More Picasso paintings have been stolen than those of any other artist!


  Picasso provides the inspiration for many works of art

Picasso provides the inspiration for many works of art

Picasso’s “'Femme assise pres d'une fenêtre.”
1. Picasso was considered a child prodigy. Born in Málaga on the southern coast of Spain in 1881, Pablo Picasso could supposedly draw before he could talk. By age 13 he was said to have out-mastered his father, an art teacher. As a result, his father allegedly handed over his brushes and palette to Picasso and swore that he would never paint again. Soon after, Picasso sought admission to an art school in Barcelona. Although a month was normally allowed to complete the entrance examination, he finished his in a single day. Much later, he stated that he could draw “like Raphael” when he was young. “But it has taken me my whole life to learn to draw like a child,” he added.

  Piccaso in 1955 (George Stroud/Getty Images)

Piccaso in 1955 (George Stroud/Getty Images)

2. Picasso constantly changed his painting style. As a teenager, Picasso painted fairly realistic portraits and landscapes. He then went through his so-called blue and rose periods from 1901 to 1906, in which he depicted such things as poverty-stricken children and circus scenes, respectively. “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” a distorted portrait of five prostitutes that is considered one of his most revolutionary pieces, came in 1907. It opened the door for Cubism, an abstract style that reduces subjects to geometric forms. By 1912 Picasso had invented collage by attaching oilcloth, newspaper clippings and other materials to the surface of his paintings. This, along with an increased emphasis on color, precipitated a transition from what’s known as Analytic Cubism to Synthetic Cubism. Later in life, he practiced a form of Neoclassicism and recreated paintings from such masters as Diego Velázquez, Édouard Manet and Eugène Delacroix. At various times, he also incorporated Surrealist, Expressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Symbolist elements into his art.

3. Picasso had help with the creation of Cubism. Picasso ran in the same bohemian social circles as a slew of other artists and writers, including Henri Matisse, Gertrude Stein and Max Jacob. But his closest collaboration came with Georges Braque, with whom he co-founded Cubism around 1909 and whose paintings from the time appear remarkably similar to his own. The pair, who were influenced by such things as ancient Iberian sculpture, African masks and Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, regularly visited each other’s studios and exchanged ideas. In Braque’s words, it was rather “like two mountaineers roped together.” Their working relationship, which produced an increasingly abstract common technique, lasted until 1914, when Braque enlisted in the French army at the beginning of World War I.

4. Picasso was not just a painter. Though best known for his painting, Picasso experimented with a number of different mediums, including sculpture, ceramics, drawing and printmaking. From 1917 to 1924, he even designed the curtain, sets and costumes for a handful of ballets. The earliest of those, “Parade,” featured a dancer who would become his first wife and the mother of his first child (his three other children were born out of wedlock). Picasso started writing poetry in 1935, and he also authored two plays in the 1940s.

5. Picasso actively opposed Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The Spanish Civil War kicked off in July 1936 when military officers led by Francisco Franco revolted against the democratically elected Second Republic. Picasso, a Republican supporter, soon completed a series of anti-Franco etchings and made the first political statement of his life, saying the military caste was “plunging Spain into an ocean of misery and death.” Even more notably, he painted “Guernica” for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Inspired by an incident in which Nazi German planes flying for Franco bombed civilians in the town of Guernica, Picasso depicted a wounded horse, a decapitated soldier, a woman with a dead baby in her arms and other images of war. The enormous painting, more than 25 feet in length, waited out most of the Franco years at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It finally returned to Spain in 1981 and now resides at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid.

6. Picasso spent most of his life as an expat. In his youth, Picasso moved from Málaga to La Coruña to Barcelona to Madrid and then back to Barcelona again. He left Spain for the first time in 1900, taking an extended trip to Paris, and by 1904 he had settled permanently in the French capital. He would never live in Spain again, though he did return for a few visits prior to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Picasso even stayed in France during World War II, when the occupying Nazis barred him from showing his work. The artist later relocated to southern France, where he remained prolific until the very end of his life.

7. Picasso became a communist at age 62. Picasso joined the French Communist Party in 1944, right after Paris had been liberated from the Nazis. “I have found there all whom I respect most, the greatest thinkers, the greatest poets and all the faces of the resistance fighters,” he explained at the time. The following decade, Picasso painted “Massacre in Korea,” which portrayed U.S. soldiers as futuristic knights about to attack pregnant women and children. He also sketched a drawing as part of a failed effort to save Greek communist leader Nikos Beloyannis from the firing squad, and he even did a portrait of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. But he did not always toe the party line. The French communists officially condemned his Stalin picture for being insufficiently revering, and in 1956 he signed a protest letter against the Soviet invasion of Hungary.

8. More Picasso paintings have been stolen than those of any other artist. As of 2012, Picasso had 1,147 works listed as stolen, missing or disputed, more than twice as many as any other artist, according to the Art Loss Register. The most recent theft occurred in October 2013, when robbers made off with a Picasso and six other paintings that were on exhibit at a Dutch museum. A Picasso was likewise lifted from a Greek museum in January 2012, and in May 2010 a Picasso was among five paintings taken from the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris.

With thanks to all contributors for this article.

Contemporary Artists reimagine the Christmas scene

In this insightful article, first published by The Guardian, 'Thoroughly modern mothers' – artists reimagine the Christmas nativity scene'.

What does the nativity scene, and most particularly the symbol of the mother and child, mean to a modern, more secular society?

Nine leading contemporary artists were challenged – including Mark Wallinger, Martin Parr, Rebecca Warren and Fiona Banner – to create their own version. Here are the artworks they came up with, along with their explanations of the journey they took.
Interviews by Laura Barnett

John Squire

John Squire

'My daughters Martha and Dora are playing Jesus and his mother, in Titian’s Gypsy Madonna'
John Squire

Julian Opie

'I have struggled for years to find a way to portray more than one person: somehow you have to make a single image out of the group. Old Master portrait painters like Van Dyck, who themselves looked back to Renaissance painters such as Titian and Raphael, forged ways to depict groups of people, carefully dividing the background in relation to the figures, playing with the direction of people’s gazes, the flow of drapery. They tended to paint real people in commissioned portraits like this one, rather than idealised imaginary figures. The more stylised Madonna-and-child and Holy Family compositions of the earlier era were the template of these developments. People are not always very happy with their portraits when they first see them, and sometimes ask for changes; but this family from Belgium have been very enthusiastic'
Julian Opie

Martin Parr

'These babies are with their mothers in the dayroom at the maternity unit in St Michaels hospital in Bristol. They’re just a day old. It’s amazing to think that by now they’re already 29 times older than they were on the day I photographed them. Not all the women I asked wanted to be photographed. They had just given birth, they were very vulnerable - but also proud of their babies. They had expended a lot of pain and energy and time delivering them, and it’s a real achievement. I was interested in capturing the look between the mothers and their babies – the connection that starts as soon as the baby is born. The bond between mother and child is a common truth, and here we have a manifestation of it in modern times'
Martin Parr / Magnum        

Mark Wallinger

'This image is taken from a proposal I made for a nativity at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London. I didn’t get the commission, but my plan was to install an empty crib in Trafalgar Square over the month of December, and employ 24-hour security to watch over it. The shop-bought crib is a familiar object that betokens thousands of everyday miracles. Employing security for an object that costs only £70 suggests a greater worth. The three guards remind us of the three men from the east, who wait in readiness for the arrival or return of the Messiah - and of the threat posed by Herod in the story. The vulnerability of the naked crib represents both hope and belief, and the fragility of that hope and belief in the modern world. Positioning the crib at the very centre of a great city heightens the sense that we are a world away from the bucolic scene fondly represented in the nativity down the years'
Richard Cannon

fiona banner

Fiona Banner

'Mother font knocks on the door of an inn and asks: “Can we stop for the night?” The inn-keeper answers: “We don’t want your type here.” Both of these full stops have been magnified by the same amount, but the full stop from the font called “Child” is little and cheeky; the one from the font called “Mother” is like a big egg about to hatch. There are no words between Mother font and Child font; it’s a silent conversation. Is it deep and philosophical, or a joke worthy of a Christmas cracker? I think the latter'
Fiona Banner

Tom Hunter


'What is a nativity scene about? When I first thought about it, I thought of a school playground, of camels and kings. But then I realised it’s actually about a young homeless family, and their struggle to find a place to bring up their children. My photograph is of Leyila, a young refugee from Somalia, and her eight-week-old baby, Kymora. I photographed Leyila and Kymora in their living room, basing the image around Caravaggio’s painting The Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence. Caravaggio used ordinary people as models, which I find very inspiring. I used an old Tungsten light, which takes about 15 minutes just to warm up, to give the photograph that “Caravaggio light”, and to create a contrast between the cold blue light from outside, and the stark reality of Leyila’s flat. But what I wanted to show above all is the beauty of the simple connection between a mother and her child' Tom Hunter
Tom Hunter

Mike Figgis

'These are traditional Moroccan toy figures that I saw in a market in Marrakech. The Father Christmas one caught my eye - the stall was obviously catering to the western market - so I asked the stallholder if I could borrow some figures to make my scene. I took lots of photgraphs and then Photoshopped them together. The figures are made from a strange material a bit like leather, and some of them have no faces - which makes them look eerie, a bit like Darth Vader. I drew faces on Mary and Joseph to make them look more friendly. I had to make the baby Jesus myself out of toilet paper, gift-wrap and the string from a bar of hotel-room soap'
Michael Figgis

Michael Landy

'These photographs show a sculpture, Maternity by Jacob Epstein, before and after it was mutilated. It’s one of many statues Epstein made between 1907 and 1908 for what was then the British Medical Association building on The Strand, London. (It now houses the Zimbabwean embassy. It caused a big stink: the National Vigilance Association, [an organisation formed to combat prostitution, with links to the church], called it an affront to public decency, because the mother was bare-breasted. In 1937, the penis on a neighbouring Epstein sculpture, Man, broke off. The police, the building’s architect Charles Holbern, and the then head of the Royal Academy used this as an excuse to mutilate all the sculptures, using a hammer and chisel. The second photograph shows the sculpture as it is today. For me, it’s shocking that Christians could, ironically, be involved in defacing a statue of a mother and child.'
Michael Landy

Rebecca Warren

rebecca warren

'Usually I use existing pictures of cats from various sources in my work. This time, I have used a picture of a turkey family (by David Guralnick) that I found on a turkey website'
David Guralnick

With thanks and appreciation to all contributors