Madrid - As Spain celebrates the 125th birth anniversary of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) on October 25, nobody questions that he was one of the greatest artists of all time and perhaps the greatest of the 20th century.
In his lifetime, Picasso took such adulation for granted. The artist's last wife Jacqueline even used to kiss his hands and call him 'my God.'
Few people remember today that Picasso's works continued sparking scandals almost until his death.
Many of the people queueing to anniversary exhibitions in Spain, France, the United States, Austria or Germany this year would no doubt be reluctant to admit that often, in fact, they do not understand the master's Cubist paintings.
There is, in any case, no question that the painter born in the southern Spanish city of Malaga revolutionized the world of art. He may later be remembered as 'the great grave-digger of art or as its great fertilizer,' Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa writes.
Picasso's prodigious talent was evident from the beginning. His art teacher father soon had nothing more to impart to his young son.
When Pablo was 14, the family moved to artistically vibrant Barcelona where the boy began art studies. In 1897, Picasso was admitted to Madrid's Academy of Fine Arts at the young age of 16 years.
In 1904, he moved to Paris where, three years later, he painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, a key work in the development of Cubism.
For Picasso, life was an endless source of inspiration and experimentation, where he picked the women, harlequins, minotaurs, bullfighters, animals and children who populate his paintings.
He left behind no less than some 1,900 paintings, 3,200 pieces of ceramics, 7,000 drawings, 1,200 sculptures and 30,000 graphic works.
'The soul of beings does not interest him much,' the US writer Gertrude Stein once said. Picasso liked to keep his models at a distance and under control, deconstructing them in his Cubist fashion rather than studying them psychologically.
He displayed something of the same attitude towards his two wives, numerous lovers and four children.
Books by Picasso's lover Francoise Gilot and his niece Marina Picasso irritated many of the artist's admirers by describing his egoistic and callous treatment of those close to him.
After Picasso's death, his grandson Pablo, his former lover Marie-Therese Walter and his last wife Jacqueline Roque all committed suicide.
For the world of art, however, Picasso's contribution was invaluable. 'He represents a revolution of forms, a break with all that was before, but he also builds a bridge towards tradition,' Vargas Llosa writes.
Picasso, who experimented with art forms ranging from his 'blue period' to surrealism, was a chameleon who could make any style his own.
However, he claimed that there could be nothing new in art. 'Art does not have a past or a future, evolution or progress,' said the artist who integrated ancient African influences into his work.
Refusing to return to a Spain governed by General Francisco Franco, Picasso protested against the dictatorship by creating Guernica, his probably most famous work, for the Paris World Exhibition in 1937.
Guernica, 1937 Art Print Picasso, Pablo 28 in. x 22 in.
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The huge canvas depicting the bombardment of the Basque town of Guernica by Nazi Germany in support of Franco during the Spanish Civil War - brought to Spain from the United States in 1981 after the dictator's death - remains a powerful anti-war symbol.
Painting obsessively as if in a race against time, Picasso was still creating heavily erotic images shortly before his death in Mougins, southern France, at age 92.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur