The Life Of Pi(casso): Remembering the legend on his 140th birthday

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Guernica, 1937, Museo Reina Sofia

October 25, On This Day

Pablo Picasso, the iconic Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist and theatre designer, was born 140 years ago today on October 25, 1881. He is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and known for co-founding the Cubist movement. After a long and prolific career, he died on April 8, 1973. Here are 9 interesting facts from his life:

  • The artist’s full name was over 20 words long: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso.
  • According to his mother, his first words were “piz, piz”, a shortening of lápiz, the Spanish word for “pencil”.
“The Picador,” 1890 (Photo: Public domain via Wiki Art)
  • Picasso started figure drawing and oil painting lessons with his painter father when he was 7 years old. By the age of nine, he’d finished his first painting (Le picador, a man riding a horse in a bullfight). Picasso entered Barcelona’s School of Fine Arts, where his father taught, at age 13. Two years later, he completed what he called his first major painting.
  • Picasso was detained as a suspect in the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911 (it was found a couple of years later stolen by a former Louvre security guard during a deal gone awry).
An empty spot where the Mona Lisa hung in the Louvre Museum after it had been stolen, 1911.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
  • Picasso dabbled in poetry in 1935 after breaking up with his first wife (but his untitled, punctuation-less, mostly sexual and scatological verses never took off) and later wrote two surrealist plays—one of which was performed as a reading with Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
  • Together with Georges Braque, the co-founder of Cubism, Picasso invented collage as we now know it. In fact, the term comes from the French word coller, which means “to glue.” Picasso fully embraced this technique, gluing fragments of wallpaper and newspaper clippings alongside his paintings.
Guernica, 1937, Museo Reina Sofia
Massacre in Korea, 1951


  • During the German occupation of Paris in World War II, it is reported that Picasso decided to remain in the city. Picasso had numerous encounters with the German secret police, the Gestapo. On one occasion, the Gestapo were searching Picasso’s apartment and when looking at a photograph of Guernica, a Nazi officer asked, “Did you do that?”, to which Picasso comically replied, “No, you did”.
  • As of 2015, Picasso remained the top-ranked artist (based on sales of his works at auctions) according to the Art Market Trends report. More of his paintings have been stolen than any other artist’s; in 2012, the Art Loss Register had 1,147 of his works listed as stolen.
  • Picasso was exceptionally prolific throughout his long lifetime. At his death there were more than 45,000 unsold works in his estate, comprising 1,885 paintings, 1,228 sculptures, 3,222 ceramics, 7,089 drawings, 150 sketchbooks, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs. The most complete – but not exhaustive – catalogue of his works, the catalogue raisonné compiled by Christian Zervos, lists more than 16,000 paintings and drawings.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Museum of Modern Art, New York
Le pigeon aux petit pois (Pigeon with peas) which was one of five paintings stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris on 20 May 2010 and as of 2021 has still yet to be found.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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