Picasso’s Last Words | Drink to Me, Drink to My Health

World renowned Spanish painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramicist, and stage designer Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, (Pablo Picasso) was born on 25 October, 1881 but spent most of his adult life in France. As one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, Picasso is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage; and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

Picasso demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. His work is often categorized into periods. While the names of many of his later periods are debated, the most commonly accepted periods in his work are:

The Blue Period (1901–1904), characterized by sombre paintings rendered in shades of blue and blue-green, occasionally warmed by other colours. Many from this period  were painted when Picasso moved from Barcelona to Paris. His doleful subjects often included prostitutes and beggars. An example shown here is the Blind Man’s Meal (1903) [oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art]. Blindness was a recurrent theme in Picasso’s works of this period.

The Rose Period (1904–1906) is characterised by a lighter tone and style utilising orange and pink colours and featuring many circus people, acrobats and harlequins,  (known in France as saltimbanques). The harlequin, as a comedic character, is usually depicted in checkered patterned clothing, which became a personal symbol for Picasso. Two examples here include: A stamp from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea featuring the work ‘Harlequin‘ (1901); and Boy With a Pipe (1905) one of the first paintings of the Rose Period. In the latter half of 1905, Picasso abandoned his sensitive and often introspective characterizations of saltimbanques. He was briefly interested in sculpture; and after a short trip to the Netherlands during the summer; his painting became more objective.

Other periods include: the African-influenced Period (1907–1909), Analytic Cubism (1909–1912); and Synthetic Cubism (1912–1919), also referred to as the Crystal period. See Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper (1913) pictured above.

Much of Picasso’s work of the late 1910s and early 1920s is in a neoclassical style, and his work in the mid-1920s often has characteristics of Surrealism. His later work often combines elements of his earlier styles. For example:

  • The Dancers engraving from Picasso’s Erotic Gravures
  • Night Fishing at Antibes (1939) Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Nature Morte au Crane de Boeuf | aka Still Life with Steer’s Skull (1942) oil on canvas, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf
  • The Enamel Saucepan aka Still Life with Cooking Pot (1945) oil on canvas Musee National d’art Moderne, Paris
  • Pierre Reverdy, Le Chant des Morts, Paris (1948) [V&A Museum]. Lithographs by Picasso, printed by Mouriot Freres. Reverdy composed his ‘Song of the Dead‘ during WW2 when he participated in the French Resistance. Rather than illustrating the text, Picasso flooded the page with scarlet brush-strokes. The publisher, (Teriade, Stratos Eleftheriadis) commented, “It is as though they are having a conversation”.

Picasso died on 8 April, 1973, in Mougins, France; while he and his wife Jacqueline Roque entertained friends for dinner. His final words were “Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink any more.

Picasso was interred at Chateau of Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence, a property he had acquired in 1958 and occupied with Roque between 1959 and 1962. Roque prevented Picasso’s children Claude and Paloma from attending the funeral. Devastated and lonely after his death, Roque took her own life by gunshot in 1986; when she was 59 years old.

Picasso’s last words are featured in a song which appears on Wings 1973 album ‘Band on the Run‘ by Paul and Linda McCartney entitled: Picasso’s Last words (Drink to Me)

The grand old painter died last night
His paintings on the wall
Before he went he bade us well
And said goodnight to us all
Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more
Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more

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Source: Spanish painting by Jacques Lassaigne. Skira Geneva, 1952
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