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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Don Jose Ruiz

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 quite a competent artist in his own right).   
Don Jose Ruiz Blasco was born Near Malaga, Spain, around 1860. 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. Don Jose 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 and more than a few branches of the family tree.) 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).   

Pablo Picasso's Birthplace, Malaga, Spain
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. The story goes (probably apocraphal) that Jose Ruiz was so overwhelmed by his son's talent he gave the boy his own palette and brushes, vowing never to paint again.
First Communion, 1896,
Pablo Picasso, age 15

Though he continued to teach at various art schools, eventually ending up at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, Jose Ruiz, whether or not he continued to paint, obviously could no longer teach the boy much of anything. At the age of 15, Picasso completed his first major painting, an "academic" work, a 65 by 47 inch canvas, 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.

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