Art: The Trajectories of Genius

Work echoing the man: many conceits—and edges

He was thought to be dead at birth in Málaga on Oct. 25, 1881. Then his uncle Salvador Ruiz, a celebrated Spanish physician who had delivered the boy, calmly puffed cigar smoke up the baby's nose, provoking howls of protest. Thus did Picasso embark on 91 years of rugged life.

Pablo Ruiz Picasso (he adopted Picasso,* his mother's maiden name, a not uncommon practice in Hispanic societies) was not only the youngest nicotine inhaler in Spain. He was to prove extraordinarily precocious in every other respect. By...

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