Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973

Pablo Picasso,  Self-Portrait,  1907.

Pablo Picasso, Self-Portrait, 1907.

By Natasha Sivanandan

Born on October 25th, 1881 and baptised Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, Picasso would become one of the most profound and revolutionary artists of the 20th century. Known for his co-founding of the Cubist movement, with Georges Braque, his work would go on to transform the artistic landscape for modern artists to follow.

Picasso showed great artistic ability at a young age and, according to his mother, his first word was ‘piz,’ short for ‘lápiz’, meaning pencil. His father, Don José Ruiz y Blasco, was a professor of drawing at the Escuela Provincial de Bellas Artes in Málaga and a painter who specialised in birds. Don José recognised his son’s aptitude and encouraged it through providing lessons. From preserved drawings, made when Picasso was nine, We can see that the young Picasso displayed a ‘precocious grasp of naturalistic conventions.’ A vast collection of his childhood works can be viewed in the Museu Picasso in Barcelona. When his father changed jobs and moved to Barcelona in 1895, Picasso, then only fourteen years old, passed the exam to enter the senior class of Classical Art and Still Life. 

By 1904 Picasso had moved to Paris and set up his own studio, which became central to Modernist artists, writers and patrons. From 1900-1906 Picasso experimented with various styles, but it was in 1907 that he made his breakthrough work that would change the face of art —Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Generally considered to be the first cubist painting, it not only challenged conventions in Western art, through the radical representation of multiple viewpoints, but also incorporated images taken from Iberian sculpture and African masks.  This piece was a turning point for the modernist agenda in art as it broke away from classical western precedents and would lay the groundwork for many other modernists movements.

Recently, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) held an exhibition of Picasso’s lesser-known outlet of artistic expression – sculpture. Picasso Sculpture was held from September 14th, 2015 until February 7th, 2016 and it contained 150 of Picasso’s sculptures. It was a fascinating exhibition because, although he is best known as a painter, Picasso also worked as a sculptor and broke norms within this medium as well. The exhibition demonstrated the many sculptural periods of Picasso’s career. His sculptures were important to the modernist movement because of his radical agenda that anticipated what was to come. For example, Picasso once commented on his work Head of Woman (1909), saying “I thought that the curves you see on the surface should continue into the interior. I had the idea of doing them in wire.” Though being cast in bronze, it retained a forward-thinking style of transparency that revealed the interior of a sculpture, which would become popular and Would be replicated in the openness of assemblages in later works. Once again, Picasso was ahead of his time and created one of the first western sculptural works that allowed the viewer to see into its interior.

Today we get to honour the oeuvre of Pablo Picasso who, though trained in the Classical Western tradition, went on to completely break from this tradition and revolutionise the landscape of art. 


Daix Pierre, Georges Boudaille and Joan Rosselet. Picasso 1900-1906: Catologue Raisonné de L’oeuvre Peint. Paris, 1988.

Cirlot, J.E.. Picasso: Birth of a Genius. New York, 1972.

McQuillan, Melissa. ‘Picasso, Pablo.’ October 22, 2008,, accessed October 14, 2017. 

Schwabsky, Barry. ‘Secret Accords.’ Nation vol. 301 issue. 19.

Wertenbaker, Lael. The World of Picasso. Netherlands, 1967.