Pablo Picasso remains one of the most celebrated and influential artists in history, with a body of work that continues to be venerated – and analysed – for its variety, techniques and experimentation.
The Spanish-born artist’s turbulent life and legacy is explored in a brand new 10-part series Genius: Picasso on National Geographic this month, with Antonio Banderas playing the mature Picasso.
Learn more about his background and acclaimed creative talent with our list of fascinating Picasso facts:
He had quite an impressive full name
Born in Malaga, Spain on October 25, 1881, Picasso’s full name consists of a remarkable 23 words. It is: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso. His surname is actually matronymic - his mother's name was Maria Picasso y Lopez, and his father's, Jose Ruiz Blasco.
He was a talent at a very young age
Picasso was something of a child prodigy, and it was said he was competent at drawing before he could speak. His father began formally teaching him art at the age of seven, and he completed his first recognised painting, Le Picador, aged nine. He was enrolled in the Barcelona School of Fine Arts aged 13; an apocryphal story recounts that his father gave up painting at this time, as he felt the young Picasso had already surpassed him as an artist.
His work developed remarkably throughout his career
Picasso’s work is divided into five main periods: Blue Period, Rose Period, Cubism, Classicism, and Surrealism. Influenced by the suicide of his friend, the poet Carlos Casagemas, Picasso’s Blue Period - with its themes of poverty, loneliness, and despair - began in 1901 while he was alternating between living in Barcelona and Paris. By the close of 1904, when Picasso had settled in Montmartre and was in a happy relationship with the artist Fernande Olivier, the lighter, more upbeat tones and subjects of his Rose Period are apparent in his work.
He was suspected of stealing the Mona Lisa
Some Iberian sculptures were stolen from the Louvre Museum in 1907 by Honoré Joseph Géry Pieret, a secretary to Picasso’s friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire; some of the statues came into Picasso’s possession. When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the famous gallery four years later, Apollinaire came under suspicion and named Picasso as a possible suspect. Both were later released.
He was banned by the Nazis
One of Picasso’s most famous works, ‘Guernica’ was completed in just three weeks. It reflects the destruction of the town of Guernica on April 26, 1937, by Franco’s German and Italian allies in the Spanish Civil War. The painting has become a symbol of the horrors of war. During World War II, the Nazis banned the display of Picasso’s paintings in France for “not following the guiding rules of art”. When a Nazi officer saw Guernica he asked Picasso, “was you who did it?” and Picasso is said to have responded, “No, you did!”.
He was multi-talented
Hailed and revered for his work as a painter, Picasso was also a sculptor, ceramicist, poet, playwright, printer and stage designer. From 1917 to 1924, he designed the backdrops, sets and costumes for several ballets; while not well-received at the time as they were deemed too modern, they are now considered symbolic of progressive art.
His love-life was very complicated
Picasso had many lovers throughout his life, and married twice. He fathered four children with three different women. He married his second wife Jacqueline Roque, who was his junior by some 46 years, in 1961 when he was 79 years old; in one year, he painted 70 portraits of her. When Picasso’s grandson Pablito was not allowed to attend his grandfather’s funeral by Jacqueline, he swallowed poison and died three months later. Jacqueline herself committed suicide in 1986.
He was immortalised in song by a Beatle
Picasso passed away on April 8, 1973 in Mougins, France. He is buried at the Château of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he bought in 1958 and lived in with Jacqueline between 1959 and 1962. His last words were reported to be: “Drink to me – drink to my health. You know, I can’t drink any more…”. The phrase was used by Paul McCartney for the basis of the Wings song ‘Picasso’s Last Words’, released on the album Band on the Run later that year.
His works sell for a LOT of money
Picasso’s 1955 painting ‘Women of Algiers (Version O)’ sold at auction on May 11, 2015, for $179.3 million (£115 million) including fees and commission, making it the most expensive painting ever sold at that time. That sale price has subsequently been surpassed several times; the current record price is approximately $450 million (just under £317 million) paid for Leonardo Da Vinci's ‘Salvator Mundi’ in November 2017.
He was incredibly prolific
Picasso is one of the most prolific artists in history. Experts believe that he produced about 147,800 pieces – including 13,500 paintings, 100,000 prints and engravings, 300 sculptures and ceramics and 34,000 illustrations - in a career spanning almost eight decades.
Genius: Picasso begins on Monday April 23 at 8pm on National Geographic (BT TV Channel 317, HD 373).
National Geographic is one of 60 premium channels available on BT TV along with other channels such as E!, Comedy Central, Discovery and many more.