Paris has had an undeniable effect on Picasso. Although born in Málaga, Spain, Picasso made his first trip to Paris at the age of 19 and thus began his longest-lasting love affair with the City of Light!
Picasso began his training in art at a very young age under the tutelage of his father, who also was an accomplished painter and professor of art. Some credit his father's early criticism for Picasso's rapid improvement. And one story tells of his father recognizing that his own son had surpassed his artistic ability at the tender age of thirteen. And at the age of fourteen, he produced a piece that Spanish art critic Juan-Eduardo Cirlot called "one of the greatest in the whole history of Spanish painting."
In 1900, Picasso took his first trip to Paris, which saw the beginning of his "Blue Period." This was a period marked by somber paintings with an austere color palette of mainly blues. Some believe that these works were inspired by the suicide of a close friend in 1901. The doleful subject matter tends to evoke this melancholic emotion. You can see this style in the pieces below.
The Blue Period was followed by Picasso's "Rose Period," which was punctuated by the use of orange and pink tones along with the harlequin as a subject in many pieces. This period also saw the beginning of Picasso's attracted several French patrons, which permitted him to continue creating works. If one is inclined to base a career on finances, we might consider this time in Paris to be the beginning of Picasso as a professional artist.
The next dozen years were spent exploring African art, primitivism, and what would become one of Picasso's most influential periods - Cubism. During this period of time, many of Picasso's friends and social circles shifted, and the art landscape in Paris changed dramatically. But thanks in part to the principal patronage of Gertrude Stein, he was able to continue to develop new ideas and works. In 1911, he was arrested on suspicion of stealing the famed Mona Lisa and by 1914, many of his French friends had either joined or been drafted into fighting in World War I.
Premiering at the Paris International Exposition in 1937, Picasso's most famous work (arguably) called Guernica received tremendous response, both positive and negative. The piece depicts the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the Nazi Luftwaffe in April of the same year and has long been considered one of Picasso's masterpieces. Guernica represented a trend in Picasso's pieces to voice a political opinion, this one being objection to the fascist rule of Francisco Franco. The painting has traveled around the world on exhibition, finally resting in Spain in 1981 after democratic rule returned to the country.
Picasso chose to remain in Paris during the German occupation of the city during World War II. Unable to paint during this time, he turned to poetry as a creative outlet as well as two full-length plays. As his fame and fortune grew, so did public interest in his personal life. His romantic indiscretions have become infamous and the subject of many biographies and films on the man's life. His art has also since spread around the globe and Picasso is now a household name, taught to students with reverence. In part because his styles evolved so rapidly and fluidly, many of his pieces are very different. And similarly, Picasso's social circle was filled with such a wide array of equally famous and inspirational artists that his influence has been felt for several generations.
"I am the greatest collector of Picassos in the world." -Picasso
One of the largest collections of Picasso pieces is housed at the Musée Picasso in Paris. Much of the collection was donated by the Picasso family at the artists' request upon his death. It's not a surprise that one of the last requests of Pablo Picasso was for many of his works to remain in Paris, his adopted home.