The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
A look foward to a major new show of the painter's early work
Throughout his extraordinary life as a painter Pablo Picasso was an innovator and reinventor of genres from post-Impressionism to Cubism and beyond.
Now a new exhibition of his work is about to open which explores how that journey began as a 19-year-old who shook the Paris and European art worlds to their foundations at the turn of the last century.
Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 which opens at the Courtauld Gallery in London on February 14 is a unique opportunity to view a collection of paintings drawn from that landmark year.
It was the summer exhibition in the French capital that year which marked Picasso's breakthrough as an artist.
The extraordinary drive that impelled him to produce paintings, drawings, designs and sculpture right through to the end of his life - he died in 1973 at the age of 90 - is evidenced by the fact that during 1901 he sometimes completed three canvases in a day.
As one reviewer of the period remarked, Picasso was an artist who "paints all round the clock, who never believes the day is over, in a city that offers a different spectacle every minute. A passionate, restless observer, he exults - like a mad but subtle jeweller - in bringing out his most sumptuous yellows, magnificent greens and glowing rubies."
As extraordinary is the manner in which Picasso adapted and reshaped the styles of Van Gogh, Degas, Chagall and Toulouse Lautrec yet imbued them with the composition, use of colour and brush work which are unique and instantly recognisable as his own.
Though the Paris show was a success, in the latter part of 1901 Picasso embarked on a new artistic odyssey, leading to the beginning of what became known as his famous "Blue" period with its soulful depictions of women and children.
As well as canvases celebrating the glitter of the "belle epoque" and the mischievous harlequin figure he returned to in many of his paintings of the time, Picasso also painted those at the margins of society - the absinthe drinkers, habitues of the Moulin Rouge and the inmates of the Saint Lazare women's prison - in the empathetic and non-judgemental style which marked him out as one the great humanist painters.
Picasso's self-confidence at the time is evident in his brilliantly executed self-portrait Yo Picasso (I, Picasso) and as history has shown the degree of arrogance it displays was entirely justified by a painter whose way of seeing still has such a profound influence.
Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 runs at the Courtauld Gallery, The Strand, WC 2 from February 14-May 26, bookings: (020) 7872-0220.