The Fabulous Museum of Picasso, Barcelona

Eclipsing Picasso Museums in Paris and Malaga, Barcelona’s Museu Picasso traces the artist’s early progress inexorably toward brilliant maturity.

Although originally hailing from Malaga in the south of Spain, and going on to perfect his art in Paris and the South of France, Pablo Picasso’s years spent in Barcelona had a profound impact on his creative development – and form the foundation for the city’s Museu Picasso, one of the most enlightening and successful public collections of the artist’s work.

Picasso Early WorksPicasso moved with his family to the thriving Mediterranean port of Barcelona in 1895 at the age of fourteen. There he began studying painting at La Lonja art academy, where his father taught.

The Museu traces Picasso’s progress from his juvenile works of the 1890s, which reveal fascinating insight into the young artist’s influences, notably Toulouse-Lautrec; toward the inexorable creative explosion of Cubism; and beyond, with the addition of later works including an extensive collection of ceramics donated by his widow Jacqueline Roque in 1982 and, most spectacularly, his entire Las Meninas cycle of 1957-58, donated by the artist himself in memory of his great friend and personal secretary, Jaume Sabartés.

Picasso Sabartés Barcelona
The Museu Picasso in fact owes its very existence to this key figure in Picasso’s life. The Catalan Sabartés first met the young Picasso on his arrival in Barcelona, and a lifelong friendship (and later professional association) began.

In 1963, Sabartés donated his personal collection of Picasso paintings to the city of Barcelona, forming the nucleus of the Museu Picasso – the only Picasso museum created within the artist’s lifetime.

In 1968 Picasso honoured his friend’s memory by giving the museum a series of 58 paintings reinterpreting the iconic Spanish masterpiece Las Meninas (Diego Vélazquez, 1656, oil on canvas).

Las Meninas Series
The Museu Picasso devotes three galleries to the Las Meninas series, including an ingenious video display graphically superimposing Picasso’s work with Vélazquez’s. The prodigious undertaking is composed of 58 works created over a period of months in 1957-58 in the artist’s South of France studio.

Taking as a starting point the idea that even a composition as iconic and seemingly irreproachable as the Vélazquez masterpiece is open to artistic reinterpretation, Picasso’s Las Meninas series uses 20th century artistic innovation married to the artist’s unique style and sensibility to analyze, deconstruct and radically reinterpret Vélazquez’s tableau.

Studies of each figure – most prolifically, that of the Intifada, so central to both the original and re-imagined works – recast features and attitudes in modern terms of shifting planes, multiple perspectives and non-localized colour, while the whole adheres strictly to Vélazquez’s composition, essential geometry, characterization and spatial integrity. The result is imaginative, playful, spectacular, irreverent and revolutionary – with all the hallmarks of Picasso painting at its best.

The Museu Picasso is located on Carrer de Montcada in Barcelona’s El Born district, and is open most days from 10am to 8pm.