What would the world be without the works of Pablo Picasso? He was arguably the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the twentieth century. But on October 25, 1881, Pablo Picasso almost wasn’t.  Pronounced stillborn by one of the hospital physicians, his uncle Salvador in an attempt to resuscitate little Pablo, blew a cloud of cigar smoke in the newborn’s face. Baby Picasso bellowed in protest, and that is how everyone knew little Pablo was healthy and alive.

His mother, grateful her child and her own survival through this traumatic childbirth, celebrated by giving him 23 names in all. Saints and family were among the honorees in Pablo’s prolonged eponym.   

Unlike other children whose first words are “momma” or “up,” baby Pablo’s first word was piz, short for lapiz, the Spanish word for pencil. This simple word would become the name for his most prized possession, and he learned to draw before he could walk.


The love of art was in his blood. Pablo’s father, Jose, was a very talented painter.  He immediately recognized his son’s aptness for art and encouraged his son by allowing his seven-year-old to finish some of his paintings. One of Picasso’s earliest solo paintings was of his little sister, in which he used egg yolk as his medium. Painting was not yet his specialty, however.  Drawing was. 


Pablo had great difficulty staying focused at school.  He filled his school papers and notebooks with sketches of birds, animals, and people. Exasperated with his lack of attention, his teacher once wrote a note home saying, “Pablo should stop drawing in class and pay attention to his lessons.”  Pablo took every opportunity to disobey rules. So much so was his rebellious spirit that he would do the opposite of what he was told simply as an act of nonconformity. When Pablo was sent to detention, he liked it there. “I took along a sketch pad and drew incessantly. I could have stayed there forever.” He began to misbehave for the sole purpose of being sent to detention.


His father discerned what Pablo was doing. When his mother banished him from the kitchen for drawing on the wall, his father had the fine idea of taking his son to the beach to blow off some steam.  While his father napped, Pablo created a beautifully detailed picture in the sand; it astonished his father. He immediately gave his son his own studio and taught him how to paint. When his father got a job as an art teacher at a local college, Pablo enrolled in his father’s classes; even though he was much younger than the other students. Don Jose was so impressed with his son's skill by the age of 13, he handed him his paint brushes and vowed to never paint again.  When his family moved, Pablo changed schools, and his genius was quickly noticed. He was allowed to skip two grades.  When Pablo’s unruly behavior returned, his father refused to tolerate his antics and stopped his allowance.  Pablo found himself on the street at the age of 16 with nothing to support him but his artistic ability.


Pablo Picasso remains renowned for endlessly reinventing himself, switching between styles so radically different, that his life's work seems to be the product of five or six great artists rather than just one.  “Every child is born an artist,” Pablo Picasso once observed.  “The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”


Art critics and historians typically break Pablo 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 his paintings over these years.  This period was brought on by the death of his best friend and almost every painting made during this period possessed a distinct sadness.

His “Rose Period” was relatively short (from the fall of 1904 until the end of 1906). The Cirque Medrano was located at the foot of his home.  Actors, acrobats, and athletes, both beautiful and ugly became his new topics of interest.


Up to this point in time European art had mostly been about lifelikeness. Photography was actively developing, and it became clear that this art form would dominate the world of reality. Picasso and his friend Cezanne redefined what would soon be considered fine art by simplifying shapes of images into the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone. This period is now referred to as “Cubism” in which subjects were represented mostly by color and simplistic designs.


Pablo’s next period lasted seven years. To summarize Picasso’s wandering in the wilds of “Surrealism” he said: “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them”.  Surrealism aimed at expressing imaginative dreams and visions free from conscious, rational control.

The War in Spain and World War II greatly influenced his next period in which weeping women, little girls abandoned dolls and death became his focus and passion.


Picasso created over 50,000 pieces of art.  His superstition being that creating kept him alive.  

Although he can be hailed for many contributions to the world of art such as cubism, collage and constructed sculptures, he did not contribute anything to the cause of women or democracy.  "Women are machines for suffering," Picasso told his mistress Françoise Gilot in 1943. "For me, there are only two kinds of women, goddesses, and doormats."  During World War II he became a member of the Communist party.  For Picasso, Communism was a means towards freedom and happiness. He once wrote an article in which he stated, "I have become a Communist because our party strives more than any other to know and to build the world, to make men clearer thinkers, more free and more happy."


When it came to making Art and living life, Pablo Picasso lived by his own rules.      

Pablo Picasso