Pablo Picasso is among the best and most widely known artists of all time, his works so highly regarded that they fetch tens of millions of dollars in auctions.
Picasso died on April 8, 1973, having become arguably the most famous artist of the 20th century. The sheer number of works that he produced are unmatched, with tens of thousands of works to his name, making the record breaking prices that they fetch even more astounding.
As much as he has virtually universal name recognition and is known across the globe as a great artist, there are things that are unknown to most about him. Here are five that you did not know:
1. Picasso’s full name has 23 words having been baptized Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Mario de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisma Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso. He was named after various saints and relatives. The last name that he is known by, Picasso, was that of his mother, Maria Picasso y Lopez. His father was named Jose Ruiz Blaso.
Born in Malaga on the southern coast of Spain in 1881, he had such a difficult birth and was such a meager and weak baby that the midwife thought he had been stillborn, and in fact, left him on a table in order to attend to his mother instead. His uncle, a doctor named Don Salvador, save him.
Unlike many children, his first word was not some variation of mama or papa. As if he was born to be an artist, his first word was ‘piz’ short for ‘lapis,’ the Spanish word for ‘pencil.’ His father was an artist and art professor. He gave young Pablo a formal education in art starting age 7. By the time he was 13, his father vowed to retire from painting as Pablo had surpassed him.
2. Picasso constantly changed his painting style. During his younger years, he painted fairly realistic portraits and landscapes. He then went through his ‘blue’ and ‘rose’ periods from 1901 to 1906, where he depicted things like circus scenes, and poverty-stricken children.
In 1907, with “Les Demoiselles d’Avigon,” a distorted portrait of five prostitutes, long considered one of his most revolutionary pieces, he started his transition to Cubism, an abstract style that reduces subjects to geometric forms. By 1912, he invented collage by attaching oilcloth, newspaper clippings and other materials to the surface of his paintings. This, and his increased emphasis in color, is considered his transition from Analytic Cubism to Synthetic Cubism.
In his later years, he moved into Newclassiscism and recreated paintings from artists such as Diego Velazquez, and Edouard Manet.
3. Picasso wasw not the sole founder of Cubism. In fact, one of his closest collaborations were with George Braque. Together, the duo co-founded Cubism in around 1909. Braque’s paintings from that time appear remarkably similar to Picasso’s. The two were influenced by things such as ancient Iberian sculpture, African masks, and post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne. They regularly visited each other’s studios and exchanged ideas. Braque analogized their relationship to “two mountaineers roped together.” Their working relationship ended in 1914 when Braque enlisted in the French army at the beginning of World War I.
4. Though he was born in Spain and lived in various areas of the country during his younger years, moving from Malaga to Barcelona to Madrid, he spent most of his life away from the nation of his birth. In 1900, at the age of 18, he took an extended trip to Paris. By 1904, he had settled there permanently. He never lived in Spain again, though he did return for some visits before the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
Picasso even stayed in France during World War II, and even during the Nazi occupation when he was barred from showing his work. He later moved to the south of France, where he was a prolific producer of art until the end of his life.
5. Shortly before the end of World War II, in 1944, he joined the French Communist Party, right after Paris was liberated from the Nazis. “I have found there all whom I respect most, the greatest thinkers, the greatest poets and all the faces of the resistance fighters.” In the 1950’s, he painted “Massacre in Korea,” thumbing his nose at the U.S., by portraying U.S. soldiers as futuristic knights about to attack pregnant women and children. He even did a portrait of the ruthless Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The French communists officially condemned his Stalin portrait for being insufficiently revering. Not being much of a conformer throughout his life, he did not toe the communist party line. He even signed a letter in 1956 protesting the Soviet invasion of Hungary.