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Pablo Picasso gives first exhibition outside Spain

This Day in World History

24 June 1901

Pablo Picasso gives first exhibition outside Spain

On 24 June 1901, two Spanish artists joined in an exhibition of their works at the Paris gallery of Ambroise Vollard. One of these artists was Francisco Iturrino, who had lived off and on in Paris since 1895 and whom Vollard had mentored. The other was a not-yet-20-year-old named Pablo Picasso, who had been befriended by Iturrino and the gallery owner.

Portrait of Pablo Picasso by Juan Gris, 1912. The Art Institute of Chicago. Source: Wikipaintings.
The exhibition marked the first public display of Picasso’s work outside Spain (some of his work had been shown in Barcelona the year before). Impressed by the painter’s talent, French writer Max Jacob struck up a friendship. Critic Félicien Fagus commended the young Picasso in his review of the show. Ironically, the commentator cited the influence of several other artists and remarked that the painter’s “capacity for enthusiasm has left him no time to develop a style of his own.”

Picasso would soon prevent any other critics from making such a claim. The death of his close friend Carles Casagemas later in 1901 led to a deep sadness that helped produce Picasso’s Blue Period, three years marked by brooding canvases and somber tones.

During this time, after traveling back and forth between Spain and Paris, Picasso settled permanently in the French capital. There he befriended avant-garde artists such as Jacob; French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who became a roommate; American writer Gertrude Stein; and Georges Braque.

It was 1907, when he completed Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Women of Avignon), that Picasso put a truly distinct stamp on his art. While he didn’t show the work publicly, it represented his probing experimentation with form and presentation. Over the next few years, he worked closely with Braque to develop Cubism, revolutionizing art.

Picasso went on to a long and brilliant career, becoming the most renowned and influential painter of the twentieth century. And it all began in that small exhibit in 1901.

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