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The city's claim to Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) has been contested by Málaga (the painter's birthplace), as well as by Madrid, where La Guernica hangs, and by the town of Gernika, victim of the 1937 Luftwaffe saturation bombing that inspired the famous canvas. Picasso, an anti-Franco opponent after the war, refused to return to Franco's Spain. In turn, the regime allowed no public display of Picasso's work until 1961, when the artist's Sardana frieze at Barcelona's Architects' Guild was unveiled. Picasso never set foot on Spanish soil for his last 39 years.
Picasso spent a sporadic but formative period of his youth in Barcelona between 1895 and 1904, when he moved to Paris. His father was an art professor at the Reial Acadèmia de Belles Arts in La Llotja. Picasso, a precocious draftsman, began advanced classes there at 15. The 19-year-old Picasso first exhibited at Els Quatre Gats, a tavern still thriving on Carrer Montsió. His early Cubist painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was inspired not by the French town but by the Barcelona street Carrer d'Avinyó, then known for its brothel. After moving to Paris, Picasso returned occasionally to Barcelona until his last visit in 1934. Considering the artist's off-and-on tenure, it is remarkable that the city and Picasso should be so intertwined in the world's perception. The Picasso Museum, while an excellent visit, is perhaps fourth (after the Miró, the MNAC, and the MACBA) on any art connoisseur's list of Barcelona galleries.
Iconoserveis Culturals (Avda. Porta de l'Àngel 38, 4–2, Barri Gòtic 93/410–1405 www.iconoserveis.com) gives walking tours through the key spots in Picasso's Barcelona life, covering studios, galleries, family apartments, and the painter's favorite haunts and hangouts.
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