Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain, in 1881, son of painter and teacher Jose Ruiz, and Maria Picasso. He was an artistic prodigy; his virtuosity, imagination, and expressive power were evident long before he reached the age of twenty. His painting Old Fisherman was painted at the age of thirteen, and executed so fast that his family was astonished. Little wonder then, that Picasso completed the one-month qualifying examination of the Escola de Belles Arts 'Llotja' of Barcelona, where his family had moved, in one single day.
In 1900, the young Picasso frequented the city's famous cafe of intellectuals and artists, Els Quatre Gats. This place served as a meeting place and exhibition space for a group of artists such as Ramón Casas, Joaquin Mir, Santiago Rusiñol, Isidre Nonell, Miquel Utrillo and Picasso himself.
During the period 1901-04, known as the 'blue period' because of the blue tonality of Picasso's paintings, Picasso frequently changed his residence between Barcelona and Paris.
The years 1905-06 marked a radical change in color and mood for Picasso, who became fascinated with the circus world. This was known as his 'rose period', for he painted in pinks and grays.
In 1907, Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, considered the most decisive picture of the twentieth century. This year he met Georges Braque, and together created the Cubist movement.
In 1917, Picasso did the set and costume design for Serge Diaghilev's ballet Parade. During the 1920's, he continued to design theater sets and painted in Cubist, Classical and Surrealist styles. He also pioneered wrought iron sculpture and did a large quantity of graphic illustrations.
In 1937 the bombing of Guernica, Spain, by the Nazi Luftwaffe shocked the whole world. Picasso responded with his large anti-war painting Guernica.
Picasso turned his energy to the art of ceramics during the World War II period. Next, he pursued new methods of lithography.
Large retrospective exhibits of Picasso's works where made on the 50's. During these years he painted free variations on old master paintings.
In the 1960's, he was commissioned a 50-foot sculpture for the Chicago Civic Center. In 1970, Picasso donated more than 800 of his paintings to his Museum in Barcelona.
Picasso died at the age of 91 in Mougins, France, in 1973.