Facts About Picasso's Art

Pablo Picasso was a Spanish artist who introduced bold, new styles of work that changed how Western culture perceives and defines art and beauty in art. Picasso was prolific, working in many artistic mediums. Besides drawing and painting, Picasso sculpted, engraved, illustrated, designed sets and costumes, and wrote plays. Picasso began studying and producing art in childhood, and, by the time he reached adulthood, was ready to leave behind the path of artistic convention in favour of his own artistic vision.

Personal Life

Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain, on October 25, 1881, to Maria Picasso López and José Ruiz Blasco. He was the oldest of three children; the two younger children were girls. Picasso's father was an art instructor, so Picasso was exposed to art as a way of life from the beginning. The artist settled permanently in Paris in his twenties, and had a tempestuous love life, having four children by three different wives plus several relationships with other women. Picasso's art reflects these relationships, for the women were much-used subjects in his work. Picasso died on April 8, 1973 in Paris.


Picasso invented several styles of painting, among them cubism, Analytic cubism and Synthetic cubism. These, in turn, inspired similar movements in music and literature. Picasso's explorations into form and the abstract served to liberate artistic conception and understanding, influencing the development of art throughout the 20th century and beyond. Though Picasso's abstract works inspired and emboldened other artists, Picasso had scorn for those who painted pure abstracts.

Periods to 1921

Formative Years--As a student, besides learning art from his father, Picasso studied at the Guarda School of Fine Arts starting in 1892, the Llotja School of Fine Arts for two years and, briefly, at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Besides drawings, Picasso painted in oil and created realistic classical casts.

Blue Period--During Picasso's Blue Period from 1901 to 1905, the artist went from tending toward literal artistic observations such as nightlife and cityscapes to more symbolic and introverted subjects. Picasso had become influenced by literary ideas linking suffering to sincerity and art. He frequently used society's cast-offs as subjects during the period; his colours became monochrome and blue figured prominently.

Rose Period--Picasso's Rose Period lasted from 1905 to 1906, and saw warm colour, especially pink and ochre, returning to his art. Subjects were commonly circus performers and acrobats.

Cubist Period--With the creation of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907 marked the beginning of cubism, which Georges Braque and Picasso developed through 1914. Some call the beginning of this period Picasso's African Period, because the artist had been fascinated by the angularity of African sculptures and incorporated this angularity into some of his work. Mask-like faces can be seen in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

Periods From 1921

Neo-Classicist Period--At about 1921, Picasso began incorporating some of the traditional into his paintings--thus, this period is thought of as his Classicist or Neo-Classicist Period.

Surrealist Period--After 1927, Picasso's work showed the influence of the surrealist movement.

Wartime Period--With the 1937 bombing of Guernica (Basque country, Spain), Picasso created propogandist works, starting with the mural Guernica, depicting the destruction of the city and attendant suffering. Picasso refused to allow the mural to make its home in Spain until the end of fascism in that country, which occurred in 1981.

Post-War Period--After World War II and for the rest of his life, Picasso continued to work across mediums, exploring and re-exploring. Picasso created variations of themes he'd previously worked and also variations on the work of other artists. These variations were not studies, but reinterpretations--even re-imaginings.

Artistic Time Line, Up to 1921

1889--"The Picador," Picasso's first oil, painted when he was 8 years old.

1887--"Science and Charity," oil on canvas. The work was displayed at the Fine Arts General Exhibition in Madrid while Picasso was still a teen, winning two awards.

1900--First individual exhibition. The exhibition was held in Barcelona, Spain.

1901--First exhibition in Paris.

1903--"La Vie," oil on canvas: Masterpiece from the Blue Period.

1907--"Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," oil on canvas: A groundbreaking work that changed the direction of art and began the cubist Movement.

1912--First collages.

1916--Began association with the Ballets Russes. In 1917, "Parade" premiered with wardrobe and decoration by Picasso. It was the first of several collaborations with the company.

Artistic Time Line, From 1923

1923--"The Pipes of Pan," oil on canvas: Masterwork from Picasso's Neo-classicist period.

1931--The artist set up a sculpting studio in Normandy.

1935--"Minotauromachy," etching and engraving. Picasso identified with the minotaur, a half-man, half-bull creature of myth, and used it in his work.

1937--"Guernica," oil on canvas. A depiction of the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The black-and-white giant mural has become an iconic symbol of the suffering caused by war.

1940--First play: "Desire Caught by the Tail."

1945--Began exploring lithography.

1947--Began pottery work.

1955--"Don Quixote," ink drawing: Iconic drawing created for the French journal "Les Lettres Françaises" in celebration of the anniversary of the publication of the literary masterpiece "Don Quixote. "

1967--"Head of a Woman," welded steel sculpture. The 50-foot-tall work stands in Chicago.


Picasso's first teacher and influence was his father, a painter and drawing master, who recognised Picasso's genius at an early age. Picasso often frequented museums and studied the Spanish painters Goya and Velázquez as adulthood approached. The works of 19th-century French painter Paul Cézanne, who saw three-dimensional geometric objects in nature, influenced Georges Braque and especially Picasso to develop cubism, with Juan Gris becoming a later influence on the style. Cubism shows different views and angles of a subject simultaneously.

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About the Author

Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.