In the 21st century, there isn’t a household on earth that doesn’t know who Pablo Picasso is. He defined the 20th-century art world. However, at one point, Picasso was like every other undiscovered artist in the world— a major nobody. All of that changed when Picasso got his first major exhibit in Paris, France. This exposure permanently altered the direction of his art career, bringing us some of his greatest and most influential pieces.

Picasso’s upbringing in the art world

When Picasso was a child in Spain, he was already angled towards a future in art. His father was a drawing professor, and like any other parent, he wanted Picasso to grow up to be like him. However, while he groomed Picasso to become an academic artist, Picasso fell into the role of the “starving artist” with ease. While he earned a small exhibition at the age of 13, he was eager to share his artwork with the world and gain exposure in the European art world. In 1900, Picasso made a life-altering trip to Paris, the art capital of Europe. He moved in with a poet named Max Jacob who helped Picasso learn French. Although Picasso and Jacob both worked, they lived in extreme poverty. A desperate Picasso was even forced to burn much of his artwork to warm their household. However, their circumstances didn’t remain grim for long.

Scoring his first exhibition

After a five-month relocation to Madrid, Picasso returned to Paris with a fresh perspective on his work and career. Upon his arrival, he brought along 100 of his finest paintings of the previous years with the hopes of scoring his own exhibition. When he presented his work to an art dealer named Ambroise Vollard, Vollard immediately fell in love with Picasso’s obscure, deeply thoughtful artwork. He quickly agreed to feature Picasso’s paintings—from his street scenes to his portrait work—in his gallery on June 24, 1901. Within an instant, art critics began to make a buzz about Picasso’s successful show, and his career took off towards the stars.

Permanently altering art history

After his exhibition, Picasso dove into some of the most fruitful periods of his art career, many of which shaped art across the world in the 20th century. From his somber Blue Period pieces about poverty and prostitution to his warm Rose Period portraits of comedic and friendly figures, from his cubism to his abstract work, Picasso grew and thrived as an abstract artist in Paris. Without his original exhibition, Picasso may not have attained the motivation or resources to continue his artwork, and the art world, as we know it, may have ceased to exist.