‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like a child.’ Pablo Picasso said this famous phrase in his mature stage. Because before dedicating himself to cubist art, Picasso painted realism, painted impressionism, molded ceramics and even made jewelry. Because the most famous artist of cubism, before painting as a child, he painted as an adult when he was still a child. Those paintings made in his early years as a painter are the main attraction of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, where visitors can see other sides of Picasso. From his first and early years as an artist to his cubist period.
The Picasso Museum of Barcelona was born thanks to the idea of Picasso’s friend and personal secretary, Jaime Sabartés. Sabartés proposed the creation of an art gallery dedicated exclusively to Picasso in 1960. The Barcelona City Council accepted the idea that same year, despite the fact that it was during the Franco era. The first works that arrived at the building came from the private collection of Sabartés, who gave them to the museum, although it is true that the city council already had some of the artist’s paintings. In 1963 the Picasso Museum opened its doors to the public for the first time. It did so in the Aguilar Palace on Montcada Street, where, despite having been enlarged several times, it remains today.
The collection was gradually expanded thanks to donations from different personalities, including Picasso himself. On his death, his wife, Jacquelie Roque, also made a generous gift of 41 pieces of her late husband’s ceramics. The collection is completed with engravings donated by his children, images donated by the photographer Roberto Otero and a long etcetera. All this makes the Picasso Museum of Barcelona a walk through the life and the different stages that the artist, born in Málaga, went through.
Pablo Picasso and Barcelona had a relationship that began when the painter was only 14 years old. The young Picasso moved from A Coruña to Barcelona with his family in 1895. There he entered the Llotja School of Fine Arts. But Picasso was already painting before that, since he was at least 10 years old. In that first stage, the young artist used a realistic style and, later, he made a series of paintings in which sentimental academicism was the norm. It was at this stage that he painted a famous painting called Ciencia y caridad, which received an honorable mention at the Universal Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid.
Why tell all this? Well, because Picasso’s works made between 1890 and 1917 are the ones that have the greatest presence in this museum, including the Ciencia y caridad, which the painter painted when he was only 16 years old. However, the first room of the building is not of paintings, but of jewelry. Because yes, Picasso also made jewelry. ‘Jewels are amulets that protect me. I like the magical power they have over me and others,’ the painter once said.
After this curious walk through one of the most unknown aspects of the artist, the tour through the permanent collection goes into Picasso’s early years. This stage, as already mentioned, is the one that will take the most time during the visit. Through these works, the visitor gets to know another side of Picasso, one for which he is less famous, but which marked the rest of his career. Afterwards, the rooms show other faces of the artist. Paintings from his blue period intermingle with a more impressionist and even pointillist period, when he painted portraits of Russian ballet dancers. In the middle, one of the rooms exhibits some ceramic objects, also the work of Málaga.
In the final part of the Picasso Museum awaits a room in which, deformed, it is possible to recognize Velázquez’s painting of Las Meninas on both canvases. The Málaga-born artist wanted to reinterpret this work over and over again in a game of experimentation that led him to make no less than 44 paintings. ‘If someone were to copy Las Meninas, totally in good faith, when they reached a certain point and if I were the one copying them, I would say: What if I put this one a little more to the right or to the left? I would try to do it my way, forgetting about Velázquez’, said the painter about this series. Thus, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona is, as mentioned at the beginning, a sample of how a child who painted like an adult became an adult who painted like a child.
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