Born in Malaga, Pablo Ruiz Picasso came to Barcelona (Spain) in 1894 at the age of thirteen because his father had been hired as a teacher at Llotja, the city’s School of Fine Arts. Picasso, although a teenager, as a child prodigy, studied in Llotja. In Barcelona he would become a man, mature artistically and leave in 1904 for Paris. Barcelona had a huge effect on the artist. The Catalan capital was in a period of huge economical growth and was embracing progressive ideas about art and society. The main expression of these groundbreaking and progressive ideas was the cultural movement of Modernisme. Modernisme, also known as Catalan Modernism, was an art and literature movement associated with the search of a new entitlement of Catalan culture. The always productive artist created thousands of sketches and paintings inspired by the city and under the strong influence of Modernisme.
During a walk in Ciutat Vella (the old city of Barcelona), you come across some of the places and buildings that played an important role in his early life. Our walk starts at Placa de Catalunya and ends at the impressive Museu Picasso.
At Carrer de Montsio, at No. 3 is the Els Quatre Gats cafe bar. The cafe became a popular meeting place for famous artists throughout the modernist period in Catalonia. It opened on June 12, 1897, at the famous Casa Marti (an important example of Modernisme), and served as a guest house, bar and cabaret, until it finally became a meeting place for Barcelona’s most prominent modernist figures, such as Pablo Picasso and Ramon Casas I Carbo. Picasso made his first art exhibition in the cafe, while he also created the cafe’s catalog.
Our next stop is Placa Nova. At No. 5 of the square is the building of Col-legi d’ Arquitectes de Catalunya, the facades of which are works by the Norwegian Carl Nesjar and represent the Catalan sardine dance, based on Picasso designs by the same theme.
Also on Placa Nova, at the intersection of Avinguda de la Catedral with Via Laietana, was Carrer de la Riera de Sant Joan (the street no longer exists), where in 1900 Picasso maintained a studio with Carles Casagemas. In fact, two paintings from this period depict the view from the studio’s window.
From Placa Nova we follow the road to the picturesque Placa del Pi. At the corner of Placa del Pi, opposite the entrance of Santa Maria del Pi, begins the narrow medieval street Carrer Petritxol (known for the granjas – chocolate shops). On this street, at No. 5, Sala Pares hosted many exhibitions by Picasso and other young painters of the same period.
After Sala Pares, we follow La Rambla until we reach Placa Reial. In the area around Placa Reial, and specifically in the Carrer dels Escudellers Blancs (a street just behind the square), was Picasso’s studio during 1899. While working in this studio, he met and visited prostitute women of the nearby Carrer d’ Avinyo, who later became the inspiration for the masterpiece The Young Ladies of Avignon.
Near Placa Reial on the opposite side of La Rambla starts Carrer Nou de la Rambla. At No. 10 of the street, Picasso shared a studio with Angel Fernandez de Soto and Josep Rocarol during 1902.
At the end of La Rambla, we find the Placa del Portal de la Pau, dominated by Monument a Colom, the monument to Columbus, which marks the place where the famous sailor and explorer disembarked on his return from the New World in 1493. From this point starts on the right the coastal boulevard Passeig de Colom. At No. 22, at the Ranzini Hotel, lived Picasso’s first great love and first wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, whom the painter visited daily. Picasso depicted in one of his paintings the view from the room of his beloved, in which the monument of Columbus is visible.
Next to Passeig de Colom is Passeig de Isabel II. On this street, at No. 4 (on the ground floor), was the first house where the Picasso family settled when they came to the city. On the first parallel road to the sea, in Carrer de Cristina, at No. 3 was the second home of the family.
Also at No. 1, Passeig de Isabell II is the Llotja building (which today houses Reial Academia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi), where Picasso studied and his father was a teacher. A few streets from here is Carrer la Plata, where Picasso’s first studio was rented by his father when he was 14 years old. In this studio, he created his first major works (such as Science and Charity).
Finally, we arrive at the Museu Picasso at Carrer de Montcada. The museum is home to one of the most extensive art collections by Pablo Picasso. With more than 3,500 works, the museum has the most complete body of work by the painter. The museum is housed in five neighbouring medieval palaces. It opened to the public on March 9, 1963, and became the first museum dedicated to Picasso’s work and the only one created during the artist’s life. It has since been declared a museum of national interest by the Government of Catalonia. The highlights of the collection include two of its first major works, The First Society (1896), and Science and Charity (1897). Specifically, the Picasso Museum reveals Picasso’s relationship with its city Barcelona, a relationship formed in his youth and adolescence, and continued until his death.
Paintings by Picasso during his Barcelona period (from the left) : The First Communion (1896), Science and Charity (1897) and The Roofs of Barcelona (1903)
During a visit to Barcelona look around for the traces of the famous painter and discover the places that played an important role in his artistic maturity.