Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

1
YO, PICASSO
1881-1897

A return to the birth of Pablo Picasso on 25 October 1881, under the sign of Scorpio, takes us to Andalusia, a province in which "Restoration" Spain—after the 1875 coup of General Martinez Campos—was tying itself to the past with even greater determination than elsewhere. The contrast with Catalonia was striking. There, in Barcelona, the adolescent Picasso would confront the stimulating shock of a triumphant industrial revolution and make the leap, with one bound, into the twentieth century. Behind him he would leave an ancien régime whose outlook, scarcely touched by the Enlightenment, was closer to the seventeenth century than to modern times; and the port of Málaga, oriented more to the Maghreb than to Europe. The rolling stock of the railroad, put through some fifteen years earlier, resembled that of Hollywood westerns; the young Picasso almost always traveled by sea.

Although Pablo's father, Don José Ruiz Blasco, had forebears of Castillian stock, his grandfather was born at Córdova in 1799. A glovemaker by trade, this grandfather married in Málaga in 1830, creating a solid Andalusian establishment, which on the mother's side went back another generation. She was a cousin of Don José's and the source of the name Picasso, unusual because of its double s. Family tradition—reported by Fernande, as well as by Maya, Picasso's elder daughter—spoke of Genoese forebears. The child, therefore, was born into a specifically Mediterranean environment, in formerly Arab-Andalusian territory.

Don José did not end his bachelor days until he was forty. Perhaps his single state was prolonged by some amorous disappointment, but his marriage, no doubt arranged, was entirely consistent with convention, and the structure of his life, which relief on three poorly paid jobs—teacher of drawing at the art school, curator of the municipal museum, and restorer of paintings—remained unchanged. While he spent his leisure time with friends at the café, the group of women his wife had brought into the family home—her two unmarried sisters and their mother—ruled over the comfortable apartment on the Plaza de la Merced.

The preponderance of Picassos—four of them, as opposed to one

-3-

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