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About the Artists: Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973

Monumental in his impact upon modern art, Pablo Picassoís name has become synonymous with artistic ingenuity for his work in the visual arts. Recognized from childhood as an artistic genius, Picasso strove throughout his career to break with aesthetic traditions. Picasso considered his own artistic brilliance to have few equals; one was Henri Matisse, whose approach to art provided a certain amount of stimulation to Picassoís creative thought. Evidence that both artists recalled and paraphrased the work of the other is seen in many of their art images, especially in their later years.

Born October 25, 1881, in Málaga, Spain, Pablo Ruiz Picasso was the first son of José Ruiz Blasco (a painter and art teacher) and María Picasso López (from whom he took his professional name). At the age of seven, Picasso ó assisted by his father ó began to paint, completing his first oil rendering one year later. Bolstered by his parentís support, Picasso began formal art studies at the age of 11 and continued until he was about 16. His formal art training ended in 1897 when the artist contracted scarlet fever and was forced to spend a great deal of time recuperating in the Spanish countryside.

By his twentieth birthday, Picasso had moved to Paris and had begun to develop new art styles, often turning the art world on its ear. In the early years of the twentieth century, Picasso embarked upon what has since become known as his Blue Period, a series of paintings emphasizing a blue palette and melancholy themes. This was followed by the Rose Period, with its emphasis on a warmer palette and cheerier ideas. It was during the latter period that Picasso met Matisse.

In 1907, Picasso painted Les Demoiselles DíAvignon, a precursor to cubism and a visual attack upon Matisseís 1906 Le Bonheur de Vivre (Joy of Life). In response, Matisse decried Les Demoiselles as a mockery of avant-garde art. Such an adversarial beginning might well have set most artists on separate tracks never to merge again, but this was not the case between Picasso and Matisse.

In the late 1920ís, when critics declared Matisse a «has-been,» Picasso provoked the older artist by painting his own version of Matisseís ideas. Soon afterwards, Matisse returned to painting with a renewed vigor and inventiveness. During World War II, when modern artists under Hitlerís rule were not allowed to exhibit their so-called «degenerate» art, Picasso and Matisse could only recall the otherís work and sometimes incorporate those visual memories into their own art. In later years, the two artists developed a close relationship and considered each other as artistic equals. They often were seen at public events together, frequently met in private, and on occasion exchanged works of art.

After Matisseís death in 1954, Picasso felt alone in the art world. Picassoís series, The Studio at La Californie, 1955-56, pays homage to his relationship with Matisse.

Picasso died April 8, 1973 in Mougins, France.


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