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Creator / Pablo Picasso

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The face of 20th century modern art.

"My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become The Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso."

Pablo Picasso (born Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, 25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) is considered to be the most famous, influential and important painter of the 20th century. Best known for his cubist style, he was a prolific and versatile artist who worked in - and helped to pioneer - many different styles and was both a painter and a sculptor.

He was the subject of two documentaries, Visit to Picasso (1949) and The Mystery of Picasso (1956), in which he famously paints directly on to the camera.

His life has been made into two noteworthy films, the Swedish mockumentary The Adventures of Picasso (1978) and Surviving Picasso (1996) with Anthony Hopkins. He is also the subject of the second season of the National Geographic anthology series Genius, where he's played by Antonio Banderas.


Works made by Picasso with their own TV Tropes pages include:

This creator provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Art Imitates Life: Picasso based some of his paintings on the Spanish Civil War, the Holocaust and the Korean War.
  • Art Evolution: If you compare his early, realistic work to his more famous cubist work: you're in for a surprise!
  • Artsy Beret: Often wore a rakish black beret, and was partially responsible for popularizing the "artists wear always berets" concept. His painting Femme au Beret et a la Robe Quadrillee (1937) is a Cubist portrait of his lover Marie-Therese Walter wearing a bright red beret.
  • Body Horror: The people in his paintings sometimes look like this.
  • Child Prodigy: Contrary to what most people think Picasso was a remarkably realistically accurate painter at a young age.
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  • Creator Breakdown: Picasso's Blue Period, a sombre, darkly-hued series of paintings produced between 1901 and 1904, stemmed from a long period of depression brought upon by the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas, which caused him to withdraw socially. These works were not well received at the time and Picasso struggled to sell them. Thankfully, his condition improved once he started a romantic relationship with Fernande Olivier in 1904, leading to the far more upbeat and colourful Rose Period.
  • Creator Recovery: Following the suicide of his close friend, he fell into a severe depression that formed the basis of his Blue Period (1901-1904). His paintings were very sombre, and always made heavy use of blue to signify his mourning. However, in 1904, Picasso entered a romantic relationship with artist & model Fernande Olivier, leading to his Rose Period (1904-1906). With his psychological health regained, Picasso's paintings heavily featured pink tones, and many of them featured harlequins, clown, and circus performers to show off how much better Picasso was feeling.
  • Deadpan Snarker: While living in Nazi-occupied Paris, he was reportedly asked by a German officer who had seen a photograph of Guernica, "Did you do that?" He replied, "No, you did."
  • Death of a Child: In the painting Guernica, where a mother cries over her dead baby.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Guernica is in black and white; Picasso felt that gave it the immediacy of a newspaper photograph.
    • His Blue and Rose Periods were so named because those colors predominated in his paintings, making them an example of Limited Palette.
  • Dirty Old Man: He had several affairs with much younger women during his later years, and many of his paintings from that time depict a shrunken, wrinkled troll-like figure together with a beautiful young woman.
  • Doves Mean Peace: La Colombe, which is a realistic picture of a pigeon, was created during the World Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Peace and became the emblem for the World Peace Council in Paris in 1949.
  • Fanart: He famously made 58 variations on Diego Velasquez's Las Meninas.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: His first paintings looked more like classic paintings, as Picasso hasn't yet developped the art style he is widely known for. A couple of good examples are First Communion and Science and Charity.
  • Follow the Leader: Inspired almost every 20th century (and beyond) graphic artist or sculptor who wasn't a traditionalist.
  • He Also Did: He experimented with poetry for a while, becoming notorious for their filthy subject matter.
  • Kavorka Man: Married twice, kept multiple mistresses regardless of his own marital status, had several May-December Romances, fathered three illegitimate children, refused to have his way with a woman who said he could have his way with her because she offered no resistance, and two of his exes committed suicide after his death.
  • Nightmare Face: Many people on his paintings would count. For example, The Weeping Woman.
  • Nom de Mom: Young Pablo Ruiz since ca. 1898 used his mother's family surname Picasso and became famous as Pablo Picasso. (Some have theorized that this may have been because Ruiz is a fairly common name in Spain).
  • Not Good with People: Picasso devoted his entire life to his art and wasn't very fond of committed relationships. As mentioned, he was an infamous womanizer, but that's not to say he treated his wives and girlfriends well.
  • Odd Friendship: With the Fauvist Henri Matisse, an older and much less confrontational artist.
  • Overly-Long Name: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Marí­a de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santí­sima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso.note  The only surnames in there are "Ruiz" and "Picasso" at the end, used in standard Spanish fashion (the first is his father's surname and the second his mother's, joined by an "y" as per a now outdated convention). The rest are given names his parents piled on him to honour various saints and relatives — naming children after those is common in Spanish, but it seems to have got out of control here. Technically Picasso's surname was actually "Ruiz".
  • Really Gets Around: Picasso had numerous mistresses.
  • The Rival: Salvador Dalí, who certainly matched Picasso in fame. Dali once said the following about Picasso: "Picasso is a painter, so am I; [...] Picasso is a Spaniard, so am I; Picasso is a communist, neither am I."
  • Shout-Out: Picasso made some paintings reinterpreting works of older masters, such as Diego Vélazquez' Las Meninas.
  • Small Reference Pools: Picasso is the most famous painter of all time, just like Shakespeare is the most famous writer and Einstein the most famous brainy guy, even if you know nothing of their work.
  • Spanish Civil War: The 1938 bombardment of the Spanish town Guernica inspired Picasso to his most famous work Guernica. Reportedly, when a German soldier found a photograph of it during the Nazi occupation and asked if Pacasso had done it, he replied "No, you did."
  • Spiking the Camera: In the famous documentaries A Visit To Picasso and The Mystery Of Picasso, he paints on the camera.
  • Spooky Painting: Guernica.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Picasso had a very penetrating stare.
  • War Is Hell: Guernica, perhaps the most iconic anti-war painting of all time, depicts the Spanish Civil War bombardement of the Spanish town Guernica.
  • Workaholic: Picasso was so prolific during his 75-year career that when he died in 1973, he had created an estimated 13,500 paintings, 100,000 engravings and graphic prints, 300 sculptures, and 34,000 book illustrations—more than the size of most museums' entire collections. He would produce paintings at such a rate that, from the time he woke up and started working to the time he went to sleep, he would produce so many paintings that the entire floor of his apartment would be carpeted in them. His roommate, poet Max Jacob, would often have to walk over them when leaving for work—indeed, art restorators working on Picasso paintings from this period must often remove Max's footprints from them. Astonishingly, he even burned his own paintings for warmth during the winter.
  • What Could Have Been: David Attenborough tells a story in his autobiography about his attempt to create a highbrow station ident for BBC2. As he was already on good terms with both Picasso and Igor Stravinsky, he figured it would be a real coup to have Picasso do the visuals and Stravinsky the music. Picasso was actually up for it, provided Stravinsky agreed too, but Stravinsky's death in 1971 put the kibosh on it.

References to Picasso in popular culture

  • "Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios" from Prince Charming by Adam and the Ants references him:
    I watched Picasso visit the planet of the apes
  • The song "Pablo Picasso" — as in "Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole" — originally by Jonathan Richman and covered by several others, including David Bowie.
  • Epic Rap Battles of History: Picasso once battled Bob Ross.
  • The Steve Martin stage play Picasso at the Blue Lapin, about an imagined conversation between Picasso and Albert Einstein.
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch featured Picasso having a grand time at a seaside cafe and freely handing out his autograph to patrons and staff in place of money. Dishwashing ensues when management refuses to accept a signed napkin as payment on the check.
  • Appears in an episode of Animaniacs, in which he discovers his distinct style while playing Pictionary with the Warners.
  • An early gag in Toy Story has Mr. Potato Head rearrange his face and say to Hamm: "Look, I'm Picasso!" Hamm doesn't get it.
  • Appears in The Congress, where he's depicted as a cubist caricature of himself instead of looking like a rotoscope 1930s cartoon as the other celebrities and historical figures that show up do.