hong Kong
Pace Gallery contemporary art gallery in 540 West 25th Street, New York, USA Pace Gallery New York, London, Geneva, Palo Alto, Hong Kong, Seoul

Pablo Picasso In Ocula Magazine

Asia Society's First Triennial Dreams of Unity Ocula Feature Asia Society's First Triennial Dreams of Unity By Vivian Chui, New York

With works by over 40 artists including Kimsooja and Shazia Sikander, Vivian Chui reviews the first Asia Society Triennial in New York.

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How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales Ocula News How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales New York, 25 June 2020

Sotheby's, Christie's, Phillips and Bonham's have changed what they're selling and how they're selling it for major auctions taking place over the next two weeks.

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The Latest: Venice Biennale Delayed till 2022, Olafur Eliasson's AR Bugs, and More Ocula News The Latest: Venice Biennale Delayed till 2022, Olafur Eliasson's AR Bugs, and More Hong Kong, 19 May 2020

This week's need-to-know art news, including Christie's new global auction and an attempt at a fairer art fair by the New Art Dealers Alliance.

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Guangdong’s HEM Is the Art Museum That Home Appliances Built Ocula News Guangdong’s HEM Is the Art Museum That Home Appliances Built Shanghai, 18 December 2019

Backed by the family behind Fortune 500 company Midea, the new museum will be one of the largest in southern China. When it opens in March 2020, HE Art Museum (HEM) will not be hurting for space. Designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, it will have over 8,000 square metres (over 86,000 square feet) of exhibition space—almost double what...

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Pablo Picasso In Related Press

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SPOTLIGHT: PICASSO Related Press SPOTLIGHT: PICASSO 15 November 2019, Gagosian Quarterly

'The breasts and distended abdomen were made with the help of three water pitchers; the belly from a portion of a large one, and the breasts from two small ones, all picked up from the scrap heap. The rest was modeled. The fact that the figure was only about half the normal size gave it a grotesque appearance. It had almost no feet, it swayed...

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LOOSE CANON Related Press LOOSE CANON 21 October 2019, ARTFORUM

IN JUNE, NEW YORK'S MUSEUM OF MODERN ART WENT DARK to put the finishing touches on its contentious five-year expansion, which promised to put $450 million and 47,000 square feet of Diller Scofidio + Renfro architecture toward fostering a 'deeper experience of art' across boundaries of media, geography, and identity. Today, MoMA emerges from its...

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New York's MoMA unveils $450m expansion and 'remix' of collection Related Press New York's MoMA unveils $450m expansion and 'remix' of collection 10 October 2019, The Guardian

New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) unveiled its new $450m expansion on Thursday in a revamp of the gallery – including a radical "remix" of its permanent collection, which will see famous works exhibited alongside those of lesser-known artists. The popular Manhattan museum, which attracts 3 million visitors a year, has been closed...

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Painting’s Patriarchal Spirit Related Press Painting’s Patriarchal Spirit 20 October 2018, Hyperallergic

LONDON—In 1981, the Royal Academy of Arts in London put on an exhibition of 20 th century painting that changed the art world. A New Spirit in Painting was 'a manifesto,' the accompanying catalogue said; it showcased a set of contemporary, mostly European painters, whose work possessed qualities—figurative, narrative, emotional...

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