Yesterday’s post, “Wild ‘n Crazy Picasso Portraits”, left me inspired to write a little bit more about this amazing artist…
Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), is often under-appreciated by people who don’t know much about him…. I usually have to remind students of “Rule #1” when teaching a class about Picasso for the first time! Picasso is best known for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the wide variety of styles embodied in his work, but there is so much more to him than that! So here are a few “details” that I find fascinating about Picasso, and will hopefully inspire your students, too!
1. It was customary that Spanish children were named after family members, and Picasso must have had a big family! His full name, given to him by his parents at birth, was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso. Picasso was eccentric from the day he was born!
2. Picasso’s father was an artist and art teacher. Young Picasso showed so much natural ability and talent that by the time he was 13 his artist father quit painting altogether because his son had surpassed him in ability. Picasso is said to be as much a child prodigy as Mozart was.
3. Before Picasso ever painted in an abstract style, he had mastered the art of painting realistically. It always surprises students to learn that he painted both “The Artist’s Mother, Maria Picasso Lopez” and“The Altar Boy“in 1896 when he was just fifteen years old, and “Boy with Butterfly Net” forty-two years later when he was fifty-seven! In Picasso’s own words, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
4. Picasso believed that his ability to paint was a “gift” that came from the outside and therefore he (as the artist) was only its medium, almost as if the “gift” had control of him! Picasso is quoted as saying, “Painting is stronger than me; it makes me do what it wants.”
5. When Picasso moved to Paris in 1900 (remember, he was already painting like Raphael!) he was living in such poverty that he would burn his artwork to heat his apartment. Today his work sells for millions. (His painting, “Dora Maar Au Chat”, pictured at the bottom of this post, recently sold for over $95 million!!)
6. Picasso produced over 20,000 drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures during his 70 year career and became one of the most recognized figures in 20th-century art. His paintings spanned many different styles, yet even after his work became popular, he was never afraid to change what he was doing and try new things. His style changed more over the course of his lifetime than any other artist.
Learning about Picasso offers a great opportunity to talk to students about originality and the importance of not worrying about “what others will think”…. Picasso certainly didn’t! Ask students why they think Picasso chose to “paint like a child” when he was capable of painting like Renaissance painter “Raphael“. This is a great discussion starter!
Before teaching any lesson inspired by a famous artist, it’s always a good idea to learn more about that artist so you can share some interesting facts with your students. Kids love hearing stories and seeing pictures of what these artists looked like, which make them seem more “human”, rather than just a famous name they keep hearing!
Click here for more detail about Picasso’s many different painting styles (and always check for age-appropriateness of any art book or web site before showing it to children.)