Pablo Picasso lived a long and productive life. He produced
prodigious volumes of art up until the time of his death -
in his nineties He not only painted, but in his later years,
branched off into sculpture and ceramics. Picasso was the
ultimate artist as a public figure. No artist before him had
such a massive audience for their work nor was any artist
as famous in their own lifetime as Picasso.
His most famous painting Guernica (pictured) is a depiction of the violence and chaos experienced by the Nazi bombing of the Basque town in Northern Spain, full of mostly women and children. The men were away fighting the war. Picasso painted it in stark gray, black and white. The painting was Picasso's response to the bombing of the town of Guernica by German aircraft that were supporting Franco's Nationalist army of Spain. It is an emotional and horrifying painting of war. The painting is massive, 11 feet, 6 inches tall, by 25 feet, 6 inches long and is viewed in a room by itself at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, in Madrid.
After the victory of Francisco Franco in Spain, the painting was sent
to the United States to raise funds and support for Spanish refugees.
The San Francisco Museum of Art (later SFMOMA) gave the work its first public,
free appearance in the United States from 27 August to 19 September 1939.
Picasso never returned to Spain after the Spanish Civil War and expressed in his will, when he died in 1973, that Guernica would go to Spain only when it was a democracy. Franco died in 1975 and Guernica returned to Spain in 1981.
Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain in 1881. His family moved to Barcelona in 1895. His father was a painter and a drawing teacher, but the boy prodigy quickly surpassed him in talent. Picasso left Barcelona but returned for visits until the outbreak of the Civil War After that, he lived in France the remainder of his life. The Museo Picasso in Barcelona has a wonderful collection of his art in his younger years.
Picasso was not always a pleasant man. He was short and bull-like, superstitious, sarcastic, and often behaved poorly with his children and the women in his life. To state that he had many infidelities would be a gross understatement. Yet women lined up to be with him. He held women artists in contempt and provoked women everywhere when he stated that women were either "goddesses or doormats." Yet his contribution to the art world cannot be denied. There is not an art movement in the 20th century that he did not inspire or contribute to in some way. He co-invented Cubism with Georges Braque, which was his only collaboration He was a loner the rest of his career, forming a friendship with Matisse only when they were both old. After 1920 almost everything in his art related to women and naked bodies of women. One can follow the women in Picasso's life through his paintings - because he painted whomever he was with at the time. As his feelings changed for each particular woman - so did the mood of the paintings of her. It his last years, it is said that his painting took on a manic and obsessive quality, as if he painted fast enough he could forestall death - which, of course, he could not He died on April 8, 1973 at his home in France and was buried there.