Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), one of the most prominent, innovative artists of the 20th century, is celebrated for his lengthy and prolific career working in several modernist idioms, as well as for co-founding Cubism. Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain, and began drawing and painting early on under the influence of his father, an academic painter. He later studied art in Barcelona and often frequented the café Els Quatre Gats, where he first began exhibiting his own paintings. Picasso first visited Paris in 1900 for the city’s world fair, before moving there in 1904.
Early on, Picasso painted many scenes of laborers and the poor during his Blue Period, later focusing on acrobats and circus performers during his Rose Period; in each period, his compositions were dominated by blue or rose hues. In 1907, inspired by African aesthetics, Picasso made his first significant foray into Cubism and into a modernist aesthetic with his monumental painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which featured a scene of five aggressive-looking prostitutes painted with distorted, angular forms and faces in bold outlines, influenced by African masks.
Alongside fellow artist Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963), Picasso further developed Cubism, a revolutionary aesthetic in which artists attempted to capture multiple views of an object simultaneously, abstracting the subject matter in the process. Picasso and Braque also pioneered experiments with collage in their Cubist works, incorporating wallpaper, newspaper, and other materials into their canvases. Towards the 1920s, Picasso returned to more representational works, depicting classical figures and landscapes while dividing his time between Paris and Barcelona. Later in the decade, he began communicating with Surrealist artists, such as his friend Julio Gonzalez (Spanish, 1876–1942). His work reflected the biomorphic forms and bright hues characteristic of the movement, though he always remained separated from the Surrealist circle. Deeply affected by the Spanish Civil War, Picasso painted his monumental work Guernica in 1937, famous for its poignant depictions of the anguish and destruction of the war.
In the mid-1940s, Picasso fully settled in Paris, later moving to Mougins, France, where he created an astounding number of paintings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, and works on paper during the next few decades. Held in the highest regard during his lifetime, retrospectives of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musée Picasso in Paris, the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, the National Gallery in London, and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, among many other institutions. In 1973, Picasso died in Mougins, at 92 years old, and is renowned today as one of the pioneering and most influential forces of 20th-century modernism.