Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.
Painter, draftsman, sculptor, printmaker, photographer, ceramicist, designer, playwright, and poet, Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881–1973) contributed peerless innovations to the visual culture of the twentieth century. He created several of the great masterpieces of modernism, including Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) and Guernica (1937), co-invented collage and Cubism, designed groundbreaking sets and costumes for the theater, coined the term “sur-realism,” and invented assembled sculpture (assemblage). Driven by boundless artistic energies and ambitions, he was the very personification of the avant-garde, and many of the movements of the last century could not help but develop in his orbit as artists worked consciously either to absorb his influence or rebel in his shadow.
Born in Málaga, Spain, on the Mediterranean coast, Picasso began painting and drawing under the tutelage of his father, José Ruiz Blasco, himself a painter and an art school instructor. Picasso proved to be a child prodigy, achieving a remarkable academic facility at a young age, and studied formally at art schools in La Coruña, Barcelona, and Madrid. He began to visit Paris in 1901, settling there permanently in 1904. Picasso was influenced by the Modernisme movement in Barcelona and by Post-Impressionism and the Fauves in Paris, yet developed variations distinctly his own.
Early in his career Picasso’s styles and subjects developed in tandem: the poverty in which he and his friends lived manifested in the Blue Period (1901–04); circus performers, harlequins, and the blush of love informed the Rose Period (1904–06). But for the remainder of his career, his essential subjects were perception itself, the mysteries of representation, and his own ability to create. A respect for indigenous African and Polynesian sculpture began to shape the way he depicted volume and mass in the proto-Cubist period that led to Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. With Georges Braque, he incorporated the lessons of Paul Cézanne’s facture and perspective, jump-cut shifts in time from the cinema, and the uncanny improvisations of collage and assemblage to forge the most radical approach to depicting spatial relationships since the Renaissance: Analytic Cubism (1909–12) and Synthetic Cubism (1912–19). These experiments would form the foundation of an idiosyncratic idiom that would permeate his work across all mediums and changes in style for the next fifty years.
The 1920s saw further developments in Cubism; a reflection of his Mediterranean heritage in a muscular neoclassical style; fine, Ingre-esque portraits inspired by photography; and Surrealist, sexy, biomorphic mutations influenced as much by Ovid’s Metamorphoses as by Sigmund Freud. Though his work always remained recognizably his own, Picasso could switch tracks and move between styles in a way that might suggest the work of several painters rather than a singular polymath.
Picasso dedicated much of his effort in the early 1930s to sculpture and printmaking and curated his first career retrospective, an exhibition of 236 works presented at the Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, and the Kunsthalle Zürich in 1932. In 1935 he stopped painting and sculpting for nearly a year to dedicate his time to writing poetry. As the Spanish Civil War intensified, the Republican government named him director of the Museo del Prado in Madrid (albeit in absentia) and commissioned him to create a mural for the Spanish Pavilion of the Paris International Exposition of 1937. He took as his subject the recent destruction of the Basque town of Guernica by Nazi and Italian forces at the behest of the rival Spanish Nationalists, creating one of the most enduring antiwar icons in history. Though Guernica made him a political target of the Fascist regimes, he remained in Paris for the duration of World War II, surviving the Nazi occupation.
After the war Picasso moved to the south of France, where he would reside for the rest of his life. Classical, Mediterranean themes returned to his work. He was offered a municipal museum in Antibes to use as his studio and gifted the works created there to the town, inaugurating the first museum dedicated to his work (Musée Picasso, Antibes). He engaged with the ancient pottery traditions of the town of Vallauris to create ceramics and revived his sculptural practice, making assemblages from roadside refuse and innovative silhouettes of folded sheet-metal. He also created paintings, drawings, and prints, often in series, challenging the history of painting by confronting his heroes, the great masters of the past: Diego Velázquez, Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco Goya, Eugène Delacroix, Édouard Manet, and Edgar Degas. By appropriating their compositions, improvising on their themes, and sometimes even incorporating these masters as characters in his own invented narratives, Picasso secured his place among them.
Picasso was widely exhibited during his lifetime and continues to be so posthumously. He died in Mougins, France, in 1973, leaving no will. He was married twice: first to Olga Khokhlova in 1917, and then to Jacqueline Roque in 1961. In addition, he had partners who served as important muses to his oeuvre: Fernande Olivier (1904–12), Marie-Thérèse Walter (1927–c. 1940), Dora Maar (1936–c. 1945), and Françoise Gilot (1943–53). He had five children: Paul (with Khokhlova), Maya (with Walter), Claude (with Gilot), Paloma (with Gilot), and a stepdaughter, Cathy (Roque’s daughter from a previous marriage). The settlement of Picasso’s estate in 1979 allowed for the establishment of the Musée national Picasso, Paris.
Photo: Michael Sima/Rue des Archives/Granger
Extended through February 24, 2018
Picasso and Maya
Father and Daughter | Curated by Diana Widmaier Picasso
October 19, 2017–February 24, 2018
Extended through February 24, 2018
By the Book
October 19, 2017–February 24, 2018
Picasso Pop-Up Shop
Books, Editions, Posters, Prints, Design
April 28–June 3, 2017
Davies Street, London
Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors
Curated by Sir John Richardson
April 28–August 25, 2017
Grosvenor Hill, London
Extended through February 18, 2017
A Selection from the Collection of Maya Ruiz-Picasso
November 10, 2016–February 18, 2017
976 Madison Avenue, New York
May 20–June 15, 2015
Gagosian Shop, New York
Picasso & the Camera
Curated by John Richardson
October 28, 2014–January 3, 2015
West 21st Street, New York
November 1, 2012–February 23, 2013
From the Quarterly
Picasso in Italy: An Interview with Olivier Berggruen
Celebrating the one hundred-year anniversary of Picasso’s first trip to Italy, the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome is hosting the exhibition Picasso: Tra cubismo e classicismo 1915–1925, a grand presentation of two hundred works by the artist.
Diana Widmaier Picasso, curator of the exhibition Desire, reflects on the history of eroticism in art.
The story behind the sculpture that Diana Widmaier Picasso highlighted in Picasso’s Picassos: A Selection from the Collection of Maya Ruiz-Picasso.
Picasso and Dalí
Known influencers, but did they influence each other?
Fairs, Events & Announcements
June 14–17, 2018
Messe Basel, booth B11
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel 2018, presenting works by modern and contemporary artists including Georg Baselitz, John Chamberlain, Dan Colen, John Currin, Willem de Kooning, Urs Fischer, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellen Gallagher, Jennifer Guidi, Andreas Gursky, Neil Jenney, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse, Takashi Murakami, Giuseppe Penone, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Richard Serra, Rudolf Stingel, Mark Tansey, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Mary Weatherford, and Tom Wesselmann. To receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at email@example.com. To preview our booth go to www.artsy.net. To purchase tickets to attend the fair go to www.artbasel.com.
Georg Baselitz, Frau am Strand (Woman on the Beach), 1981 © Georg Baselitz 2018
Art Basel Hong Kong
March 29–31, 2018, booth ICI8
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong. To view highlights from the booth in advance of the fair visit www.artsy.com. Our presentation will include works by Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joe Bradley, Cecily Brown, Glenn Brown, Alexander Calder, John Currin, Willem de Kooning, Edmund De Waal, Jean Dubuffet, Urs Fischer, Lucio Fontana, Walton Ford, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jia Aili, Anish Kapoor, Yves Klein, Karen Kneffel, Jeff Koons, Harmony Korine, Roy Lichtenstein, Takashi Murakami, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Saville, Richard Serra, Rudolf Stingel, Mark Tansey, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Jonas Wood, Christopher Wool, and Zeng Fanzhi. Tickets are available at www.artbasel.com.
Zeng Fanzhi, 8, 2018 © Zeng Fanzhi 2018
February 7–11, 2018, booth F201
Centro Citibanamex, Mexico City
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Zona Maco México Arte Contemporáneo 2018, presenting works by Chris Burden, John Chamberlain, Dan Colen, Frank Gehry, Piero Golia, Douglas Gordon, Katharina Grosse, Adam McEwen, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Giuseppe Penone, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Saville, Rudolf Stingel, Robert Therrien, Blair Thurman, Adriana Varejão, Jeff Wall, Andy Warhol, and Tom Wesselmann. If you wish to receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are available at www.zsonamaco.com.
John Chamberlain, Untitled, 1993 © 2018 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
MoMA at NGV
130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art
Through October 7, 2018
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
MoMA at NGV will provide a unique survey of the museum’s iconic collection. Two hundred key works will be arranged chronologically into eight thematic sections. The exhibition will trace the development of art and design from late-nineteenth-century urban and industrial transformation through to the digital and global present. Work by Alexander Calder, Andreas Gursky, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol will be included.
Pablo Picasso, Seated Bather, 1930, Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hot Sun, Late Sun. Untamed Modernism
Through October 28, 2018
Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, France
This thematic exhibition explores light, understood as a metaphor illuminating the relationships between artists and the Mediterranean region, home to experimentation, modernism, and postmodernism. Work by Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso will be included.
Alexander Calder, Composition (Pyramids and Sun on Target), 1973 © 2018 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Through January 13, 2019
Picasso: Masterpieces! attempts to answer the question, “What is the meaning of a Picasso masterpiece?” By bringing together some of his greatest works, a number of which are being shown in Paris for the first time, the exhibition offers a new look at Picasso’s creativity, with special attention given to his critical reception. The show explores the exhibitions, articles, and publications that accompanied the various artworks and helped forge their reputation as masterpieces over the years.
Humans and Other Animals
October 13, 2018–February 24, 2019
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, England
Elisabeth Frink: Humans and Other Animals reappraises the work of an important British sculptor in the largest exhibition since her death in 1993. The show provides new perspectives on the key themes found in her oeuvre, juxtaposing and connecting her work with ancient art and with works by contemporary artists and other modern masters. Work by Douglas Gordon and Pablo Picasso is included.