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. Fervently anti-Franco, Picasso refused to return to Spain after the Civil War; in turn, the regime allowed no public display of his work until 1961, when the artist’s Sardana frieze on Barcelona’s Architects’ Guild building 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, after which he moved to Paris. His father was an art professor at the Reial Acadèmia de Belles Arts in La Llotja—where his son, a precocious draftsman, began advanced classes at the age of 15. The 19-year-old Picasso first exhibited at Els Quatre Gats, a tavern on Carrer Montsió that looks today much as it did then. His early Cubist painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was inspired not by the French town but by the Barcelona street Carrer d’Avinyó, then infamous for its brothels. 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, deservedly high on the list of the city’s must-see attractions, is perhaps fourth (after the Miró, the MNAC, and the MACBA) on any connoisseur’s roster of Barcelona art collections.
Iconoserveis Culturals (Av. Portal de l’Àngel 38, 4º–2ª, Born-Ribera 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. Groups up to 20: Weekdays €220, weekends €265.
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