Through his deep and constantly renewed analysis of the challenges of representation, Pablo Picasso is one of the greatest painters of the 20th century. His plastic work: painting, sculpture, engraving, ceramics, crosses various artistic trends, such as cubism and surrealism, without ever being confined to it. Throughout his life, Picasso engaged in a close dialogue with the image, and challenged the viewer's gaze, from the first drawings of picadors in his native Spain, to the overwhelming self-portraits of recent years, the ultimate reflection on painting.
Born in 1881 in Malaga, Andalusia, Pablo Ruiz Picasso painted his first painting, Le Petit Picador, at the age of eight. His father, a painter, decides to stop painting by noting the amazing talent of his son, when he is only thirteen years old. The Ruiz Picasso family moved to Barcelona in 1895. There, the young Pablo frequented Catalan artistic circles, and became friends with artists, notably Carlos Casagemas, met at the famous café "Els Quatre Gats", which he decorated the walls. He became an illustrator of newspapers to ensure his subsistence.
Attracted to Paris like a whole generation of European artists, Picasso arrived in the capital at the end of 1900 with his friend Casagemas. This one is killed a few months later: Picasso, upset, paints several tables evoking his friend like L'Enterrement de Casagemas. These Parisian years are synonymous for the Spanish painter of poverty, loneliness and anxiety - themes that are found in his paintings of the time, and whose bluish and greenish tones prompted art historians to invent the term "Blue period".
The blue period is followed by the pink period, where the themes addressed are the circus, dancers, acrobats. Picasso, installed at the Bateau-Lavoir, in Montmartre, meets Guillaume Apollinaire, who comments on his works. Several collectors began to acquire his paintings, notably the Russian Chtchoukine, and the American Gertrude Stein, whose artist frequented the salon, and in 1906, the merchant Ambroise Vollard bought a large part of the painter's paintings.
In 1906, the discovery at the Louvre of ancient Iberian sculptures, then of African sculpture, deeply marked Picasso. The artist then began to give more relief to the relief in his paintings, as evidenced by the Portrait of Gertrude Stein.
The year 1907 marked a clear stylistic evolution in the work of Picasso, who worked for months on a manifest painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. The artist overturns the codes of figuration, and announces cubism by the synthesis of forms, inherited from Cézanne. Shortly after the execution of Les Demoiselles, Picasso met Georges Braque, who was the real inventor of Cubism. Together, the two artists develop "analytical" cubism: the central perspective is abandoned in favor of exploded forms in multiple facets.
From 1912, Picasso included real elements in his canvases, as in the Still Life with the Caned Chair, canvas on which a piece of printed oilcloth is stuck. Collages evolve towards "synthetic" cubism, which offer a simultaneous vision of the angles of an object. In addition to painting, Picasso engages in the work of a sculptor and engraver, which are essential in his reflection on representation.
Reaching the limits of abstraction, Picasso resolutely moved away from it from 1917, notably under the influence of Cocteau, with whom he went to Italy, and the Ballets Russes by Diaghilev, for which he created sets and costumes. This period of "return to order", felt by many artists in the aftermath of the First World War, corresponds to a new look at classical art, and, in Picasso, to a return to harmonious, full forms, and softer colors, as evidenced by his Ingresque portraits of the 1920s.
In spite of himself included in the surrealist group in the 1920s, Picasso, during this period, questioned in his works the double meaning of images, confronting different angles of view in the same figure. Mythological figures, especially the Minotaur, and crying women become favorite themes.
From 1930, Picasso frequently withdrew to the château de Boisgeloup, in the Eure region, where he devoted himself in particular to sculpture. The painter is a man of passions, in love but also political: in 1937 he painted the monumental canvas Guernica, which he himself called a "war instrument for defense against the enemy". Opposed to Franco, he will never return to Spain. Passively resistant to Nazism, Picasso remained in Paris during the Occupation and painted works in muted tones and in a suffocating atmosphere.
After the war, Pablo Picasso settled in the South of France and his works (paintings, sculptures and ceramics).