Pablo Picasso was the child of José Ruiz Blasco, a professor of drawing, and Maria Picasso López. His surprising adroitness for drawing started to manifest itself early, around the age of 10, when he turned into his dad’s pupil in A Coruña, where the family moved in 1891. Starting from there, Pablo’s capacity to try different things with what he realized and to grow new expressive methods immediately enabled him to surpass his dad’s capacities. In A Coruña his dad moved his very own ambitions to those of his child, giving him models and support for his first presentation there at age 13.
The family moved to Barcelona in the pre-winter of 1895, and Pablo Picasso entered the local art academy (La Llotja), where his dad had accepted his last post as professor of drawing. The family trusted that their child would make progress as an academic painter, and in 1897 his inevitable fame in Spain seemed guaranteed; in that year his painting Science and Charity, for which his dad demonstrated for the doctor, was granted a good notice in Madrid at the Fine Arts Exhibition.
The Spanish capital was the conspicuous next stop for the youthful artist purpose on picking up acknowledgment and satisfying family desires. Pablo Ruiz properly embarked for Madrid in the harvest time of 1897 and entered the Royal Academy of San Fernando. Nevertheless, finding the teaching there stupid, he progressively invested his energy recording life around him, in the cafe’s, in the city, in the brothels, and in the Prado, where he found Spanish painting. He wrote: “The Museum of paintings is beautiful. Velázquez first class; from El Greco some magnificent heads, Murillo does not persuade me in all of his photos.” Works by those and other artist would catch Picasso’s creative ability at various occasions during his long career. Goya, for example, was an artist whose works Picasso duplicated in the Prado in 1898 (a portrait of the bullfighter Pepe Illo and the drawing for one of the Caprichos, Bien tirada está, which demonstrates a Celestina [procuress] checking a young maja’s stockings). Those same characters reappear in his late work—Pepe Illo in a series of engravings (1957) and Celestina as a kind of voyeuristic self-portrait, especially in the series of etchings and engravings known as Suite 347 (1968).
Pablo Picasso fell ill in the spring of 1898 and spent most of the remaining year convalescing in the Catalan village of Horta de Ebro in the company of his Barcelona friend Manuel Pallarès. When Pablo Picasso returned to Barcelona in early 1899, he was a changed man, he had put on weight; he had learned to live on his own in the open countryside; he spoke Catalan; and, most important, he had made the decision to break with his art-school training and to reject his family’s plans for his future. He even began to show a decided preference for his mother’s surname, and more often than not he signed his works P.R. Picasso; by late 1901 he had dropped the Ruiz altogether.
In Barcelona Pablo Picasso moved among a circle of Catalan artists and writers whose eyes were turned toward Paris. Those were his friends at the café Els Quatre Gats (“The Four Cats,” styled after the Chat Noir [“Black Cat”] in Paris), where Picasso had his first Barcelona exhibition in February 1900, and they were the subjects of more than 50 portraits (in mixed media) in the show. In addition, there was a dark, moody “modernista” painting, Last Moments (later painted over), showing the visit of a priest to the bedside of a dying woman, a work that was accepted for the Spanish section of the Exposition Universelle in Paris in that year. Eager to see his own work in place and to experience Paris firsthand, Picasso set off in the company of his studio mate Carles Casagemas (Portrait of Carles Casagemas ) to conquer, if not Paris, at least a corner of Montmartre.