How Did Picasso Become Famous?
Pablo Picasso, born (Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso) was a Spanish painter, sculptor and engraver who lived from 1881 to 1973. He was a very independent artist and, with another painter called Georges Braque, founded a whole new movement in art which became known as Cubism. At a very early age he showed exceptional talent. He went to the School of Fine Art in Barcelona and to the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid.
Eventually, in 1905, he established himself in Paris. Between 1899 and 1905 his first subjects were lively scenes of popular and bourgeois life—cabarets, racecourses, dance halls. Later he changed to depicting the victims of society—prostitutes, beggars, drunkards, the blind and the crippled. He tried to get closer to what he felt was reality by approaching his subjects from several different angles. He extracted meanings from them and employed the fullest possible range of expressive techniques.
Eventually he started a new way of pictorial representation based on a shifting viewpoint, a free approach to color and the right to show what one knows instead of what the eye sees. This was the start of Cubism which was an alternative pictorial language to naturalism. He went through many changes of style and awareness, and his contribution to the world of art has been immense and revolutionary. His paintings are highly valued throughout the world.
Picasso’s influence was and remains immense and widely acknowledged by his admirers and detractors alike. On the occasion of his 1939 retrospective at MoMA, Life magazine wrote: “During the 25 years he has dominated modern European art; his enemies say he has been a corrupting influence. With equal violence, his friends say he is the greatest artist alive.”
In 1998, Robert Hughes wrote of him: “To say that Pablo Picasso dominated Western art in the 20th century is, by now, the merest commonplace. … No painter or sculptor, not even Michelangelo, had been as famous as this in his own lifetime. … Though Marcel Duchamp, that cunning old fox of conceptual irony, has certainly had more influence on nominally vanguard art over the past 30 years than Picasso, the Spaniard was the last great beneficiary of the belief that the language of painting and sculpture really mattered to people other than their devotees.”
At the time of Picasso’s death many of his paintings were in his possession, as he had kept off the art market what he did not need to sell. In addition, Picasso had a considerable collection of the work of other famous artists, some his contemporaries, such as Henri Matisse, with whom he had exchanged works. Since Picasso left no will, his death duties (estate tax) to the French state were paid in the form of his works and others from his collection. These works form the core of the immense and representative collection of the Musée Picasso in Paris. In 2003, relatives of Picasso inaugurated a museum dedicated to him in his birthplace, Málaga, Spain, the Museo Picasso Málaga.
The Museu Picasso in Barcelona features many of his early works, created while he was living in Spain, including many rarely seen works which reveal his firm grounding in classical techniques. The museum also holds many precise and detailed figure studies done in his youth under his father’s tutelage, as well as the extensive collection of Jaime Sabartés, his close friend and personal secretary.
Guernica was on display in New York’s Museum of Modern Art for many years. In 1981, it was returned to Spain and was on exhibit at the Casón del Buen Retiro of the Museo del Prado. In 1992 the painting was put on display in Madrid’s Reina Sofía Museum when it opened.
On 8 October 2010, Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, an exhibition of 150 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs from the Musée National Picasso in Paris, opened at the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, US. The exhibition subsequently travelled to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, US; the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California, US; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
As of 2015, Picasso remained the top-ranked artist (based on sales of his works at auctions) according to the Art Market Trends report. More of his paintings have been stolen than any other artist’s; in 2012, the Art Loss Register had 1,147 of his works listed as stolen. The Picasso Administration functions as his official Estate. The US copyright representative for the Picasso Administration is the Artists Rights Society.