The Pablo Picasso Museum in Barcelona
The Pablo Picasso Museum in Barcelona is unique because it is just here that one can trace all the stages of development, transformation and perfection of the genius in art of the 20th century.
The artist was born in the south of Spain in Malaga on October 25, 1881 into the family of a teacher of painting Jose Ruiz y Blasco and his wife Maria Picasso y Lopez. Pablo Picasso revealed his gift for painting rather early and his father taught him to draw. Once, when the family already lived in La Coruna, happened the following: the father – the teacher of his son understood that his pupil had already surpassed him in painting and he could not give his son any more knowledge. Moreover, it was not the only thing – the son was able to give lessons to his father! Seeing this, the father handed over to Pablo all the brushes, the pallet and the paints and gave up painting as a creative activity for good, and since that moment, he had devoted himself only to teaching. Soon Picasso’s father received the position of a teacher of painting in Barcelona.
At the Barcelona School of Fine Arts “La Lonja”, Pablo Picasso studied the art of drawing on the strict principles of the academic style of painting ascending to Renaissance. Nevertheless, the idle of his creative quest has always been the great Velazques.
“We know, – said the author of “Guernica”, – that art is not truth. Art is a lie, which brings us nearer to truth. At least to the truth that is subject to our understanding. An artist should find for himself a method to convince the public in the authenticity of his imagination”.
The museum displays a wonderful collection of the artist’s early work. Only it is hard to recognize the brushwork of the great master in them because they have been executed in the classical academic manner of painting. At the age of 14-15, Picasso painted with such a skillfully professional technique that he even could compete with eminent artists of his time. In the hall of the early work is exhibited the canvas “The First Communion”, which had been included into a competition show exhibition together with the works of well-known masters and was honoured with a diploma at the Exhibition of Fine Arts in Madrid! And Picasso was only 16-years old then! Another work: “Science and Charity” also surprises by its realism, in which it is next to impossible to determine the brushwork of the future author of “The Avignon Girls”, which, due to its symbolically realistic depiction of the plot, reminds most probably the style of the Russian Itinerant Artists.
In the hall of his early work, there is a fine portrait of the artist’s mother (1896) painted after her photographs and his recollections, because when he began creating the portrait Maria Picasso y Lopez had already been dead. Of great interest is his self-portrait painted when Picasso was 15-years old. Here also we can see the portraits of his father.
Once, being already a grown-up man, Picasso after having visited an exhibition of children’s drawings expressed one of his most famous phrases: “At their age I painted as Rafael did, but I needed to live my whole life to learn how to draw as a child”.
It is interesting that all his early paintings Picasso signed by his double surname: Pablo Ruiz Picasso. The artist began to use the signature “Picasso” only after having moved to Paris. There were several reasons for that. Firstly, the word “Ruiz” is hard for the French pronunciation. Moreover, the surname “Ruiz” is rather widespread and typical in Spain. Secondly, Picasso was advised to find a pleasantly sounding and an eye-catching title-name.
In Barcelona until now there is a tavern “The Four Cats”, which was open in 1897 in a building specially built for it in the Neo-Gothic style that became a meeting place of the Barcelona celebrity of the late 19th – early 20th century. Its keeper – Pere Romeu – regularly organized art exhibitions and night musical concerts. It was there that the first exhibition of the artist’s works took place. In the tavern gathered brilliant artists, poets, critics, playwrights, intellectuals such as: Antonio Miro, Salvador Dali, Casas, Rusinol, Ramon Pichot, Miguell Utrillo, and Joaquin Mir. There Picasso got acquainted with Jaime Sabartes who was a critic, producer and organizer of exhibitions and galleries. It was Jaime Sabartes, who established the Pablo Picasso Museum. Moreover, all his lifelong he was the artist’s best friend and his full-time private secretary.
The Museum – being the only one of its kind – was established in the artist’s lifetime. It opened its doors on May 9, 1963 in the Berger Aguilera Gothic Palace of the 12th century.
The first display presented in the Museum was the private collection of Picasso’s work, which belonged to Jaime Sabartes. In 1970, Pablo Picasso presented the Museum with nearly a thousand of his paintings.
“I do not search for, I find”, spoke the artist. At the age of 19, Picasso went to Paris, which at that moment was the center of Post-Modernist art. In the Barcelona Museum, this period of Picasso’s creative activity is presenter by rather interesting works executed in a changed already manner of painting. Without any doubt, the influence of the Montmartre artists could not but affect young Picasso. In his two works: “The End of the Item” and “Adventurists” (1901) we can trace the influence of Tulosue-Lautrec. And in paintings “La Nana” (1901) we can guess Cezanne’s manner.
The hall of the “Blue Period” is unique due to the number of the collected items, which illustrate this creative stage of the artist. The “Blue Period” stretched from 1901 to 1904 and became metamorphoses of Picasso’s manner of self-expression. It was a very gloomy and depressing period for Picasso’s spirits and state of mind. Melancholy, disappointment, lifelessness of images, illusiveness of space and object – to render these frames of mind the artist chose the pale-blue tones. On the canvases there is much soul but few forms. Such works as “Mother with a Sick Child” (?), “Barcelona Rooftops”, or the painting “ Old Jew”, which are kept in the “Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts” in Moscow have imprinted a new, peculiar style that made the work of the 19-year-old youth independent and original.
Nevertheless, having passed into the next hall of the Museum where the works of the “Rose Period” are presented, we hardly recognize the brushwork of the artist. Here we see tremendous pieces “La Salchichona” (1917) and the “Portrait of Madame Canals” (1905), in which the colours have acquired accuracy, the vision of the surrounding world has become less gloomy, the soft pastel tones, ochre hues and the elegance of depiction prove that the artist had found motives of calmness and happiness. The “Rose Period” began in the summer of 1904 and lasted until 1905.
Of great interest is the hall containing the artist’s works, which reflect his acquaintance with Diaghilev in 1916 and the dancers of the Russian ballet. It was Jean Cocteau, who acquainted them. Picasso, working with “Diaghilev’s Russian Seasons”, designed sceneries, costumes and the curtain for the performance “Parade”, sceneries for “Cocked Hat” and “Pullchinella”. In 1918, Picasso married he Russian ballerina Olga Hohlova. To this period of the artist’s creative life are referred the paintings “Personage in the Spirits of Cubism”, “Fruit Bowl”, “A Figure in an Armchair” and “Blanciti Suarez”.
Picasso’s long years of searching and hard work resulted in the discovery of Cubism by him. His first work in this style – the canvas “The Avignon Girls” is held in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The subject matter of the painting is the depiction of the girls of one of the Barcelona brothels in Avignon Street. “Cubism, - said the artist, - doesn’t differ from other artistic schools. All of them are united by the same principles and elements. The fact that Cubism for a long time was not understood does not mean that it has not its own value. Well, if I do not know the German language and the pages written in German seem to me as “black on white”, it does not mean that the German language does not exist; I will not accuse the author of these pages of anything; I will accuse myself.
Museum’s special pride is the “Meninas” hall.Here they display Picasso’s work dated from 1957. It is a hall of wonderful paintings, which interpret Velazques’s great creation “The Meninas or the family of Phillip the Fourth” painted by the great Spanish artist in 1656. They turn the Museum into a unique place for studying the creative process of Picasso’s genius. In his work “The Meninas”, Picasso enters into conversation with the author of one of the masterpieces of world art and risks to show the reverse side of the standards o classical fine arts. 58 paintings of the series “The Meninas” were painted during/within 4 months.
A rich collection of Picasso’s production is displayed in the Ceramics hall. Picasso became interested in ceramics at the age of 60, in 1947.
Besides canvases, the Museum holds sculptures that were made by Picasso from 1902 to 1960. The collection of sculptures includes”Harlequin”, “Pablo in Harlequin’s Costume”, “Harlequin’s Head”. Many of the artist’s sculptures first were painted on canvas and then embodied in plastic forms. Picasso the sculptor worked in different materials – in iron, bronze, gypsum; the author tinted some of his sculptures.
Besides paintings, ceramics and sculptures Picasso is the author of 2200 engravings, etchings, lithographs, engravings in the technique of “a dry needle” and prints. The artist used a great variety of techniques and materials: copper, stone, linoleum, wood, celluloid and using either feathers and brushes, or pencils depicted on the chosen material motifs taken from the Spanish Golden Age, images of mythical characters and women.
Indisputably, as a master and genius of the 20th - century art, Picasso established himself in France, nevertheless his Spanish roots and the national character, the childhood spent in Spain, the impact of his father - the artist and of the traditions of the bourgeois family – all these inseparable factors modeled the features of Picasso’s personality. A special, dynamic way of the artist’s searching goes through all the items of the Museum, in the light of which one can only guess in what miraculous way ideas were born, why the style was constantly changing, what made Picasso plunge into the everlasting search for his own vision of the world and the man in it.
“All that has been created by me, - asserted he at the age of 76, when he was already deservedly considered the greatest artist of the 20th century, - is only the initial step put onto the long way. It is only a prior process that would be developed much later. That is why my works should always be considered in the context of their interrelation with each other, remembering what I have created and what I will create”.
He never stopped his work even being rather advanced in age. At the age of 88 he displayed 140 canvases in the Popes’ Palace in Avignon; the following year, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, in the Louvre were exhibited several items of the world famous artist. Picasso passed away on April 8, 1973, at the age of 93.
Author: Ekaterina Shutova
Translator: Nicholay Zapyatkin