Happy Birthday, Pablo!

Posted: October 25, 2006 in Art & Artists

picassoselfportrait.jpgPablo Picasso was born October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain, a city with ancient origins located on the southeast part of that country, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. You can still find his birth house in Malaga, located at the Plaza de la Merced 15. The building is now home to the Foundation Picasso. picassobirthplace.jpg

Picasso was a night owl, lying in bed most of the day and working on his paintings at night, spotlights shining on the canvases so he could see what he was doing. He never used a pallette. Instead, he put the cans of paint on the floor next to him and dipped his brushes directly into them, wiping off the excess on newspapers as he worked into the night.

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The style Picasso is most often associated with is cubism, an early 20th-century art movement in which objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in abstract form. Picasso is one of the artists given credit for developing cubism, and he was also hugely influential on all forms of art in the 20th century, including things we wouldn’t think of immediately, like music and literature. In a world increasingly fragmented by world wars, the early 20th century was a time of great strife and disillusion. Picasso and other artists began expressing their angst about an increasingly violent and unsafe world by presenting their art in a less realistic, more fractured style.

Virginia.jpgWriters such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf began writing in stream-of-consciousness style around this same time, further turning the idea of what art was on its head. No longer restricted by traditional prose styles, literature was opened up to entirely new styles of writing, owing some of their newfound freedom to the ideas begun by Pablo Picasso and artists like him.

Picasso moved to Paris as a young struggling artist, making friends with all sorts of artistic types from Andre Breton to Gertrude Stein. He kept a number of mistresses throughout his life, while also maintaining relationships with either a wife or primary lover. In his lifetime Picasso was married twice and had four children by three different women.

Here in Chicago we boast “The Picasso Structure,” Picasso’s famous 50-foot sculpture, which was commissioned by the City of Chicago and unveiled in 1967. Though the city had earmarked $ 100,000 to pay for the sculpture, Picasso refused to accept it. Instead, he gave it to the city as his gift.

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But what IS this sculpture? No one knows for sure, and Picasso himself didn’t say. Is it a woman? A horse? A bird? That’s up to personal interpretation, and we’ll more than likely never know for sure what the artist intended.

Personally, I say it’s a horse.

Happy 125th Birthday, Pablo Picasso, father of cubism and an iconic pioneer of 20th century art.

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Books about Picasso:

Life with Picasso by Francoise Gilot

Picasso by Gertrude Stein

Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier by Fernande Olivier

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