*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Early in the 20th century, a young painter began producing paintings that took the art world by storm. Born on October 25, 1881 on the Andalusian coast in Malaga, Spain, Pablo Picasso would become a key figure in the Cubist movement during his twenties and help to redefine the definition of beauty for critics and collectors alike. Taking cues from the works of his father, Picasso would grow into one of the most influential artists in history.
If ever a child could have chosen his parents, it might seem as though Picasso had the opportunity. Born to Don Jose Ruiz y Blasco and Maria Picasso y Lopez on October 25, 1881, the young boy was welcomed into the home of an art professor at the School of Crafts in Malaga. Picasso’s first words, his mother would say, entailed a simple request: a pencil to draw with. As a schoolboy, he spent more time focusing on the lessons prepared by his father for university students than those of his own teachers.
Following the rigors of good technique, Picasso acquired enough skill by his early teens to win a place at his Barcelona School of Arts shortly after the family moved to the city. Mourning the death of his younger sister, Picasso threw himself into the work, completing his entrance exam in just a week (most took a month) and eventually exhibiting his paintings for the first time at the tender age of 13. Three years later, he moved on to the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, the most prestigious art school in Spain. Rebellious and feeling confined by the boundaries of instruction, Picasso dropped out within weeks.
Respected in Barcelona, Picasso made an important transition as 1900 dawned. Moving to Paris, the 19-year-old managed to snag space at a gallery on the Rue Lafitte near other prestigious displays a year later. Meeting with some success, he opted to stay in the City of Light to build his career. Living with a journalist friend, he frequently worked during the night, using paintings he was unsatisfied with to fuel the fires that kept him warm.
His major break came in 1907, when Les Demoiselles d’Avignon made its debut. The depiction of five Barcelona prostitutes was a revelation — an early test of the distinct shapes and hard lines that would become Cubism. Working in tandem with Frenchman Georges Braque beginning in 1909, Picasso and his friend advanced a theory that art need not be constrained by the degree to which it reflected natural shapes or colors.
For three decades, Picasso continued pushing the limits, producing The Three Musicians, Portrait of Igor Stravinsky and a number of other works as he gained fame and fortune. With Europe sinking into war once again, he spread his anguish out on canvas in arguably his final masterpiece, Guernica, in 1937. As his home country of Spain torn itself to shreds through a civil war, the thought of German bombers razing the Basque city led Picasso to create an abstract scene of horror — one that would soon be repeated in his beloved Paris as Nazi tanks rolled through.
As the world moved beyond war, Picasso once again pushed his art to the fore. (His art had been deemed unfit for Nazi consumption, but he continued producing works in private.) Working at a breakneck pace — just as he always had — Picasso continued testing his abilities, creating paintings and sculpture until his death in 1973 at the age of 91.
Also On This Day:
1147 – Seljuk Turks crush Conrad III and his German crusaders at the Battle of Dorylaeum
1415 – The British under Henry V defeat the French at the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War
1854 – Lord Cardigan leads the Charge of the Light Brigade — later commemorated in verse by Alfred, Lord Tennyson — at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War
1962 – United States Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson shows photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba to the Security Council
1971 – The People’s Republic of China gains a seat at the United Nations, ousting the Republic of China (Taiwan)