Blasco, 1838-1913, was Picasso's father and first teacher. He eked out a living for his family by teaching at various provincial art schools. Picasso and his father never got along very well; while still a mere child, the son already overshadowed the father's modest talent, a fact which Blasco probably found hard to take. Picasso later distanced himself further from his father by referring to himself solely by his mother's maiden name.
Apollinaire, 1880-1918, was a French poet and avant-garde leader. Influenced by the Symbolists before him and their technique of free verse, he worked in a casual lyricism blending modern and traditional images. His best-known poems were published in Alcools (1913) and Calligrammes (1918). His play Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1918) exhibited aspects of Surrealism before Surrealism officially existed. Good friends with both Picasso and Braque, he gave them critical support by writing Les Peintres cubistes (1913).
Aragon, 1897-, was a French writer, considered one of the leaders of Surrealism in literature, and a leader in the French resistance. His novel Le Paysan de Paris (1926) evoked the secret Paris, of flea markets and forgotten streets, treasured by the Surrealists. After a trip to the USSR in 1931, he abandoned Surrealism for Marxism and became one of the leading spokesmen for Communism in Western Europe.
Braque, 1882-1963, was a French painter and, along with Picasso, the inventor of Cubism. Before being introduced to Picasso by Apollinaire in 1907, Braque had worked with the Fauvists. A life-long devotee of Cézanne, he realized the radical formal possibilities that lay waiting to be unpacked inside "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," although he was also horrified by that painting's ugly intensity. Braque was a more careful and painstaking soul than Picasso. In 1908, he painted his response to "Les Demoiselles," a comparatively timid piece called "Grand Nu" ("Large Nude"). From there on out, however, he and Picasso were "roped together like mountaineers," locked together in one of the most productive partnerships of art history, as they together invented Cubism. In 1911, Braque led the way by introducing stenciled lettering onto his painting, pointing the way towards collage. Badly injured in World War I, he afterwards shied away from the harshness of early Cubism and painted mostly still-lifes in a curvier, more graceful style.
Breton, 1896-1966, was a French writer best known as the founder and chief theorist of Surrealism. He had studied neuropsychology and was one of the first in France to take notice of Freud. He experimented with automatic writing, put out a batch of Surrealist manifestos in the twenties and thirties, and founded several Surrealist journals, including Minotaure. His most famous work–besides organizing the most tightly-run avant-garde of the century–was the experimental novel Nadja (1928). In the painting "Rendez-vous of Friends," a gentle caricature of the group by the Surrealist artist Max Ernst, Breton is the one with the red cloak, bestowing his blessings with a pontifical gesture on Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, and the rest of the gang.
Camus, 1913-1960, was a French writer born in Algiers. Like Sartre and de Beauvoir, he joined the French resistance; often he is also called, along with them, an Existentialist, but he always denied the validity of the label. He was briefly a Communist. His lucid prose style is evident in works like his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) and his novels The Stranger (1942) andThe Plague (1947). He won the Nobel Prize in 1957.
Casagemas, 1880-1901, was a Catalan painter Picasso met when he was a teenager hanging out at Els Quatre Gats in Barcelona. The two became tight friends. Picasso was extremely upset by his suicide in Paris in 1901, while Picasso was in Madrid, and dedicated several paintings to his memory. In his major Blue Period painting, "La Vie" (1903), Picasso first painted the male figure as a self-portrait but later gave it the features of Casagemas.
Cézanne, 1839-1906, was a key figure–perhaps the key figure–in the revolution away from the illusionistic conventions of the Renaissance in modern painting. He went to Paris in 1861, where he came to know the Impressionists. In his paintings, particularly in his landscapes, he abolished traditional perspective and painted from several viewpoints at once, expressing a shifting, questioning gaze. Living in seclusion in the south of France, Cézanne invented a new painting to express the intertwining of the seeing eye and what it sees, subject and object. His influence on Cubism was essential; it would not have happened without him. Braque, in particular, adored and tried to base his own work upon Cézanne's. However, it's important to keep in mind that Cézanne, who died in 1906, did not paint as he did in order to launch Cubism; he would not have imagined it and he probably would not have liked it, especially when it turned towards the more abstract. He was intensely interested in the relativity of vision, not in abstraction; the two ideas are related, but not equivalent. Cézanne was always firmly grounded in the physical world.
Cocteau, 1889-1963, was a French writer, visual artist, and filmmaker. He began to court Picasso's friendship in 1916; he was working on a ballet, Parade, for the Ballets Russes and wanted Picasso's collaboration. His work is pervaded by the fantastic; during the 1920s, prime time for Surrealism, he became an avant-garde leader. His work includes the novel Les Enfants Terribles (1929), the plays Orphée (1926) and La Machine infernale (1934), Surrealist renditions of the Orpheus and the Oedipus myths, respectively, and the film Beauty and the Beast (1946)– not the animated version.
De Beauvoir, 1908-, was a French philosopher and writer and Sartre's best friend. With Sartre, de Beauvoir was a leading exponent of Existentialist philosophy. Her most famous work is The Second Sex, a profound analysis of the status of women and the genesis of modern feminism.
Diaghilev, 1872-1929, was a Russian ballet impresario and art critic. He took a company of Russian dancers to Paris in 1909 that became the famous Ballet Russes. His principles of asymmetry, perpetual motion, and the unity of dance, music, and scenery revolutionized dance. He had a terrific eye for collaborators, working with all the best dancers, including Pavlova and Nijinsky, composers, including Stravinsky and Strauss, and set designers, including, of course, Picasso.
El Greco (1541?-1614)–actually Domenikos Theotokopoulos, but El Greco ("The Greek") for short–was a painter who was born on the Greek island of Crete and settled to work in Toledo, Spain. His work boldly elongates figures and distorts landscapes, for maximum effect. The result is feverish, visionary rapture. Picasso first saw and loved his work as a teenager at the Prado in Madrid; the Catalan modernists who he got to know in Barcelona were also big El Greco fans.
Éluard, 1895-1952, was a French poet and another leading Surrealist. His books of poetry include Mourir de ne pas mourir (1924) and, with Breton, L'Immaculée Conception (1930). He was an ardent leftist and a Communist Party member from 1942 on. He was one of Picasso's closest friends from 1936 until his death, and an important source of stability for Picasso when Picasso's personal life, especially with the women, was in turmoil.
Franco, 1892-, was the general who led the military to victory against the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War; once that was done, with Hitler's and Mussolini's help, he established himself as a Fascist dictator. Picasso's caricature of him, "The Dream and Lie of Franco" (1937) was sold to benefit the Spanish Republic.
Freud, 1856-1939, was an Austrian psychiatrist and founder of psychoanalysis. He gave us the terms and concepts of oral fixation, the Oedipal complex, anal- retentiveness, penis envy, defense mechanisms, castration anxiety, the unconscious, the ego, the id, the superego, and so forth. His emphasis on the workings of the unconscious as revealed in dreams, as well as his analyses of Greek myths which make them relevant in the modern world, was a major influence on the Surrealists.
Gilot, 1921-, was a young painter Picasso met and seduced in 1943. The two began living together in 1946; they had two children, Claude (b. May 15, 1947) and Paloma (b. April 19, 1949). Picasso was most active in the Communist Party during the span of this relationship. Gilot, ambitious and sick of living in Picasso's shadow, left him and took the children in 1953. Picasso, although he had several artist-mistresses–as well as Gilot, there was Olivier and Maar–was always dismissive of women artists. For him, women were, as he famously remarked, either "goddesses or doormats." Gilot, it seems, preferred leaving him to becoming a "doormat" ex-muse.
Picasso met González, 1876-1942, in 1902. Like Picasso, the Spanish sculptor González settled in Paris at around the turn of the century. When they met up to work together in 1928, González's metalworking expertise allowed Picasso to realize large-scale sculptures for the first time; González became Picasso's most important collaborator besides Braque. González was an important sculptor in his own right, a maker of ingenious semi-abstractions based on the human figure. Some of his work is in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Picasso struck up a liaison with Eva Gouel in the autumn of 1911 and commemorated her presence in his life by putting the words "ma jolie" ("my pretty"), taken from a popular song, in his canvases. Picasso was devastated by her death in 1915.
Grünewald, a German painter of the early sixteenth century, is a complete mystery; we have no biographical information on him whatsoever, only some wonderful paintings. The altarpiece that he made for the Alsatian village of Isenheim in 1515 is an outstanding work; its central panel, "The Crucifixion," a moving rendering of the Man of Sorrows, inspired Picasso to do a radical re- make, the precursor of the old-master remixes which he turned out at such a tremendous rate in his old age.
Jacob, 1876-1944, was a French novelist, poet, and painter and a dear friend of Picasso's during the early, hungry years at the Bateau-Lavoir. His dreamy work was related to both Symbolism and Surrealism. Born into a Jewish family, Jacob converted to Roman Catholicism in 1914 and became a monk in a Benedictine monastery in 1921. Some have suggested that the monkish figure on the right in "Three Musicians" represents him (and that the Harlequin in the middle stands for Picasso, and that the Pierrot on the left is Apollinaire). Jacob died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944.
Kahnweiler was an art dealer who backed Braque and Picasso during the development of Cubism. The Path to Cubism, a book he wrote in 1920, publicizing his discoveries, continues to affect how we think about Cubism; Kahnweiler invented the terms Analytical and Synthetic Cubism, which are still in common use.
Picasso married the dancer Koklova, of the Ballet Russes, in July, 1918. She had social ambitions; it was during their marriage that Picasso first started living in swell apartments and going to fashionable resorts. The two had a son, Paulo (b. February 4, 1921). Unfortunately, the marriage soon began to crumble; the two considered and rejected divorce in 1935 and decided to separate. Koklova's behavior later became extreme. She died in 1955.
Picasso was very fond of his mother and chose to go by her name instead of his father's. However, we know very little about her; it seems she was physically delicate, with a strong personality.
Dora Maar, 1909-, was a Surrealist painter and photographer and Picasso's mistress. Their affair began in 1936, overlapping with his liaison with Marie- Thérese Walter. Since she was brought up in Argentina, the two could speak Spanish to each other. She photographed the progress of "Guernica" (1937), showing the different stages of the work, and participated in the private reading of Picasso's play Desire Caught by the Tail. With the end of the war came the end of their relationship; later, she had a nervous breakdown.
Matisse, 1869-1954, a French painter, sculptor, and lithographer is perhaps Picasso's main rival for most lauded artist of the twentieth century. It is no wonder that Picasso, when introduced to Matisse by Gertrude Stein in 1906, was originally mistrustful of and competitive with the older artist. Towards the end of Matisse's life, however, the two became friends. Matisse began painting in 1890; studying under the Symbolist Gustave Moreau, he met many painters who would later become his fellow Fauvists. In 1905, he exhibited with the Fauvists at the Salon d'Automne. One Fauvist remarked that "One can talk about the Impressionist school, because they held certain principles. For us there was nothing like that; we merely thought their colors were a bit dull"–Matisse would continue with the bright colors and total lack of interest in the political, ideological, and theoretical aspects of art that characterized the Fauves throughout his life. He was interested in pattern and ornament, and accordingly flattened out his paintings to highlight this aspect. Singularly serene, Matisse seemed to be the embodiment of Mediterranean joie de vivre. He called one of his early pieces "Luxe, Calme et Volopté" (French for "Luxury, Calm, and Pleasure"), and indeed, this phrase seems to fit his life and work.
Miró, 1893-, was a Spanish Surrealist painter. He studied in Barcelona and then moved to Paris in 1919, where he fell in with the Surrealists. His paintings use pure colors and shapes derived from the free forms of psychic automatism.
Munch, 1863-1944, was a Norwegian Symbolist painter and print-maker and one of the most angst-ridden artists of all time; he said that he heard all around him and wanted to express "the scream of nature." His most famous work is, indeed, "The Scream" (1895).
Once Picasso settled into Paris, in 1904, he struck up an affair with another young artist, Fernande Olivier. When his career began to pick up speed, the couple was able to move out of the Bateau-Lavoir into an apartment with a maid near the Place Pigalle, where they held an open house every Sunday. In 1911, they split up and Picasso fell in love with Eva Gouel.
Picasso became friends with Pallarés when he was a teenager studying at La Lonja in Barcelona, and the two shared a studio. In June 1898, the friends set out to Pallarés's hometown, the village of Horta de Ebro. Staying there for eight months, Picasso liked to paint local scenes. He would go there again in the summer of 1909 with Fernande; there, inspired by Cézanne, his painting took a decisive turn in the development towards what would become Cubism. Later, Picasso would often repeat, "Everything I know, I learned in Pallarés's village."
Poussin, 1594-1665, was a French painter who settled in Rome to soak up the dignity and harmony of ancient Roman art. After making paraphrases and variations of Poussin's "Bacchanale" in 1944–picking up again on what he had done to Grünewald's "Crucifixion" in 1930–Picasso worked for much of the rest of his life working with the old masters.
Rolland, 1866-1944, was a French novelist, playwright, and biographer who established his reputation with the 10-volume novel Jean-Christophe (1904-12). A committed pacifist, he chose to spend much of his life in Switzerland.
Roque was Picasso's last love. He met Jacqueline, a young divorcée with a small daughter, in 1953, the year that Françoise left him. In 1955 they moved together to a villa called La Californie, at Cannes; then, looking for someplace quieter, they moved in 1958 to the Château de Vauvenargues. When Olga died in 1955, Picasso was left free to marry again; Jacqueline and Picasso had a quiet ceremony in 1961 and stayed together until his death in 1973. Later she committed suicide.
The Catalan poet Sabartés (1881-1968) was part of the group that met at Els Quatre Gats in Barcelona and quickly became good friends with the teenage Picasso. Decades later, in 1935, confronting personal and artistic crises, Picasso invited his old friend Sabartés to stay with him as his secretary and business manager. Sabartés was happy to accept; the friendship between the two was true and enduring.
Sartre, 1905-, was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, leader of the resistance against the occupying German forces during World War II, famously tight friends with Simone de Beauvoir and the leading exponent of Existentialism. Some of his best-known works include his first novel, Nausea, the play No Exit, and the absolutely gigantic philosophical treatise, Being and Nothingness.
Satie, 1866-1925, was a completely and wonderfully bizarre French composer who worked in a restrained, abstract, deceptively simple style. He often worked with Cocteau.
Joseph Stalin's (1879-1953) real name was Dzhugashvili, but he called himself Stalin, meaning "man of steel." He was the leader of the USSR from the time of Lenin's death in 1924 until his own. Seeking to consolidate socialism in Russia, he made the Communist state extremely repressive and his own dictatorship absolute. (See the SparkNote Biography onStalin for more information.)
Stein, 1874-1946, was an American writer and extremely influential patron of the arts. Leo Stein was her brother and fellow patron. From 1903 on she lived chiefly in Paris. Her best-known work is her Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), which is her own autobiographical work presented as that of her secretary-lover Toklas. She encouraged and bought the works of Picasso and Matisse; she felt that she understood Picasso very well. As she wrote in her book about him, called simply Picasso and published in 1938, "I was alone at this time in understanding him, perhaps because I was expressing the same thing in literature, perhaps because I was an American and...Spaniards and Americans have a kind of understanding of things which is the same." Inspired by Picasso's example to try to do for literature what he had done for painting, she called her book of poetry, Tender Buttons (1914) a series of "cubist" verbal portraits.
Toulouse-Lautrec, 1864-1901, was a cripple who left the aristocracy to record the decadent cabaret life of 1890s Paris. Inspired by the Japanese–by their colors, their simplification of form, their asymmetry, their sophistication–he made brilliant lithographic posters for dance-hall acts as well as painted studies of the loose life inside.
Velázquez, 1599-1660, was the painter for the Spanish court in Madrid. Picasso saw his work hanging in the Prado when he was very young and turned back to it when he was much older, in his series based around Velázquez's wonderfully complex masterpiece, "Las Meninas" ("The Maids of Honor").
Walter was a young girl when Picasso introduced himself to her in 1927. It must have been love at first sight for him; as she tells the story, "When I met Picasso, I was seventeen. I was an innocent child. I knew nothing–about life, about Picasso. Nothing. I had been shopping in the Galeries Lafayette, and Picasso saw me coming out of the metro. He just took me by the arm and said: 'I am Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together.'" The two fell very much in love and her presence permeated his art during the time of their liaison. As one of Picasso's friends said, "At no other moment in his life was his painting so undulating, all sinuous curves, rolling arms, and swirling hair." Two portraits of Marie-Thérese dozing, both filled with bright, pure colors, smooth lines, and an atmosphere of serene sensuality more typical of Matisse than of Picasso, typify his work under her museship. She gave birth to a daughter, Maïa, in 1935. However, the relationship was not as untroubled as it may appear in these paintings; Picasso met Dora Maar in 1936 and so the liaisons overlapped and Picasso shuttled back and forth. Later, Marie- Thérese killed herself.