Picasso’s father was a pigeon fancier, and Pablo spent his childhood in Málaga surrounded by the birds. His father was also an artist and taught him how to draw them.
One of the early works in his blue period shows a child holding a dove
Pablo Picasso, L’enfant au pigeon, 1901, oil on canvas, 73 x 54 cm, Private Collection
He included them in this painting from his cubist period
Pablo Picasso, Femme aux pigeons, 1930, pastel on paper applied to canvas, 200 x 185 cm, Centre Pompidou, Paris
The model for this work was Marie-Thérèse Walter, whom he had met in 1927, and who was his partner for more than ten years.
Pablo Picasso 1881–1973, La Colombe, 1949, lithograph on paper, 57 x 76 cm, Tate Gallery, London
Picasso made the lithograph on 9 January 1949 in the atelier of the printmaker Fernand Mourlot in Paris. It is a traditional, realistic picture of a pigeon which had been given to him by his great friend Matisse.
The image was used to illustrate the poster of the 1949 Paris Peace Congress and became not only the symbol of the Peace Congresses but also of the ideals of world Communism. The Congrès mondial des Partisans de la paix opened in Paris on 20 April.
The day before, Picasso’s partner, Françoise Gilot, had given birth to his fourth child, who was named Paloma, the Spanish word for dove.
Picasso later developed this image into a simple, graphic line drawing that is one of the world’s most recognisable symbols of peace.
Pablo Picasso, L’Atelier (Pigeons), 1957
Matisse and Picasso had known each other since 1904 when they were introduced at the Paris salon of Gertrude Stein. They were not only friends but each had a profound influence on one another and their art.
After Matisse died in 1954, Picasso was devastated. He moved his family to a large villa near Cannes, and painted a series of eleven paintings which he called Studio in the style of his friend, and in homage to him. Many of them feature doves, which were beloved of Matisse.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Matisse and his pigeons, 1944