Picasso's Barcelona (Self Guided), Barcelona

Pablo Picasso – the great Spanish painter and sculptor – developed his style in Barcelona where he spent the formative years of his life. It is said that when Picasso spoke nostalgically of home, he always meant Spain, especially the Catalonian capital. This self-guided walk will take you to the Picasso Museum, the bar-restaurant and the art gallery where his works were first displayed to the public, and other bohemian sites associated with the Modernist master's life.
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Picasso's Barcelona Map

Guide Name: Picasso's Barcelona
Guide Location: Spain » Barcelona (See other walking tours in Barcelona)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Llotja de Barcelona
  • Passeig d'Isabel II, 4
  • Carrer de la Plata, 4
  • Carrer Avinyo 44
  • Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 10
  • Sala Pares
  • Col·legi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya
  • 4 Gats (Els Quatre Gats)
  • Carrer del Comerç, 28
  • Homage to Picasso (by Antoni Tapies)
  • Picasso Museum
1
Llotja de Barcelona

1) Llotja de Barcelona

Originally built in the 14th century, this edifice has been used for a number of purposes, all of which have been linked with trade and seafaring life. Former seat of institutions such as the Consulate of the Sea, the Royal Assembly of Commerce and the Barcelona Stock Exchange, it is now the corporate headquarters of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce.

Much of the original Gothic interior has been preserved, including the trading room, and the magnificent two-tier Consuls' Hall.

***PICASSO'S BARCELONA***
Pablo Picasso entered the School of Fine Arts (Escola de Llotja) in 1895 aged 13. At the time, the school – where his father, Don José taught – occupied the top floor of the building. In fact, though he was younger than his classmates, Don José managed to get Pablo enrolled in advanced classes after the teen submitted a pair of charcoal drawings of a live model to a panel of art teachers. Whereas most students usually worked for four weeks on the two important sketches, Pablo completed them within a week (the drawings are still kept in the school's archival collection.)
2
Passeig d'Isabel II, 4

2) Passeig d'Isabel II, 4

Having arrived by boat from La Coruña to Barcelona in 1895, the Ruiz y Picasso family first settled on Passeig d'Isabel II, conveniently located near the port and across the street from the Llotja building where father José Ruiz y Blasco was to teach figure drawing and young Pablo – nearing his 14th birthday – was to be a student.

Barcelona was alive with ideas, politics, and art, and many Catalans were showing interest in "modernismo" – a new intellectual movement at the time. When not strolling through the city, Pablo would often go up on the building's roof to survey the urban landscape, taking inspiration for paintings such as "Rooftop of Les Cases d’En Xifré" (his first in Barcelona) and others that would form part of the Museu Picasso collection.
3
Carrer de la Plata, 4

3) Carrer de la Plata, 4

In 1896 Picasso received rave reviews for his work "The First Communion", presented at the Third Exhibition of Arts and Artistic Industries in Barcelona. This encouraged his father to rent a workshop for him at No. 4 of La Plata Street in the Ribera neighborhood, near the family home on the La Mercè Street.

It was in this workshop where a 15/16-year-old Picasso painted many of his early works, including the famous "Science and Charity", His sister Lola (shown sick in bed) and his father (posing as the doctor at her bedside) were Pablo's models. The painting – very realistic in style – won a prize at an exhibit in Madrid. Pablo had beaten some of Spain's best artists!

Today this is a luxury boutique hotel called Hotel Serras, which pays tribute to the artist with a Picasso Suite.
4
Carrer Avinyo 44

4) Carrer Avinyo 44

An old street in the center of Barcelona, Carrer Avinyo is famous for the brothel at number 44, which was said to have inspired Picasso’s groundbreaking painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" ("The Young Ladies of Avignon"), which marked the painter's movement toward cubism – a style of art where objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form. Creating it changed Pablo's understanding of painting, and though initially not well received, cubism would eventually become one of the most important art movements of the 20th century.

You can still find the former brothel's site on Carrer Avinyo. Nowadays, the area is best known for its numerous restaurants and cafes; however, the typically narrow medieval street has largely retained the magnificent atmosphere of Picasso's period.
5
Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 10

5) Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 10

Between 1901-04, Pablo moved back and forth between Barcelona and Paris. During this time, the artist painted primarily in shades of blue, having abandoned his lighter, more colorful style, largely influenced by the impressionists' works. His paintings were not selling well, however, and he was forced to live in cheap hotel rooms and run-down apartments.

The studio in the Raval neighborhood, which he rented in 1902 with painter Josep Rocarol and sculptor Angel Fernandez de Soto, was situated at the top of the building. Here, Picasso painted roof terraces and drew sketches of singers at the variety hall just next door. Some of the other recurring subjects in his depression-driven "Blue Period" were poverty, addiction, and the female nude.
6
Sala Pares

6) Sala Pares

Situated at Carrer Petritxol in the Gothic Quarter – a great neighborhood known for beautiful architecture to explore and photograph – Sala Parés is considered as one of the most historic art galleries in Barcelona. Initially an art store, established in 1840 by Joan Parés, it slowly evolved into a gallery and formally became one in 1877. With a long and prestigious history, three well-lit public display areas and a separate salon for private owners, Sala Parés is freely accessible and easy to navigate. Among other things, it is famed for being the gallery where Picasso presented his first commercial exhibition in 1901 at the age of 20.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 4–8pm; Tue-Sat: 10:30am–2pm / 4–8pm; Sun (Oct-Mar): 11:30am–2pm
7
Col·legi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya

7) Col·legi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya

Opposite the Cathedral of Barcelona is the College of Catalan Architects featuring on its facade the scaled versions of three friezes by Pablo Picasso. Originally on paper, the friezes – Children, Giants, and Flag – were set in stone by Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjar and thus are the only Picasso's artworks displayed outdoors. On the Carrer Capellans side, the frieze depicts the Cors de Clavé, the groups from the hermitage of Sant Medir and the “fauns” of Arrabassada and Les Planes.

Tip:
The coffee shop at level 2 offers a reasonable week-days menu (with many first and second options) at a very affordable price.
8
4 Gats (Els Quatre Gats)

8) 4 Gats (Els Quatre Gats)

One of the most historic bar-restaurants in the city of Barcelona, Els 4 Gats (or, "The Four Cats") was opened in 1897, initially featuring a restaurant, a pub, a cabaret, as well as accommodation in the form of a hostel. It was for turn-of-the-century Catalan modernism what cafés like La Rotonde were for artists in 1920s Paris: a meeting place to trade theories of art, engage in wine-fueled debates and see exhibits of then-unknown artists like Pablo Picasso.

Reopened at the same site in 1989, El 4 Gats is nowadays more of a meeting place for tourists than for artists and intellectuals, but still worth a stop to have a quick drink or a meal in downtown Barcelona. The décor is straight out of the epoch and a couple of the waiters look like they're from the era, too! Order a fairly-priced glass of wine, vermouth, or a "licor de hierbas" (pomace brandy) and take the opportunity to soak up the bar's unique and historic atmosphere.

They also serve well-cooked lobster paella and some rather sinful desserts such as the "textures of chocolate" (i.e. three different types of chocolate desserts in one) or you could go for the delicately smooth and not overly sweet "crema catalana" (Spain's version of crème brûlée).

***PICASSO'S BARCELONA***
In 1900, the painter had his first one-man show here. The special exhibition of his artwork featured more than 50 portraits of friends and family and another 60 or so drawings and paintings, at last earning him some critical attention.

Opening Hours:
[Breakfast] 9–11:30am; [Gastrobar] 11:30am–12am; [Restaurant] 1–4pm / 7–12am
9
Carrer del Comerç, 28

9) Carrer del Comerç, 28

Picasso’s last studio in Barcelona was lent him by Catalan sculptor Pau Gargallo, who was in charge of decorating many of the city's amazing modernist projects. The same building housed the studio of painter Isidre Nonell, who would influence Picasso's work not so much with regard to style, but rather with thematic and conceptual affinity. Picasso used the studio until he finally moved to Paris in April 1904 – this time for good.
10
Homage to Picasso (by Antoni Tapies)

10) Homage to Picasso (by Antoni Tapies)

The street they named for Picasso – though not particularly fashionable or glamourous – is in the area the painter knew best, close to his family's apartments, the art school where his father taught drawing (and where he studied for a short while), the studios he had as an emerging painter, and the bars he frequented.

Here also, on the edge of the Parc de la Ciutadella, stands the monument to him commissioned by Barcelona’s city council in 1981 and made by Catalan artist Antoni Tapies. Filled with mystery, a glass box in a pool of water contains an uncompromising assemblage of modernist furniture reminiscent of Picasso's era. Resisting meaning, or easy interpretation, it is an exciting piece of public sculpture that stands for the strong connection between the artist and the city.

White sheets inside the cube have quotations by Picasso written on them in Catalan, notably the following;
“a painting is not intended to decorate a drawing room but is instead a weapon of attack and defence against the enemy”
11
Picasso Museum

11) Picasso Museum (must see)

The ultimate place to observe early Picasso is the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Opened in 1961, this museum showcases over 4,300 works of the great master at his early stage, reflecting the intimacy of his relationship with Barcelona, the city that shaped his personality and largely influenced his art.

Picasso always wanted to “imprint himself” through artwork in the tapestry of Barcelona. That wish fortunately materialized, courtesy of his colleagues and friends, particularly Jaime Sabartés, adorning the city with the works of one of the greatest artists ever lived.

Although most of the pieces presented here are Picasso's first attempts at art, the overall collection looks quite impressive. It spans the period from 1917 and includes one of Picasso's best-known series, Las Meninas. In 2008, the museum put on display a large collection of Picasso’s prints.

If you take interest in Picasso's work and want to see his progression from a very young age to adulthood, manifested in paintings, sculpture, ceramics and other forms, do visit this museum.

Tip:
And if you do visit, make sure to explore the museum shop as some of the items offered are quite interesting and not available anywhere else.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 10am-5pm; Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 9am-8:30pm; Thu: 9am-9:30pm (Mar 16–Oct 31);
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 9am-7pm; Thu: 9am-9:30pm (Nov 1–Dec31)

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