1. Pablo Picasso’s full name is much longer than you’d think.
The name Pablo Picasso is an alliterative delight, but the artist’s full name is a real tongue twister. Baptized Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso, his full name consists of 23 words. The names are based off a list of saints and relatives. Interestingly, his famous last name comes from his mother, María Picasso y López.
Explaining the choice to adopt his mother’s surname, he said, “[Picasso] was stranger, more resonant, than ‘Ruiz.’ And those are probably the reasons I adopted it. Do you know what appealed to me about that name? Well, it was undoubtedly the double ‘s,’ which is fairly unusual in Spain. Picasso is of Italian origin, as you know. And the name a person bears or adopts has its importance. Can you imagine me calling myself Ruiz? Pablo Ruiz? Diego-José Ruiz? Or Juan-Népomucène Ruiz?”
2. His first words as a child foreshadowed his future.
While most children’s first words are “mama” or “dada,” Picasso was a true artist right from the start. Picasso’s mother said that his first word was “piz” which is short for lápiz—the Spanish word for pencil. It’s no wonder that his family started his art education early!
3. As a child prodigy, Picasso finished his first painting at 9 years old.
Picasso’s father José Ruiz y Blasco was a painter and art teacher who quickly picked up on the fact that his son was special. He began Picasso’s art education at 7 years old. Ruiz was a strict academic who believed that artists should learn by copying the great masters, as well as plaster casts and live models. Picasso’s early pencil drawings and oil paintings show how skilled he was as a child.
His earliest painting, The Picador, was completed when he was just 9 years old and by 13 he had been admitted to the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. Incredibly, he’d been able to complete the rigorous entrance exam, which typically took one month to complete, in just a week.
4. Picasso’s father gave up art after seeing the talents of his son.
Though Picasso’s father was a skilled artist, teaching at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts, it’s said that he was in great awe of his son’s talent. Ruiz specialized in drawings of doves and pigeons and when Picasso was just 13 years old, his father walked in on him painting over Ruiz’s unfinished sketch of a pigeon. He was so impressed by the work that he declared he would give up painting, as his son had surpassed him. There are later paintings by Ruiz, so clearly he didn’t give up completely. Father and son would continue to have a volatile relationship, arguing frequently.
5. He was much more than just a painter.
Picasso didn’t just paint, he was also a sculptor, ceramicist, poet, playwright, and set designer. In terms of set design, Picasso began a collaboration with the Paris-based company Ballets Russes during World War I. He designed Cubist sets and costumes for several productions, which have become more celebrated over time. The collaboration is also where Picasso met his first wife Olga Khokhlova, who was a dancer in the company. Poetry came to Picasso later in life, with him beginning to write in earnest in 1935, after the end of his first marriage. Between 1935 and 1959 he wrote over 300 poems. In the 1940s he wrote two full-length plays, Desire Caught by the Tail and The Four Little Girls. Both were surrealist works written in a stream of consciousness style.
6. He was once suspected of stealing the Mona Lisa.
In 1911, when Picasso was 29 years old, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was brought in as a suspect and implicated his friend Picasso, which led to the artist being brought in for questioning. Both men were eventually exonerated. Two years later it was discovered that an Italian Louvre employee, Vincenzo Peruggia, stole the painting because he believed that it belonged in an Italian museum.