Pablo Picasso is no doubt one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, transforming the course of art history. Already showing his talent as a child prodigy with oil paintings he painted as young as 9 years old, Picasso was one of the most renowned artists of the 20th century by the end of his life.
He was trained in the classical école but he became a groundbreaking artist for his time. He started his art education in Barcelona at the age of 13. Even as a young art student he had a reputation of having a unique style. Despite his artistic genius, Picasso did not have economical success in his early career. His famous Blue Period (1901-1904) yielded some of the most valuable paintings in the art market today, although Picasso failed to sell them at the time. Sank in severe depression, he painted grim subjects like beggars and prostitutes mainly in monochrome blue or blue-green. His Blue period was followed by a more cheerful Rose period (1904-1906), during which he painted circus artists, harlequins and other nightlife elements, in line with the Expressionist fashion of the era.
In this more optimistic period, he met his first patrons American Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo, who changed the course of his career. They introduced him to the avant-garde movement and Picasso realized he needed to change his artistic style radically. He started experimenting with abstraction and stylization. His portrait of Gertrude Stein from 1905-06 shows the first signs of facial distortion, which later became a typical attribute of his portraits. The reaction to this portrait was at first not so positive but even early in his career, Picasso never lacked self-belief: When he was told she does not look like the portrait, he said "she will".
After his Rose Period, Picasso furthered his experimentation with geometrical lines and he was deeply influenced by the African masks he was studying at the time. His famous painting from this period, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon) (1907) stands as a perfect example of the change in his style. This painting paved the way for Cubism, which was co-founded by Picasso and Georges Braque, revolutionizing art as we know it. They were trying something that was never done before but soon the wave of Cubism was going to spread across international art circles and transform the avant-garde movement.
By 1918, Picasso's financial troubles were behind him while his fame continued to grow. He continued to paint, creating hundreds of masterpieces before his 45th birthday. The women in his life affected his art greatly. In 1927, he met his muse Marie Therese Walter, when she was only seventeen years old; he was 45 and still living with his first wife, Olga Khokhlova. He portrayed Marie Therese as blonde, bright and sunny in many paintings unlike his later muse and mistress Dora Maar, whom he depicted as a tortured weeping woman.
Picasso has witnessed many wars -First World War, Spanish Civil War and World War II- and was very vocal about his anti-war ideas. One of his most famous paintings Guernica was created in 1938 and depicts the suffering and violance during the Spanish Civil War. This combination of the personal and the political spheres culminated one of the most powerful political paintings of all time and the tapestry of which now hangs in the United Nations building in New York. During the WWII, Picasso stayed in Paris and continued to paint although he couldn't exhibit his works because it didn't fit the Nazi ideals. His studio was often raided by the Gestapo. The famous masterpieces he created in this period include Still life with Guitar and the Charnel House. Nothing could stop his creative process: When Germans banned bronze casting in Paris, he continued making sculptures with the bronze smuggled in for him by the French resistance.
When the war was over, he was 63 years old and moved on to a new muse after Dora Maar; Françoise Gilot, whom he had two children with. After the war his works ranged in many styles such as Surrealism, Neoclassicism to pottery. Picasso couldn't be limited to one style or medium. When we look back to his oeuvre, it looks as if it was created by 5 or 6 great artists, because the styles are so diverse.
Picasso had an irrepressible urge to produce and his artistic expression never stopped until his death in 1973, aged 91. He produced for 80 years of his life, always searching, always trying to be better, more different and magical. He is considered "the greatest artist after Rembrandt". His works are ever so popular and always on the rise in the art market. His painting "Les Femmes d'Alger, Version O" sold for $179.4 million including fees, a record price for the most expensive work of art to ever sell at an auction.