Terrific tribute to Picasso’s close relationship with the Catalonian capital
The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is a terrific tribute to Picasso’s close relationship with a city where he spent his youthful years and honed his prodigious artistic talent. It is also the only one to have opened during his lifetime, according to his suggestions, done so in 1963 by his friend and personal secretary, Jaume Sabartes.
The Story of Museu Picasso
Due to Picasso’s strong opposition to Franco’s regime, the museum was first called “Sabartes Collection” and opened with Sabartes’s personal collection and Picasso artworks from the Barcelona Museum of Art. In all now the museum has 4,251 works by Picasso in its permanent collection, a foremost compilation representative of his foundation years and beyond, exhibiting items including artworks, ceramics, drawings, sketches, lithographs and engravings.
Why did Picasso choose Barcelona?
Barcelona, the Catalonian capital in Spain is richly abundant with prominent historic sites and tourist attractions. This cosmopolitan city has also played an important role in the lives of artistic geniuses such as Antoni Gaudi, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Mies Van der Rohe and of course, Pablo Picasso himself.
Born in Spain, the country was always in Picasso’s blood
Famous as the influential artist who brought forth the Cubism movement, Picasso’s ability shone through right from his childhood. He learnt to draw and sketch before he learnt to speak. Pablo Picasso was born on October 25th, 1881 in Malaga in southern Spain and spent a good part of his life in France after shifting to Paris in 1905.
But it was in Spain where he spent his formative years which also had a profound effect on his artistic life. When he was 10, the family moved to Coruna in Galicia when his father, a painter and art teacher started work at the art school there. Picasso too was allowed to join a year later and thus launched his artistic career.
Picasso in Barcelona
Picasso’s family shifted to Barcelona when he was 14 years old. By the age of 13 he had started showing his phenomenal talent. Notwithstanding his age, he gained admission into the prestigious School of Fine Arts.
He was bored quickly and at the behest of his father moved to Madrid at age 16 to study at the Royal Academy of San Fernando. He did not attend many classes and spent time instead studying the master painters like Velázquez and El Greco at the Prado Museum. And hit again by boredom due to the classical approach at the school, he returned back to Barcelona.
The upcoming bustling city with its progressive ideas created a huge impact on the mind of the teenage Picasso and it translated into his many drawings of the city which he completed during this period. Here too he entered the phase of artistic pursuit that is known as The Blue Period where he first displayed his retreat from the prevalent realistic style of painting.
Picasso left for Paris in 1905 and although he never returned back to live in Spain, he visited Barcelona frequently for holidays. He had sworn to not come back until Franco no longer ruled the country but sadly for him, Franco stayed in power till his death in 1975. Pablo Picasso had died two years earlier in 1973, at the age of 91.
Museu Picasso: The Museum in a Grand House
You will not be mistaken if you think you are in a palace or castle when you first enter Museu Picasso. Housed in five interconnected medieval palaces on the street called Carrer Montcada in the El Born neighborhood in the Old City, the museum spreads out in buildings with their own storied history.
You will walk through beautiful courtyards and see arched wood and brick entryways, arcades and staircases dating from the 13th century and even the Roman era. Inside while viewing the masterpieces you will also have to give consideration to the stunningly carved coffered ceilings and splendid neo-classical rooms with baroque motifs all of which was restored during renovations carried out over the years, with the major restorations being done in the 18th century.
Walking through the galleries of Museu Picasso
The first thing you will notice is that the works of Picasso are exhibited in three sections: paintings and drawings, engravings and ceramics. Considerable space is devoted to his early years and training period where you may be surprised but equally impressed to see the works of a 14-15-year-old Picasso which includes highly classical pieces, remarkable academic works on the human body and the play of light and shade and cheerful paintings, drawings and sketches from Malaga, Coruna and Barcelona.
In the room devoted to “The Blue Period”, among other paintings highlighting the color blue to signify human suffering, admire “Roofs of Barcelona” painted in 1903 showing an urban perspective view of Barcelona rooftops or “The Blue Glass”, also from 1903, an effortless composition of a wine glass showcasing a bright, red flower, all within a dark blue background.
Elsewhere, admire the still life of fruits, painted in 1901 and you will see the clear influences of Van Gogh, Cezanne and Gauguin. Walk into “The Rose Period”, which lasted from 1904-1906, and be awed by masterpieces in joyful reds, pinks and oranges depicting acrobats, circus performers and harlequins, characters who would continue to be in his paintings even in later years.
Museu Picasso: “The Pigeon Room”
And lastly before you get the chance to view the museum highlight, you will enter what could be called “The Pigeon Room”. In 1957, Picasso painted nine canvases on doves and pigeons which nested and frolicked on the balconies of his studio at La Californie Villa in Cannes, France. The paintings are a dazzle of colour and have the power to mesmerise you with the scenic beauty of the Mediterranean, the lush greenery and the sparkle of the white doves. He painted these delightful works as a break from his concentrated study of a painting, the interpretation of which forms the museum climax.
Velázquez, Las Meninas and Picasso
Diego Velázquez from the Spanish Golden Age was the painter to King Philip IV in the 17th century and painted “Las Meninas” in 1656. The painting shows the five-year-old Princess Margarita, the King’s daughter, being attended to by her two ladies in waiting. In addition, there are two dwarfs, another lady in waiting, a dog, an attendant and a courtier. What makes the painting complex and realistic even today is that the artist painted himself in the portrait and also painted Margarita’s parents, the King and the Queen as reflections in the mirror, overlooking this entire scene.
There are three galleries devoted to the interpretation by Picasso and in each room you can perceive just how detailed a study and investigation of this masterpiece he made. Beginning with the most elaborate piece, The Maids of Honor, an almost faithful horizontal composition as opposed to the vertical original, you will also be transfixed by the seemingly unending (in all there are 58 works) series of sketches, drawings and paintings that Picasso did in the process of his exhaustive analysis of Velázquez’s work.
Not just a painter, Picasso was a skilled ceramic artist
You will also see about 40 ceramic pieces displayed in ornate rooms which actually enhance the beauty of these simple plates, bowls and vases that Picasso completed in the later years of his exceedingly versatile life.
Visiting Museu Picasso is a wonderful way to explore and discern the brilliance of Pablo Picasso who shaped and remarkably influenced the course of 20th century modern and contemporary art.
Useful Information for Your Visit to Museu Picasso
Address: c/Montcada, 15-23 – 08003 Barcelona
Tel. (+34) 93 256 30 00
How to get to Museu Picasso:
By Metro: L4 Jaume I and L1 Arc de Triomf
strong>By Bus: Numbers 120, 45, V15, V17 Via Laietana stop.
Numbers 39, 51, H14 Passeig Picasso stop.
Numbers H14, 45, 51 Pla de Palau stop.
Number 120 Princesa stop.
Rent an Electric Bicycle: https://bicing.barcelona/ (Spanish site)
Collection and Temporary Exhibitions: General price, 14 euros; Reduced price, 7.50 euros.
Collection: General price, 12 euros; Reduced price, 7 euros.
Temporary Exhibitions: General price, 6.50 euros; Reduced price, 4.50 euros.
To avoid the long lines at the museum, it is prudent to buy your tickets online.
Museu Picasso website: https://entrades.eicub.net:8443/muslinkIII/venda/index.jsp?lang=3&nom_cache=PICASSO&property=PICASSO&grupActiv=1
Articket, Barcelona Museum Pass: http://articketbcn.org/
March 16th to October 31st:
Mon, 10am – 5pm
Tue – Sun, 9am – 8:30pm
Thurs, 9am – 9:30pm (Free admission after 6pm)
November 1st to December 31st:
Tue – Sun, 9am – 7pm.
Thurs, 9am – 9:30pm (Free admission after 6pm)
Free admission on first Sunday of each month 9am – 8:30pm
Reduced hours, 24th and 31st December, 9am – 2pm.
Closed 25th December and 1st January.
Open door day, 24th September.
Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.
Around the neighborhood
Museu Picasso is located in the Gothic Quarter or Barri Gotic and a short walk (8-10min.) from the museum will take you to the soaring Barcelona Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and saint Eulalia, portions of which date back to the 4th century.
Stop by the Roman ruins, from the era of Emperor Augustus (27BC – 14AD), where remnants of the city wall and towers can be seen next to the cathedral.
For a detailed trip through the history of Barcelona, proceed to the City History Museum for a journey through its Roman and Gothic times.
Stroll in the surrounding Plaza Nova which also hosts a flea market every day (except August) with vendors selling all manners of vintage curiosities.
Walk past the Col.legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya on one end of the Plaza Nova and you can see public art by Picasso, three friezes that decorate the top of the building of the architecture college.
Head up to Placa de Catalunya, strolling through the charming pedestrian street Portal de l’Angel, where you might be tempted to enter into any of the stores that line this bustling but charming shopping avenue.
Where to eat
Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003, Barcelona
Tel. 933 19 70 03
Opened in 1929, close to Museu Picasso and well known for its selection of tapas, cheeses, sausages and wines.
269 Diputacio, 08007 Barcelona
Tel. 934 88 09 77
Trendy basement restaurant run by a celebrity chef serving traditional tapas and the menu changes throughout the day.
COAC Cafeteria Restaurant
Placa Nova, 5 08002 Barcelona
Tel. 935 12 54 94
Located in the Col.legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya, this is a budget friendly place that serves Mediterranean cuisine.
El Born Minyo Gelateria
Carrer de la Volta d’en Bufanalla, 1, 08003 Barcelona
Tel. 933 10 46 87
Located at stone’s throw distance from Museu Picasso, definitely stop here to savour the delicious gelato varieties like we did.
Photo Credits: All photographs © copyright Susmita Sengupta/Travelsignposts.com unless otherwise indicated.