Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Malaga, Spain, son of an artist, Jose Ruiz, and Maria Picasso. Rather than adopt the common name Ruiz, the young Picasso took the rarer name of his mother. An artistic prodigy, Picasso, at the age of 14, completed the one-month qualifying examination of the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona in one day. From there he went to the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, returning in 1900 to Barcelona.
The years of 1901 to 1904 were known as the “blue period” because of the blue tonality of Picasso’s paintings. During this period, he would spend his days in Paris studying the masterworks at the Louvre and his nights enjoying the company of fellow artists at cabarets. 1905 and 1906 marked a radical change in color and mood for Picasso. He became fascinated with the acrobats, clowns and wandering families of the circus world. He started to paint in subtle pinks and grays, often highlighted with brighter tones. This was known as his “rose period.” In 1907, Picasso painted “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” considered the watershed picture of the twentieth century, and met Georges Braque, the other leading artist of the Cubist movement. Cubism was equally the creation of Picasso and Braque and from 1911 to 1913, the two men were in frequent contact.
In 1917, Picasso did the set and costume design for Serge Diaghilev’s ballet “Parade.” For Picasso the 1920’s were years of rich artistic exploration and great productivity. Picasso continued to design theater sets and painted in Cubist modes. From 1929 to 1931, he pioneered wrought iron sculpture with his old friend Julio Gonzalez. In the early 1930’s, Picasso did a large quantity of graphic illustrations. In late April of 1937, the world learned the shocking news of the saturation bombing of the civilian target of Guernica, Spain by the Nazi Luftwaffe. Picasso responded with his great anti-war painting, “Guernica.” During World War II, Picasso lived in Paris, where he turned his energy to the art of ceramics. From 1947 to 1950, he pursued new methods of lithography.