Both Malaga and Barcelona have long claimed Pablo Picasso as their own, with the result that both boast an impressive Picasso Museum, and each city offers a unique historical tour that sheds light on the famous artist's life and time.
Though he was born in Malaga, Picasso lived off and on in the Barcelona between the years 1895 and 1904, before leaving Spain altogether for the bohemian art scene in Paris. The Picasso Museum Barcelona, while well worth the visit, is really only the third or fourth stop on any art buffs tour of Barcelona. Barcelona's Picasso Museum is composed largely from the private collection of the artist's longtime friend, Jaume Sabartes.
After much wrangling with the fascist Franco regime, Barcelona's Picasso Museum finally opened in 1966. The Picasso Museum highlights include: Picasso's childhood drawings made in La Coruna between the ages of 10 and 14; his blue period paintings; and his 44 cubist Las Meninas studies. The art historian looking to better understand Picasso's life in Barcelona should take a walking tour of the artist's life, which includes the Picasso family apartments, and the artist's favorite haunts.
The most intimate Picasso Museum in Spain is the Museo Picasso in the Andalucian city of Malaga where the artist was born. This museum houses the works Picasso gave to family and friends or kept for himself, including Olga Kokhlova con Mantilla, a protrait of his certifiably insane first wife painted in 1917. Most of the works in the collection were donated by the artist's daughter-in-law and grandson. Also of interest is the museum itself—a former palace where Roman and Moorish artifacts were unearthed and are now on display.
In addition to the Picasso Museum, art aficionados can tour the artists childhood home, which has been furnished in the style of the area and contains a permanent exhibition of Picasso's early sketches and sculptures.
Though it doesn't have a specific Picasso Museum, Madrid is home to Guernica, Picasso's most famous work. The grim black and white canvas is a shocking portrayal of the bombing of the basque village of Gernika by German Luftwaffe, acting in concert with the fascist forces of general Francisco Franco, during the Spanish Civil War. The painting is magnificently displayed at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia located at the end of the Paseo de Prado. Surrounding the painting are preliminary studies and sketches that provide a revealing look at how the work developed. Guernica was first exhibited in Paris in 1937, as part of the Spanish Republican section of the Paris International Exhibition. It later went on loan to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Picasso promised that only when democracy was restored to Spain would Guernica be returned. In addition to Guernica, the Reina Sofia houses a number of Picasso's Cubist and Paris School work an is arguably as complete a retrospective as any Picasso museum in Spain.
So whether you find yourself in Barcelona, Malaga or Madrid, you are never far away from a Picasso museum in Spain.
Image: Museu Picasso, Barcelona 2010/Ronald Stallard