Picasso – The Beauty and the Beast episode 1

Picasso - The Beauty and the Beast episode 1

Picasso – The Beauty and the Beast episode 1: In the early 20th century, the city of Paris was a haven for artists and dreamers from all over the world. It was within this melting pot of creativity that a young Pablo Picasso found himself, eager to make his mark in the world of art. Delving deeper into Picasso’s life during these formative years, we’re offered an intimate glimpse into the tumultuous journey of an artist destined for greatness.



Set against the backdrop of Montmartre’s bohemian alleys and the luminous Seine river, Picasso began to etch his name into the annals of art history. The city’s artistic soul nourished him, and his talent soon ignited like wildfire, capturing the attention of art enthusiasts, critics, and collectors alike. His work began to draw crowds, and it wasn’t long before Picasso’s name was whispered in revered tones throughout Paris’ elite art circles.



As he navigated the bustling boulevards and attended the lavish soirees of Paris, Picasso’s personal life became just as colorful as his canvases. It was amidst this whirlwind of acclaim and adoration that he encountered his first great love, Fernande Olivier. With raven-black hair and a gaze that could melt even the coldest of hearts, she became both his muse and partner, gracing many of his early masterpieces.



Yet, as with many passionate souls, the complexities of Picasso’s heart were never straightforward. While Fernande held a special place in his life, the allure of new inspiration was always on the horizon. It was during one of his artistic explorations that Picasso’s path crossed with that of the enchanting ballerina, Olga Khokhlova. With grace and poise that seemed to defy gravity, she danced her way into his heart, marking yet another chapter in the tapestry of Picasso’s romantic pursuits. In examining this period of his life, we not only see the evolution of an art legend but also get a front-row seat to the intertwining of love, passion, and creativity that so often defines the human experience.


Picasso – The Beauty and the Beast episode 1



A Budding Genius in Barcelona

Pablo Picasso stands as one of the titans of 20th century art. Emerging from fin de siècle Barcelona, the precocious young artist quickly made his mark on the Parisian art scene. With his dark eyes and intense gaze, Picasso possessed an almost preternatural gift for artistic expression. Even as a teenager in Barcelona, his technical aptitude and stylistic sensibilities exceeded those of painters twice his age.

Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain in 1881. His father José Ruiz Blasco was a painter and art teacher who gave Pablo his first lessons in drawing and oil painting. From these childhood beginnings, Picasso’s innate talent rapidly blossomed. By 13, his technical skill rivaled his father’s abilities. According to Picasso’s later recollections, his father quickly realized his son’s prodigious gifts. Rather than jealousy, he felt pride in Pablo’s abilities and supported his artistic development.

When Pablo turned 14, the Ruiz family moved from Málaga to Barcelona so José could take up a position teaching art. Pablo enrolled in the city’s School of Fine Arts where his father taught. Surrounded by like-minded students, Picasso absorbed new influences. His precocious talent impressed his classmates, many of whom were teenagers or in their early 20s. According to his friends, Picasso became the natural leader of their social group.

During this period, Picasso produced marvelous realistic paintings that demonstrated his technical mastery. Though still a teenager, his skill with shading, perspective, and drama stunned viewers. However, Picasso chafed at the staid subject matter his father required him to paint. He longed to break free and explore audacious new directions in his art.


Arrival in Paris – A Solitary Genius

As the 19th century drew to a close, Picasso dreamed of moving to Paris, the epicenter of the art world. In October 1900, aided by a modest allowance from his parents, Picasso realized this long-held ambition. However, unlike the whirlwind of adulation the young artist might have imagined, his arrival in Paris proved underwhelming.

Far from receiving a hero’s welcome, the unknown Spanish artist found himself shunned by the Parisian art establishment. With little money, Picasso took up residence in Montmartre, a ramshackle bohemian enclave on the fringes of Paris. There he endured cold, squalid lodgings and persistent near-poverty as he struggled to establish himself.

Though deprived of critical and financial success, Picasso refused to waver in his vision. In a cramped Montmartre studio, he worked feverishly on a torrent of new paintings. Desperate to make his name, he explored a variety of styles influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and others. Unfortunately, these derivative works failed to capture the public’s imagination.

Brash and ambitious, the headstrong Spaniard grew increasingly frustrated by his lack of recognition. Meanwhile, his close friend Carles Casagemas became besotted with a woman named Germaine who repeatedly rebuffed him. After a failed murder-suicide attempt, the despondent Casagemas took his own life. His tragic demise cast Picasso into a period of gloomy rumination that soon permeated his paintings.


The Blue Period and First Critical Acclaim

Casagemas’ suicide sparked within Picasso a sustained period of melancholy contemplation. From 1901 to 1904, the artist entered what later became known as his Blue Period. During these years he produced a series of haunting, monochromatic paintings populated by gaunt, impoverished figures rendered in varying shades of blue.

Believing great art should disturb audiences, Picasso embraced darker themes. His Blue Period paintings poignantly capture the cold, alienating nature of urban life. The palette reflects Picasso’s own isolation and hardship during this phase. Though often bleak, the works brim with humanity and compassion for the poor and outcast.

While the Blue Period failed to garner widespread acclaim, it did attract the notice of some influential collectors. This led to Picasso’s first major exhibition in 1901 at the Vollard Gallery, a preeminent avant-garde institution. Though critics decried his derivative style, the show brought Picasso increased visibility. Over the coming decade, his popularity among collectors and the public would steadily grow.


Fernande Olivier – Artist and Model

In 1904, Picasso became enchanted by Montmartre model Fernande Olivier. Vivacious and strong-willed, the striking redhead kindled new creative fires within Picasso. Her joie de vivre inspired his Rose Period, characterized by warmer hues and lighter themes. Works like _Les Amants_ (The Lovers) celebrated the newfound bliss she brought to Picasso’s life.

By 1905, Fernande had moved into Picasso’s studio in the iconic, ramshackle Bateau-Lavoir building. Though lacking in material comforts, their home bustled with creative ferment. Fellow artists like Max Jacob and Guillaume Apollinaire were frequent visitors. The couple also mingled with Gertrude Stein and other expatriate American art connoisseurs eager to champion Picasso’s audacious new direction.

Fernande quickly became both Picasso’s lover and muse. Under the artist’s possessive gaze, her voluptuous figure populated numerous canvases. As he moved towards Cubism, her image fractured into shards of vivid color. Both smitten with Fernande and galvanized by fresh influences, Picasso entered the most revolutionary creative phase of his career thus far.


Cubist Innovations with Braque

As Picasso absorbed groundbreaking influences from Cézanne, African art and beyond, his work pointed towards radical new frontiers. In collaboration with fellow painter Georges Braque, he co-founded Cubism, one of the most disruptive movements in modern art history.

Beginning around 1907, Picasso and Braque initiated what they called “an artistic expedition”. On canvases layered with faceted shapes, they deconstructed familiar forms, creating jarring new spatial relationships. By reducing visual perception to abstracted geometric parts, their Cubist works aimed to capture objects and figures from multiple simultaneous perspectives.

In comparison to Impressionism’s relaxed brushwork and realistic forms, Cubist paintings dazzled viewers with their sharp lines, splintered shapes and earthy color palettes. Picasso ceaselessly pushed the style to new extremes over successive phases known as Analytic Cubism, Synthetic Cubism and beyond. His restless genius sent shockwaves across the European art scene.


A Turn Towards Classicism with Olga

By 1916, Picasso stood atop the Parisian art world as the recognized maestro of modernism. However, true to his iconoclastic nature, his works took an abrupt turn towards Neoclassicism during the late 1910s. While Cubism fractured forms into myriad facets, his new paintings portrayed serene figurative scenes rendered with smooth, realistic contours.

This surprising shift coincided with Picasso’s new muse – Olga Khokhlova, a Ukrainian ballet dancer. While designing costumes for the Ballets Russes, Picasso fell passionately in love with the refined, classically trained dancer. After a courtship rich with romantic effusions, Olga became Picasso’s wife in 1918.

With his new bride as model and surrounded by high society friends, Picasso explored themes of mythology, motherhood and other classical motifs. Though radically different from his earlier periods, these works display the emotional range of his creative genius. However, as the 1920s progressed, Picasso again grew restless with marital contentment. The anguish of lovers spurned and mistresses turned away would soon permeate his art.


The Art of Heartbreak

By 1927, Picasso’s marriage to Olga had grown increasingly strained. As was his habit, he turned to his art to process the simmering tensions. In a series of paintings, he portrayed Olga as weeping and anguished, hinting at undisclosed troubles. Though seemingly passive, her averted gaze suggests inner fortitude. As scholars later discovered, Olga faced secret torments over her family’s fate after the Russian Revolution.

Even as Olga endured quiet suffering, Picasso engaged in numerous affairs. While she raised their son Paulo, Picasso cavorted with mistresses like the shapely 17-year old Marie-Thérèse Walter. Their illicit romance inspired sensual portraits thick with color and twisted forms. Picasso rendered Marie-Thérèse in the swollen shapes of fertility goddesses, though not without sharp edges hinting at more sinister impulses.

Another muse soon eclipsed young Marie-Thérèse in Picasso’s roving affections – the Surrealist photographer Dora Maar. Their turbulent affair coincided with the Spanish Civil War, a conflict that profoundly impacted Picasso. In Paris, he painted the epic _Guernica_ in response to the Nazi bombing of civilians in that Basque city. Maar photographed the painting’s progression from blank canvas to monumental indictment.

Away from his easel, Picasso inflicted great emotional pain on Maar through his callousness and betrayals. Nonetheless, he captured her in over 200 paintings, including many portraits depicting her tears and anguish. Though terrible in its way, his abusive genius yielded some of his most powerful visual outpourings. Yet as always, Picasso soon yearned for fresh inspiration from new lovers.


Sculptural Innovations

Picasso’s protean creativity extended beyond painting to trailblazing experiments in three-dimensional media. Beginning in 1909, Picasso collaborated with Georges Braque on a series of Cubist paper collages and papier collé works that integrated cut paper fragments and other materials onto painted surfaces. These mixed media compositions demolished distinctions between high art and mundane objects.

In 1928, Picasso dramatically expanded his sculptural horizons after encountering welded metal creations by the great modern artist Julio Gonzalez. Applying his fertile imagination, Picasso began crafting sculptures from scrap metal, studio debris and other found materials. Like his paintings, his assemblage sculptures challenged ocular perceptions through jarring juxtapositions of disparate objects and voids.

Later, in the 1930s, Picasso created groundbreaking works by manipulating and recombining natural forms and orifices into biomorphic shapes resonant with primal energy. These fleshy anthropomorphic creations prefigured his encounters with Françoise Gilot, another lover who fueled his visual imagination. But first, darker days loomed as Nazi forces marched across Europe.


War and Peace

On June 14, 1940, advancing Nazi armies entered Paris, instituting a harsh occupation regime. As German forces blitzkrieged across Europe, Picasso refused calls from friends to flee. He vowed to stay and face the occupation alongside ordinary Parisians. The Spanish artist had already experienced his homeland torn apart by civil war with the bombing of Guernica.

Throughout World War II, Picasso remained in Paris. Short of money, he was often forced to paint over older canvases or resort to cheap art supplies. His occupiers banned bronze casting, hampering his sculptural output. Despite these deprivations, Picasso continued working and refused any association with Nazi propagandists. Along with friends like Gertrude Stein, his presence offered a quiet moral support to the oppressed populace.

In 1944, as Allied forces liberated Paris, Picasso joined the French Communist Party in gratitude for their leading role in the Resistance. Though never an orthodox communist, Picasso’s affiliation reflected his sympathy towards the marginalized and his antipathy towards fascism. However, as the Cold War deepened, Picasso’s politics would increasingly make him a target in his adopted homeland.


Last Love and Creative Renewal

Despite Nazi repression and deteriorating health, Picasso remained creatively active into his 90s. In 1943, he began an affair with the artist Françoise Gilot who was 40 years his junior. Their ten-year relationship generated over 400 paintings and 100 drawings, many featuring Françoise’s youthful vitality. She became the mother of Claude and Paloma, the artist’s youngest children.

Free-spirited and independent, Françoise eventually parted ways with Picasso in 1953 due to his domineering possessiveness. However, their years together had reinvigorated his visual artistry. In his 70s, Picasso enthusiastically embraced ceramics, producing over 4000 colorful plates, vases and other ceramic works. Even in advanced age, his curiosity and creative spirit seemed inexhaustible.

By the time of his death in 1973, Picasso had generated an estimated 50,000 artworks in an array of mediums. He had amassed enormous fame and fortune, though often at a cost to those around him. As both a modernist master and a flawed human being, Picasso demonstrated the heights of creative achievement and the depths of human cruelty that together constitute artistic genius. For good or ill, his monumental innovations permanently expanded human artistic expression.

Here is part 3 of the 4,000 word SEO optimized blog article:


Picasso’s Formative Years in Barcelona

As a child prodigy in late 19th century Spain, Pablo Picasso demonstrated extraordinary artistic talents from a very young age. Born in Málaga in 1881, Picasso was mentored in drawing and painting by his father Don José, a minor painter and instructor at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. Recognizing little Pablo’s precocious abilities, Don José devoted great energy towards cultivating his son’s nascent gifts.

By 13, Picasso had already attained a level of technical proficiency far surpassing his father’s modest skills. Don José soon realized Pablo’s innate genius could take him much further than his own limited ambitions. Rather than jealousy, the proud father felt only joy at his son’s evident talents. This parental support and encouragement proved crucial in nurturing Pablo’s early confidence.

In 1895, the Ruiz family relocated to Barcelona so Don José could take up a professorship. 14-year old Pablo enrolled in the School of Fine Arts where his father taught. Surrounded by students 5 or 10 years his senior, Picasso absorbed new ideas that complemented his classical training. Outside of class, he fell in with a clique of bohemian art students enraptured by modern trends.

Though younger than his new friends, Picasso immediately became the leader of their lively social group. In the cafes and taverns scattered around Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, Picasso and his fellow art students passionately discussed radical new directions in painting. They dreamed of creating disruptive works that would jolt the staid art establishment.

Back in his studio, Picasso continued to produce sensitive, accomplished realist paintings that demonstrated his precocious technical mastery. Though still only a teenager, his abilities often exceeded those of much older artists. However, Picasso yearned to emancipate his creative spirit and forge a wholly original artistic vision.


The Allure of Avant-Garde Paris

As the 19th century ended, Picasso dreamed of escaping provincial Barcelona for Paris, the pulsating heart of the modern art world. In Fall 1900, aided by a small monthly stipend from his parents, Picasso realized this long-held ambition. However, his arrival in Paris proved markedly less triumphant than the young artist had imagined.

Rather than receiving a conquering hero’s welcome, the unknown 19-year old Spaniard found himself utterly ignored by the Parisian cultural establishment. Lacking connections or critical endorsements, Picasso struggled to gain attention from art galleries uninterested in the latest aspirations of an obscure foreigner.

With little money to spare, Picasso rented a sparse, unheated room in the ramshackle Montmartre neighborhood. There he endured cold, hunger and persistent near-poverty as he strove tirelessly to make his mark in painting. Surrounded by more successful contemporaries, Picasso had to affirm his talents without the advantages of wealth or fame.

Refusing to abandon his vision, Picasso worked with monastic devotion in his cramped Montmartre studio. Outside of a few close friends who occasionally dropped by, he remained socially isolated. At night, the melancholy young painter wandered the lamp-lit streets alone. Back at his flat, Picasso studied Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and others as he struggled to synthesize their influences into a style entirely his own.


The Solitary Journey into Cubism

After achieving fame through bold new directions like Fauvism and Cubism, Henri Matisse stood as Picasso’s principal rival during the early 1900s. In 1905, Matisse unveiled his riotously colorful masterpiece Le Bonheur de Vivre, which caused a sensation with its radically distorted figures and hieratic landscape. The painting established Matisse as leader of the avant-garde.

Meanwhile, Picasso remained trapped in obscurity and poverty. Unable to rival Matisse’s garish canvas, he retreated into himself. Following his friend Carles Casagemas’ suicide in 1901, Picasso had entered a phase of gloomy rumination that permeated his Blue Period paintings. After this mournful interlude, Picasso next explored brighter hues during his Rose Period from 1904 to 1906.

However, despite bouts of acclaim, Picasso failed to produce the epoch-defining painting needed to exceed Matisse’s dramatic breakthrough. Restless and ambitious, Picasso tirelessly explored new directions, but without reaching the artistic revelation he sought. He became increasingly frustrated and despondent over perceived failures to realize his vast creative potential.

Then, between 1906 to 1908, Picasso underwent a period of intense introspective soul-searching. One day in 1907, he visited the Trocadero Ethnographic Museum where African masks seized his imagination. Back in his studio, Picasso synthesized the mask’s abstract geometry with other influences like Cézanne’s shifting planes. Gradually, the facets of a fresh vision coalesced in his mind. Soon after, Picasso completed his first true Cubist painting – a rupture that shocked the art world and placed him at the vanguard of modernism.


Braque and the Cubist Expedition

Following Picasso’s epiphany, his style transformed almost overnight as he rapidly created other Cubist paintings over 1907-08. Rather than smooth contours, subjects deconstructed into multifaceted shards arranged across fractured spatial planes. Forms kaleidoscoped into semi-abstracted geometries that challenged traditional pictorial conventions.

Awed by Picasso’s dazzling breakthrough, Georges Braque soon adopted a similar Cubist manner. From 1908 onward, Braque and Picasso formed an intense partnership dedicated to pushing Cubism to ever more radical extremes. They jokingly described themselves as ‘two mountaineers, roped together’ on a perilous artistic expedition destined to remake the landscape of modern painting.

Over successive phases dubbed Analytic then Synthetic Cubism, Picasso and Braque dissected forms into increasingly abstracted facets rendered from multiple simultaneous vantage points. Crystalline shapes and flattened depth created jarring, almost unrecognizable distortions of figures, objects and space. Line and color formed the grammar of a new visual language transcending observational realism.

By 1911, Picasso stood as the uncontested master of Cubism and indeed avant-garde painting as a whole. His canvases abandoned the last vestiges of pictorial tradition in pursuit of a profoundly inventive artistic vision. More than even Matisse, Picasso’s relentless originality established him as the torchbearer of modernism during the new century’s second decade.


Rupture with Cubism and Rebirth in Neoclassicism

After revolutionizing modern art through Cubism, Picasso abruptly shifted gears once again. Following World War I, he entered what scholars later termed his Neoclassical period. Defying expectations, Picasso’s new paintings rejected Cubism’s jagged fragmentation in favor of smoothly rendered figural compositions with clear outlines and legible depth.

Some critics argued Picasso surrendered his progressive creative edge through this stylistic retrenchment. However, the Spaniard felt Cubism had grown stale and predictable as imitators reduced its inventions to stylistic cliches. Ever restless, Picasso chose to critically engage classical tradition while imparting his paintings with undiminished expressive power.

This neoclassical shift also reflected Picasso’s new muse – Olga Khokhlova, a Ukrainian ballerina. After designing costumes for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Picasso fell deeply in love with Olga and her classical elegance. As his new wife and mother to his first child, Paulo, Olga inspired serene mythological portraits and family scenes conveyed in a cleaner, more timeless style.

Yet this period also produced jarring psychological portraits belying the couple’s outward bliss. As always with Picasso, stylistic ruptures led to renewed creative vitality. His neoclassical paintings recast tradition anew through the lens of modern psychology and his own conflicted passions. Even while looking back, Picasso propelled painting into the future.


Guernica and the Horrors of War

On April 26, 1937, warplanes from Hitler’s Luftwaffe rained bombs and gunfire onto the defenseless Basque town of Guernica in support of Franco’s fascist Nationalist regime. The attack left over 1500 civilians dead with the town largely demolished. News of this first mass aerial bombing of civilians during the Spanish Civil War shocked the world.

In Paris, Picasso immediately felt compelled to visually respond to this barbarous act. Although an exile, the Spanish-born artist harbored a deep love for his homeland along with hatred towards fascism. Beginning in May 1937, Picasso commenced work on a mural-sized painting meant to expose the bloody truths of modern warfare through allegorical confrontation.

Over nearly two months of feverish work, Picasso gradually transformed his initial sketches into the final epic canvas. Measuring over 25 feet wide, Guernica overwhelms viewers with its monumental forms and anguished motifs. Scenes of suffering civilians and dismembered soldiers wash over the viewer like grim tidal waves.

Guernica stands as perhaps Picasso’s greatest overtly political work. Beyond merely condemning fascist atrocity, the painting exposes war’s universal horrors. Picasso channeled his own bottled rage to create a timeless indictment of blind hatred and collective madness. Guernica remains one of history’s most powerful pacifist statements.



As one of history’s foremost artistic geniuses, Picasso produced an unparalleled output of groundbreaking paintings, sculptures and other works spanning 70+ prolific years. For over half a century, his endless inventiveness and stylistic mutability ensured Picasso’s central stature at the vanguard of modern art.

However, Picasso’s supreme individualism exerted terrible costs on those around him. In both art and life, he followed Nietzsche’s injunction to ‘become who you are’ through relentless self-assertion, no matter the consequences. Like many great artists, his monomaniacal creative passions blinded him to harm inflicted on others.

Nonetheless, Picasso’s manifold innovations permanently expanded artistic possibility and left lasting imprints on global culture. More than just a painter, Picasso embodied the soaring aspirations and agonized contradictions that constitute artistic genius. Eight decades after his Blue Period, Cubism and beyond, the titanic Spaniard’s shadow still lingers across modern art.

FAQ Picasso – The Beauty and the Beast episode 1


What was Picasso’s early life like?

As a child in Spain, Picasso displayed extraordinary artistic talent from a very young age. His father, a painter and teacher, nurtured his precocious abilities and supported his development. By his early teenage years in Barcelona, Picasso’s technical skills exceeded those of artists twice his age, though he felt constrained by traditional subject matter.

When did Picasso transition to more avant-garde styles?

After moving to Paris in 1900, Picasso went through various periods of emotional turmoil and poverty as he tried establishing himself. Following his Blue Period and Rose Period, Picasso pioneered early Cubism starting in 1907 after being inspired by African masks and other influences. This began his rise to prominence as a leader of modernist painting.

How did Picasso’s personal life affect his art?

Picasso had many tumultuous relationships with women who often served as his muses, including Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar. His time with each lover directly inspired new creative periods and stylistic innovations. However, he frequently treated the women poorly once infatuated with a new muse.

What were Picasso’s major contributions to art history?

Picasso fundamentally revolutionized painting traditions through groundbreaking co-invention of Cubism. He also pioneered new sculptural techniques using assemblage and recycled materials. His constant creative reinventions across multiple styles and mediums left a permanent impact on modern art. Works like Guernica remain politically influential.

What was Picasso’s legacy as an artist?

Over his 70+ year career, Picasso produced an astounding oeuvre through nonstop innovation. He embodied the avant-garde ethos by repeatedly breaking with tradition in pursuit of new forms of expression. However, Picasso exhibited both the light and dark sides of creative genius through his artistic brilliance and callous treatment of others. Nonetheless, his influence on 20th century art remains unparalleled.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Scroll to Top