How Pablo Picasso Worked

Picasso Biography

Pablo Picasso's painting "Le Gourmet" was completed in 1901.
Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

The story goes, when Picasso started painting as a child, his artist father took one look at his work, gave his brushes to his son and never painted again.


True or not, the point is that it could be true. Picasso was a gifted artist who had an astonishingly prolific career. Born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain, he eventually produced a body of work that included 22,000 creations, not only paintings but also sculptures, mosaics, ceramics and stage designs, before he died in 1973 in Mougins, France [source: Picasso].

Picasso fathered four children with three women. His mistresses were often his muses, the subjects in his works. He was known as a relentless womanizer and a charmer. Late in life he was known as a recluse. But mostly, he was known as an artist, from the very beginning.

Pablo Picasso was born Pablo Ruiz, but he took Picasso, his mother's maiden name, as his public surname. Recognized as a child art prodigy, Picasso went on to study art formally in Barcelona at the age of 14 [source: Guggenheim]. He had his first art show there several years later, and received lackluster reviews for it. But Picasso paid little heed to his critics, moving to Paris soon after and becoming central to the famed Paris art scene of the early 20th century.

His Paris studio hosted the likes of Gertrude and Leo Stein, Henri Matisse, Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire and, of course, Georges Braque. Picasso's collaboration with Braque produced Cubism (see How Cubism Works).

Some of Picasso greatest works are part of that Cubist period. Cubism, however, was the third of his recognized artistic phases.