73 Expressive Facts about Pablo Picasso

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published August 20, 2016Updated September 19, 2016
  • Pablo Picasso, along with Georges Braque (1882-1963), is considered the inventor of the modern art movement called Cubism, a style that reduces subjects to geometric forms. The pair was influenced by Iberian sculpture, African masks, and Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, among others.[6]
  • French art critic Louis Vauxcelles (1870-1943) coined the word “Cubism” when he noted that Picasso’s and Braque’s work were full of “bizarre cubiques.”[4]
  • Picasso was not just a painter—he was also a sculptor, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, playwright, and print writer.[3]
  • According to reports, after a Nazi officer saw a picture of Guernica, he asked Picasso if he had done it. Picasso replied, “No, you did.”[5]
  • Picasso would shoot blanks at people he considered “dull"
  • Picasso would often carry around a pistol loaded with blanks. He would fire it at people he found boring or any one who insulted Cézanne.[5]
  • Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Málaga, Spain, into a middle class family. However, he spent most of his adult life in France.[6]
  • Picasso was a child prodigy who could draw before he could talk.[3]
  • Picasso first emerged as a Symbolist, influenced by artists such as Edvard Munch and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.[6]
  • Picasso’s name has been used on several commercial products, including a car (Citroen Xsara Picasso), perfume (Cognac Hennessy Picasso), and lighters (ST Dupont Picasso). Picasso’s heirs continually quibble over intellectual property laws concerning his name.[2]
  • Picasso was accepted to the School of Fine Arts when he was 13 years old. While most students completed their entrance exams in a month, he completed his in just one week.[4]
  • When Picasso was 16 years old, he attended Madrid’s Royal Academy of San Fernando. He soon dropped out because he did not like formal education.[4]
  • Former Marillion singer, Fish, mentions Picasso in his song “Big Wedge.” He is also the subject of the song “Pablo Picasso” by Jonathon Richman and the The Modern Lovers.[5]
  • Picasso was buried by a chateau he bought in 1958 in the south of France. He bought the estate because it was on the slopes Mont Sainte-Victoire, a favorite place of Cézanne, an impressionist artist. After purchasing the property, Picasso declared, “I have just bought myself Cézanne’s mountains.”[6]
  • From 1917–1924, Picasso designed the curtain, sets, and costumes for several ballets. While his sets and costumes were initially not well received, they are now considered symbolic of the progressive art of the time.[8]
  • Picasso's uncle blew cigar smoke in his face as a baby to revive him
  • Because Picasso was so weak at birth, the midwife thought he was dead and laid him on a table. His uncle, who was smoking a big cigar, walked over and blew a smoke ring into the infant’s face. Picasso immediately reacted with “a grimace and a bellow of fury.”[4]
  • When Picasso died, he had no will, so his death duties (estate tax) to the French state were paid in the form of his paintings.[1]
  • Among Picasso’s famous quotes is “Turn off the gray of your life and light the colors inside you.”[5]
  • Picasso said, “When they say I’m too old to do something, I try to do it right now.”[5]
  • Perhaps the most famous of Picasso’s quotes is “Art is the lie that allows us to understand the truth.”[5]
  • Picasso once quipped, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”[5]
  • Picasso said, “But remember, the only person that stays with you forever is yourself. Stay alive, whatever you do!”[5]
  • Picasso’s full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso, for a total of 23 words. His name includes references to saints and family members.[4]
  • Pablo Picasso’s last name is from his mother, María Picasso y López. His father’s name is José Ruíz Blasco.[4]
  • Picasso reinvented collage (from the French, “to glue”) in 1912 when he attached oilcloth, newspaper, clippings, and other material to the surface of his painting. Under his and Georges Braque’s talent, collage became a unique part of modern art that abandons the idea that art is a window to nature and is instead an arrangement of metaphorical signs.[8]
  • Picasso often moved interchangeably between different styles, sometimes even within the same artwork.[3]
  • "The Young Ladies of Avignon" is considered a turning point in modern art
  • Picasso’s 1907 “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (“The Young Ladies of Avignon”), an abstract portrait of five prostitutes, is considered one of his most revolutionary pieces. His use of Primitivism and deconstructed perspective radically departed from traditional European painting. Originally titled “The Brothel of Avignon,” the painting led the way to Cubism.[8]
  • Although Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907) is most likely the single most analyzed piece of art in the 20th century, it wasn’t exhibited until 1916. Picasso’s friends believed the piece to be too controversial to display.[8]
  • Starting in 1935, at the age of 53, Picasso began to write poetry. Like his art, his poems defy categorization and are largely untitled, lack punctuation, and are mostly sexual and scatological. A line of one of his poems includes “the smell of bread crusts marinating in urine.”[8]
  • In 1944, when Picasso was 62 years old, he joined the French Communist Party soon after Paris had been liberated from the Nazis. He allegedly once said about the party: “I have joined a family, and like all families, it is full of shit.”[3]
  • The USSR awarded Picasso the International Stalin Peace Prize twice, once in 1950 and again in 1961 (then renamed the International Lenin Peace Prize).[3]
  • In 1949, the Paris World Peace Conference adopted a dove created by Picasso as the official symbol of several peace movements.[6]
  • After Picasso died in 1973, he left behind a dysfunctional family of four children, eight grandchildren, two wives, and many mistresses.[1]
  • Soon after Picasso’s death in 1973, his second wife, a longtime mistress, and a grandson committed suicide.[10]
  • After splitting from his first wife, Picasso wrote two surrealist plays. One of them was performed as a reading with Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre.[8]
  • Picasso’s granddaughter, Marina Picasso, wrote Picasso: My Grandfather (2001). In it she said that Picasso drove any one who got near him “to despair and engulfed them.”[11]
  • Picasso claimed that Gertrude Stein was his only woman friend. Her friendship and patronage significantly influenced him.[5]
  • Picasso's grandson drank bleach after being denied attendance at Picasso's funeral
  • When Picasso’s grandson Claude was not allowed to attend his grandfather’s funeral by Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline, he drank a bottle of bleach. It took three months for him to die.[1]
  • Of the six most important women in Picasso’s life, two killed themselves and two went mad.[12]
  • Fernande Olivier (1881–1966), born Amelia Lang, was Picasso’s first long-term relationship and the subject of many of his “Rose Period” paintings. After seven tumultuous years together, they separated in 1912, leaving her penniless and without any claim to his fortune.[12]
  • Picasso married his first wife, ballerina Olga Khokhlova (1891–1955) in 1918. The birth of their son Paulo in 1921 influenced Picasso to paint mother-and-child themes. Their marriage was a tumultuous one, and even after they separated, Picasso refused to divorce her so she wouldn’t receive half of his wealth. She died in 1955 of cancer.[12]
  • Picasso married his second wife, Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986), in 1961 when he was 79 years old. He created more works of art based on her than on any of his other lovers. In one year, he painted 70 portraits of her. Jacqueline shot herself in 1986.[12]
  • Picasso’s first word was “piz, piz” which is short for lápis, or pencil in Spanish.[4]
  • Picasso died at the age of 91 on April 8, 1973, after suffering from lung congestion. A bronze sculpture was placed on his grave from an engraving he had made 50 years earlier called “La femme au vase” (“Woman with Vase”).[6]
  • According to Guinness World Records, Picasso is one of the world’s most prolific painters. During his 78-year career, he created over 13,500 paintings or designs, 100,000 prints or engravings, 34,000 book illustrations, and 300 sculptures or ceramics—totaling over 147,800 works of art.[5]
  • Picasso's “Guernica” is a symbol of the horrors of war
  • Picasso completed his famous “Guernica” in just three weeks. The black-and-white painting reflects the destruction of the town of Guernica on April 26, 1937, by Franco’s German and Italian allies in the Spanish Civil War. The painting has become a symbol of the horrors of war.[6]
  • The early death of his sister from diphtheria and the suicide of his best friend traumatized a young Picasso and influenced what is known as his “Blue Period.” One of the first blue paintings he made was titled “Child with a Dove.”[8]
  • One of Picasso’s friends, Honoré Joseph Géry Pieret, stole several Iberian sculptures form the Louvre in March 1907 and gave them to Picasso. Grateful, Picasso paid the thief 50 francs a piece. After police captured his friend and to avoid a similar fate, Picasso later tried to dispose of the sculptures by throwing them in the nearest river.[5]
  • Picasso’s last words were “Drink to me, drink to my health. You know I can’t drink any more.”[5]
  • Picasso’s work “Christ Blessing the Devil” revealed early and deep conflicting views on religion, especially after his sister died. The painting depicts Christ with a shining aura around his head, blessing an overwhelmed devil. While Picasso was born Catholic, he would later become an atheist.[8]
  • When Picasso became disenchanted with traditional Christianity, he found an ally in Nietzsche’s works. One researcher even declares Picasso as “Nietzsche’s painter,” one who visually grapples with Nietzsche’s “Crisis of Truth.”[14]
  • Picasso once quipped: “There are only two types of women: goddesses and doormats.” His painting of a whore and a nun in “The Two Sisters” (1902) portrays his starkly divided view of women.[8]
  • On one nude portrait, Picasso had written Cuando tengas ganas de joder, joder or “When you are in the mood to screw, screw.”[8]
  • By the time Picasso died, he was the richest artist in history.[5]
  • More of Picasso’s paintings have been stolen than any other artist’s.[3]
  • Over 1,000 Picasso pieces are missing
  • When the “Mona Lisa” was stolen from the Louvre in August 1911, Picasso became a prime suspect after his friend Guillaume Apollinaire identified him as a suspect. The actual thief was an Italian, Vincenzo Perugia, who was sentenced to 8 months in prison.[7]
  • Picasso’s first painting is titled “Le picador.” Completed when Picasso was 9 years old, it features a man riding a horse during a bullfight.[5]
  • In 1967, Picasso donated a sculpture to downtown Chicago called the “Chicago Picasso.” No one knows what the sculpture represents.[6]
  • Along with Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp, Picasso revolutionized the emergence of the plastic arts in the early 20th century.[8]
  • Picasso’s work is usually organized into periods, including the Blue Period (1901–1904), the Rose Period (1904–1906), the African-Influenced Period (1907–1909), Analytic Cubism (1909–1912), and Synthetic Cubism or Crystal Period (1912–1919).[6]
  • In 1927, Picasso met Marie-Thérèse Walter, a 17-year-old French girl whom Picasso lived with in a flat across the street from his wife, Olga. She inspired many of his famous Vollard Suite etchings.[12]
  • After Picasso left his mistress Dora Maar for another woman, Marr suffered a complete mental collapse. She famously declared, “After Picasso, only God.”[8]
  • Pablo Picasso has had more auction sales than any other artist.[5]
  • Picasso’s painting “Women of Algiers” was sold on May 11, 2015, for $179.3 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold.[13]
  • Four of Picasso’s works—“Le Rêve,” “Garçon à la pipe,” Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” and “Dora Maar au Chat”—are among the world’s 15 most expensive paintings.[5]
  • Movies or plays about Picasso include Surviving Picasso (1996) and Picasso at the Lapin Agile (1993).[5]
  • Picasso was known for his womanizing. Historians estimate that he had hundreds of lovers. Often, if someone caught his eye, he would give her (often in front of his wife) a gold figurine of a little man with a large phallus, which meant he wanted to sleep with her.[10]
  • Picasso required his mistresses to be shorter than his 5 feet 4 inches
  • Picasso required his mistresses to meet at least two requirements: she had to be submissive, and she had to be shorter than him (Picasso was just 5 feet, 4 inches tall). One of his mistresses once told him, “You may be an extraordinary artist, but morally speaking you are worthless.”[10]
  • Picasso’s father Don José Ruíz would sometimes visit a brothel on Sundays after mass. Picasso himself lost his virginity at the age of 13 or 14 in such an establishment.[10]
  • Picasso’s iconic shirt is a Breton-striped shirt. The navy and white striped knit top was the official uniform for French seamen, with 21 horizontal stripes to represent each of Napoleon’s victories.[8]
  • Picasso loved pets and owned a mouse, a turtle, a monkey, and many cats and dogs.[9]
  • According to one historian, Picasso preferred to paint women more than men because he associated sex with art: the procreative act with the creative act. Most of his portraits of men are self-portraits.[10]
  • In Picasso’s self-portraits, he appears often as a painter, an art student, a picador, and even as a Christ figure. Above all, he identifies with the Minotaur. While it is often seen as a monster who sacrifices young maidens, Picasso’s Minotaur could also be seen as a poignant creature.[10]
  • Once when a young boy was playing with Picasso, he became overexcited and bit the artist. Picasso turned around and bit him right back, exclaiming, “Gosh! That’s the first Englishman I’ve bitten!”[9]

1 Carvajal, Doreen. “Picasso’s Granddaughter Plans to Sell Art, Worrying the Market.” New York Times. February 4, 2015. Accessed: October 24, 2015.

2 George, Alexandra. Constructing Intellectual Property. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

3 Greenspan, Jesse. “8 Things You May Now Know about Picasso.” History. April 8, 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2015.

4 Kelley, True. Who Was Pablo Picasso? New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2009.

5 Kirov, Blago. Pablo Picasso: Quotes & Facts. Kindle: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.

6 Klein, Adam G. Pablo Picasso (Great Artists). Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing, 2007.

7 Mafi, Nick. “Did Picasso Try to Steal the Mona Lisa?” The Daily Beast. October 23, 2014. Accessed: October 24, 2015.

8 Nichols, Catherine. Pablo Picasso. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2006.

9 Penrose, Antony. The Boy Who Bit Picasso. New York, NY: Abrams, 2010.

10 Pressman, Matt. “Q& A: John Richards on Picasso’s Uncontrollable Sex Drive.” Vanity Fair. April 5, 2011. Accessed: October 13, 2015.

11 Riding, Alan. “Grandpa Picasso: Terribly Famous, Not Terribly Nice.” The New York Times. November 24, 2011. Accessed: October 22, 2015.

12 Saper, Roy C. “The Women of Pablo Picasso.” Saper Galleries. 2006. Accessed: October 22, 2015.

13 Sherwell, Philip and Rob Crilly. “Picasso’s Painting Smashes Auction Record.” The Telegraph. May 12, 2015. Accessed: November 3, 2015.

14 Willer, Jacob. “From Kitsch to Cool: Picasso and Modern Art.” Stand Point Magazine. July/August 2013. Accessed: October 24, 2015.