Pablo Ruiz Blasco was born on 25 October 1881 in Málaga, Spain, to a Castilian father, who was a painting teacher, and an Andalusian mother. In 1895 he was admitted to the School of Fine Art in Barcelona. Two years later he enrolled at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, but, disappointed by the classes, soon returned to Barcelona. There he led a bohemian lifestyle in the company of writers and painters, including Carlos Casagemas, who became a close friend. In 1900 he represented Spain at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and was introduced to the work of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Cézanne. He would have a lifelong admiration for Cézanne’s paintings, and a fascination for the personality and fate of Van Gogh, who dedicated his life to his art. The suicide of Casagemas in 1901 le¡ Picasso profoundly shaken. He began to question his painting and one of his versions of The Death of Casagemas saw the advent of his “période bleue ”. In the summer of 1901 he exhibited for the first time in France – sixty-four paintings at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery. He was just nineteen years old. Over the next few years he divided his time between Paris and Barcelona, finally settling in Montmartre in 1904. He spent time with Braque and Matisse, but also the poets Max Jacob, André Salmon and Guillaume Apollinaire. His palette became brighter and increasingly dominated by reds, evolving into his “période rose ”. Picasso and Braque collaborated closely in an endeavour to create a structural translation of new approaches arising particularly from primitive art traditions and Cézanne’s attempts at schematisation. While these years led him to reconsider notions of volume and perspective, Picasso never went so far as to reduce his subjects to complete abstraction. Meeting Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes, led him to collaborate with Cocteau, Satie and Apollinaire to create the ballet Parade . The year 1918 brought him into contact with André Breton, who would describe his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon as the defining work of Cubism. While he never joined the Surrealist movement, it none the less had an influence on his work, leadind him to more saturated colours and dream-like or erotic themes. For the 1937 Exposition Universelle, Picasso responded to a request on the part of the government of the Spanish Republic with Guernica, a painting denouncing the violence of the regimes of Franco and Hitler.
In 1946, as the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a large retrospective, Picasso moved to the South of France, first to Antibes and then Vallauris. The sun, mythological subjects and the Mediterranean became major elements in his compositions. He drew from his roots, into his own personal antiquity. The series he developed from Velázquez’s Las Meninas or Delacroix’s Women of Algiers attest to a desire to reclaim control of his personal legacy, without lapsing into melancholy. Arles, a city he first encountered in 1912 in the footsteps of Van Gogh, a guiding figure, was also reminiscent of his childhood in Málaga. He watched the bullfights at the arena with Leiris, Cocteau and Bataille, and met the young photographer Lucien Clergue, who photographed the painter for the rest of his life. The Minotaur and the bullfight echoed the age-old combat of woman and man, of sunlight and shadow, and of life and death. In 1957 a display of his drawings began a cycle of exhibitions dedicated to Picasso at the Musée Réattu in Arles. He remained in Provence for the rest of his life, living in the Villa La Californie in Cannes – where Henri-Georges Clouzot filmed The Mystery of Picasso – then the Château de Vauvenargues at the foot of the Cézanne-esque Montagne Sainte-Victoire, and finally the Villa Mas de Notre-Dame-de-Vie, where he passed away in the spring of 1973 at the age of 91.
Previous exhibitions (selection)
Guernica, Musée national Picasso-Paris, Paris (France)
Lucien Clergue: vint-i-set encontres amb Picasso (Lucien Clergue: twenty-seven encounters with Picasso), Museu Picasso-Barcelona, Barcelona (Spain)
Pablo Picasso. Between Cubism and Classicism: 1915-1925, Scuderie del Quirinale and Palazzo Barberini, Rome (Italy)
Picasso and Popular Arts and Traditions: A Genius Without a Pedestal, Mucem, Marseille (France)
Picasso.mania, Grand Palais, Paris (France)
Picasso, the Mediterranean years, 1945-1962, Gagosian Gallery, London (United Kingdom)
Pablo Picasso – Portraits d’Arlésiennes, 1912-1958, Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, Arles (France)
Le dernier Picasso 1953-1973, Centre Pompidou, Paris (France)
Picasso, 1970-1972 – 201 paintings, Musée du Palais des Papes, Avignon, 1973.