He was not particularly good to his women—to put it mildly—and, unlike Leonardo or Van Gogh, he left behind almost too much art for us to know what to do with. So why, 140 years after his birth in Málaga, Spain, is the world still obsessed with Picasso?
A volume published by Flammarion, marking this year’s reopening of the Musée Picasso Paris following an extensive renovation, speaks to the painter’s enduring allure. Picasso established himself as an artistic prodigy in 1895, when at just 15 years old he painted his first important oils on canvas. The book opens with these works—La Fillette aux Pieds Nus and L’Homme à la Casquette—and its 10-phase chronology flows through his Blue Period (1901–4), his many women, and two world wars, all the way to The Young Painter (1972), which Picasso completed when he was 90. He died a year later.
Alongside his creative energy are the timeless ideas that drove him, addressed in accompanying text by the book’s editor, Anne Baldassari. His exploration of reality couldn’t feel more current. “I aim at deeper resemblance,” Picasso said in 1945, “more real than real, thus becoming surreal.” And, nearly 40 years later: “For me painting is a dramatic action in the course of which reality finds itself split apart.” —Julia Vitale