Although Barcelona is normally thought of as Gaudi’s architectural canvas, one of the XXth Century’s premier artists developed his craft here. He was Pablo Picasso, the creator of Cubism and the painting Guernica. His lifetime opposition to the late dictator Franco delayed a celebration and welcome as befits his achievements, but thanks to one of his closest friends, Jaume Sabartes, we, the art-loving public, have a place to appreciate his artistic talents that touched on so many artistic fields. This place is the Picasso Museum that holds more than 3500 works and revels in describing a relationship between a man and a city.
Picasso lived in Barcelona between 1895 and 1904. He arrived with his parents at the age of 14. His first studio was at Carrer de la Plata 4, although he would often move or share studios with friends. One of the artistically relevant locations to this period and to Spanish art as a whole was the Els Quatre Gats tavern where he met and conversed with many like-minded artists looking for change. His departure in 1904 marked a certain fatigue with its artistic but not urban atmosphere, as he would often return for brief visits. He felt indebted to the city and wanted to impart an artistic legacy. His friend and private secretary, Jaume Sabartes, fulfilled that wish when the museum officially opened on the 9th of March 1963.
Picasso’s prolificacy is apparent in the number and quality of pieces that were donated to the museum by Sabartés and by Picasso upon its opening and up to Picasso’s own death in 1973; for instance, Sabartes gave his whole collection and Picasso donated the Blue Portrait of Jaume Sabartes (1901) and Las Meninas series after Sabartes died over to the museum. Such a growth in the number of pieces meant the museum quickly grew out of its first address at the Palau Aguilar and other neighbouring buildings, such as the Baron of Castellet’s palace, the Palau Meca, the Casa Mauri and the Palau Finestres, had to be taken over successively with the last two occurring in 1999. The former three hold the permanent collections, while the latter two contain only temporary exhibitions.
Following an agreement with the Barcelona city council on the 27th of July 1960 to create a museum of Picasso’s art, the museum opened under the name of the Sabartés Collection, because of Picasso’s strong opposition to Franco’s regime. It initially included Sabartés’ personal collection and the collection of Picasso’s works from other art museums in Barcelona. The pieces are organized in three sections: painting and drawing, engraving and ceramics. These cover principally the early years of Picasso’s artistic life, such as his Blue Period from 1901 to 1904, but his family and friends would bequest or loan other later pieces as he would as well. Picasso’s last personal bequest was of 920 varied works in 1970.
If you are not satisfied with what the Picasso museum has to offer on Picasso’s art, although do not admit this publicly, you can visit the Architects’ Association of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands and admire the friezes on the façade that are based on drawings by Picasso depicting popular Catalan subjects. There is also the Ceramics Museum that displays a series of sixteen pieces donated by the artist in 1957.
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