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Picasso's Father
One of the most disheartening things about being an artist and an art instructor is the very distinct possibility that one may go down in "art history" as merely the teacher of a much greater artist while one's own work is largely forgotten or ignored except in the context of that much-more-famous pupil. Think how Jose Ruiz Blasco must have felt when that person was not only his pupil but also his son, and very early on, it was easily apparent that the boy would far outshine his father (who was actually quite a competent artist in his own right).

Don Jose Ruiz Blasco was born near Malaga, Spain, around 1858. In 1880, he married his childhood sweetheart, Dona Maria Lopez and got a job teaching drawing at the School of Fine Arts and Crafts. He was also the curator of the local museum. He was tall and blond, having the air of an Englishman while his wife was small and dark. On October 25, 1881, their first child was born, a son, whom they name Pablo Ruiz Picasso. (Actually the name was much longer in keeping with Spanish custom of including several limbs of the family tree as well.) Pablo also had two sisters, Lola and Conchita (who died at the age of 4). By the time he was seven, the boy began to show an interest in drawing, and completed his first painting at the tender age of nine (a man astride a donkey).

When young Pablo was 11, Jose Ruiz enrolled his son in drawing and ornament classes at a local School of Fine Arts in La Coruna. Leapfrogging through the curriculum, by the time he was thirteen Picasso's work was so prodigious he had far outstripped his father. Jose Ruiz was so overwhelmed by his son's talents he gave the boy his own palette and brushes, vowing never to paint again. Though he continued to teach at various art schools, eventually ending up at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, Jose Ruiz not only could not bring himself to paint, but very shortly could no longer teach the boy anything either. At the age of 15, Picasso completed his first major painting, an "academic" work, 65"x47", entitled First Communion, featuring a portrait of his father, probably his mother, and quite likely his younger sister kneeling before an altar attended by an altar boy. It glows with such family warmth and love it's little wonder Jose Ruiz was more than a little dismayed by his son's abilities. My own son is now fifteen years old. If he'd painted such a masterpiece, I'd probably give up painting too.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
7 April 1998


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