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Pablo Picasso would spend most of his life living in Paris as a result of the political situation in Spain. Lucky for Barcelona his father was an art teacher and got a job in Barcelona and took a young Pablo with him, which is why he would spend his formative years in Barcelona

Llotja School of Fine Arts

In 1895, aged 14, Picasso moved to Barcelona with his family and enrolled at the Llotja School of Fine Arts. His father had accepted a teaching post. Already a gifted painter, Picasso honed a technically accomplished style and won awards in his first year of study.

After a further two years studying classical art in Madrid, Picasso returned to Barcelona. He became unhappy with academia and wanted to explore a radical approach to creativity. Turning his back on his studies, Picasso looked for others who shared his taste for the abstract. His search led him to a decadent bar in the El Gotic area of the city, where a community of avant-garde artists and thinkers were redefining art.

Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats)

Opened in 1897, the Four Cats tavern was established by the Local artist Ramon Casas and his friend Pere Romeu. Two years later Picasso would become a regular, falling in with the modernists who would hang out in the bar.

His friends were influenced by the French art nouveau movement exploding out of Paris and Picasso moved away from a classical style in favour of simplified shapes, curved lines, and pastel colours. His signature style was beginning to take shape. In 1900 he staged his first solo exhibition at Els Quatre Gats, featuring a number of portraits of his friends.

The Blue Period

In 1901 a tragedy occurred that would shape Picasso’s artistic output for the next few years. Driven to despair over unrequited love, his friend Carles Casagemas committed suicide. He shoots himself in the head at the L’Hippodrome Café in Paris. The death of his friend affected Picasso in a serious way. He found release through his art, painting emotionally charged works in shades of blue.

The Picasso Museum

In 1960, Picasso directed his friend Jaume Sabartés to propose a museum to Barcelona City Council. Three years later the museum would open its doors.

Today the museum is visited by more than a million art and history lovers from around the world. It houses over 4000 works by Picasso covering the evolution of his work. The collection demonstrates the influence of Barcelona on the development of his creative process and his early works of art.

PRO tip – Book your Picasso tickets online and skip the very long queue. Get your Picasso museum tickets – here.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

In 1907 Picasso painted what would become one of the definitive works of the cubist movement. Heavily influenced by African tribal art, Picasso shunned traditional form, and kickstarting cubism in the process.

Picasso originally referred to the painting as Le Bordel d’Avignon. It was inspired by prostitutes working at a brothel located in Carrer d’Avinyó in the El Gotic neighbourhood of Barcelona. For fear of outraging the art world when it was first unveiled, exhibitor Andre Salmon renamed it Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The name change didn’t work. Upon its unveiling, the painting caused outrage.

It took nine months to complete Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and nine years for Picasso to showcase it. It caused an uproar, but Les Demoiselles d’Avignon today it is regarded as a true masterpiece of 20th-century art. One that was inspired by a street in Barcelona.

Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya

The friezes along the top of the Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya could be seen as modern street art. The friezes, completed in 1960, are the worlds onlfew free public pieces of Picasso art in the world.

Xavier Busquets i Sindreu, the architectural director of the project, became inspired by a mural created by Joan Miró in collaboration with Llorens Artigas who blended modern art and architecture. Due to the political situation in Spain, Picasso had been living in self-imposed exile from the city he loved so dearly. Therefore, Picasso would work from afar and the project would involve a large scale reproduction of his drawings.

The results are startling. Even now, almost 60 years later, the friezes draw admiration from art lovers visiting Barcelona.

Picasso and Barcelona – A love affair from afar

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish painter, in his studio. Paris, 1929.

Picasso moved to Paris in 1904 and spent the rest of his life pining for Barcelona. The political tensions meant that he felt unable to return to his country of birth or to the city where his artistic freedom was realised.

Dictator General Franco emerged victorious in the Spanish Civil War and Picasso never returned to Spain again. His anger at the political situation was channelled into creating perhaps his most famous painting – Guernica.

Picasso died two years before General Franco died but his legacy lives on, especially in Barcelona, where his visionary creative spirit continues to inspire new generations of artists.

“A painting is not intended to decorate a drawing room but is instead a weapon of attack and defence against the enemy.”

 Pablo Picasso

Written by – Ryan Osborne

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