Born in Málaga, Spain, in 1881, Pablo Picasso, became one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century and the creator (with Georges Braque) of Cubism. A Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist and stage designer, Picasso was considered radical in his work. After a long prolific career, he died on April 8, 1973, in Mougins, France
In 1895, when Picasso was 14 years old, he moved with his family to Barcelona, Spain, where he quickly applied to the city's prestigious School of Fine Arts.
In 1897, a 16-year-old Picasso moved to Madrid to attend the Royal Academy of San Fernando. However, he again became frustrated with his school's singular focus on classical subjects and techniques. Once again, Picasso began skipping class to wander the city and paint what he observed: gypsies, beggars and prostitutes, among other things.
In 1899, Picasso moved back to Barcelona and fell in with a crowd of artists and intellectuals who made their headquarters at a café called El Quatre Gats ("The Four Cats"). Inspired by the anarchists and radicals he met there, Picasso made his decisive break from the classical methods in which he had been trained, and began what would become a lifelong process of experimentation and innovation.
At the turn of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso moved to Paris, France - the cultural center of European art - to open his own studio. Art critics and historians typically break Picasso's adult career into distinct periods, the first of which lasted from 1901 to 1904 and is called his "Blue Period," after the color that dominated nearly all of Picasso's paintings over these years. Lonely and deeply depressed over the death of his close friend, Carlos Casagemas, he painted scenes of poverty, isolation and anguish, almost exclusively in shades of blue and green.
By 1905, Picasso had largely overcome the depression that had previously debilitated him. Not only was he madly in love with a beautiful model, Fernande Olivier, he was newly prosperous thanks to the generous patronage of art dealer Ambroise Vollard. The artistic manifestation of Picasso's improved spirits was the introduction of warmer colors—including beiges, pinks and reds—in what is known as his "Rose Period" (1904-06).
In 1907, Pablo Picasso produced a painting unlike anything he or anyone else had ever painted before, a work that would profoundly influence the direction of art in the 20th century: "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," a chilling depiction of five nude prostitutes, abstracted and distorted with sharp geometric features and stark blotches of blues, greens and grays. Today, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" is considered the precursor and inspiration of Cubism, an artistic style pioneered by Picasso and his friend and fellow painter, Georges Braque.
The outbreak of World War I ushered in the next great change in Picasso's art. He grew more somber and, once again, became preoccupied with the depiction of reality. His works between 1918 and 1927 are categorized as part of his "Classical Period," a brief return to Realism in a career otherwise dominated by experimentation.
From 1927 onward, Picasso became caught up in a new philosophical and cultural movement known as Surrealism, the artistic manifestation of which was a product of his own Cubism.
Picasso's most well-known Surrealist painting, deemed one of the greatest paintings of all time, was completed in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. After German bombers supporting Francisco Franco's Nationalist forces carried out a devastating aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica on April 26, 1937, Picasso, outraged by the bombing and the inhumanity of war, painted "Guernica." Painted in black, white and grays, the work is a Surrealist testament to the horrors of war, and features a minotaur and several human-like figures in various states of anguish and terror. "Guernica" remains one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history.
In the aftermath of World War II, Picasso became more overtly political. He joined the Communist Party and was twice honored with the International Lenin Peace Prize, first in 1950 and again in 1961. By this point in his life, he was also an international celebrity, the world's most famous living artist
In contrast to the dazzling complexity of Synthetic Cubism, Picasso's later paintings display simple, childlike imagery and crude technique.
Image: Portrait of Pablo Picasso by Willy Maywald, 1947