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On the Trail of Picasso

Written by Laurence

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Picasso… better known simply as Pablo Picasso, is perhaps Spain’s most famous son. His life in Madrid is well documented, and the city is now home to some of his most famous artworks. ShMadrid tells you more on Picasso and where you can observe his works in Madrid.

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History Picasso

Photo by rocor via Visualhunt

Regarded as perhaps the greatest, most influential, and most controversial artist of the 20th century, Picasso’s works encompass a breathtaking array of media and styles, roughly divided into his blue period, rose period, African period, and cubism. Showing exceptional artistic talent from an early age, Picasso’s father sent him to art school at the age of 16. So it was that Picasso left Barcelona and made his home in Madrid for the first time, where he attended the San Fernando Royal Academy of Arts. Whilst he found the formal tuition stifling, it was the exposure to Madrid’s art treasures which most influenced the young Picasso, and set him on a course which was to change the art world forever. He would spend long days at the Prado Museum, admiring particularly the works of Velázquez, Goya, and El Greco; the latter influencing his own style greatly. Whilst Spain’s most comprehensive collection of Picasso’s works lies in Barcelona at the Museu Picasso, Madrid still exhibits a great many works by the artist.

Reina Sofia Museum

Perhaps Picassos’s most famous and controversial work, Guernica, is a massive mural-sized oil painting, depicting the bombing of the village of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The painting chaotically depicts people, animals, and buildings in destruction as a comment on the devastation of war. Whilst it helped bring attention to Spain’s plight, it cemented Picasso’s position as a powerful political enemy of the state. Picasso was adamant that the painting not be exhibited in his home country until after peace was restored, which meant the painting toured the world before finally finding a permanent home in Madrid in 1981. You can now see Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, as well as dozens of preliminary sketches and small paintings of the work. (Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012)

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Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Photo by jean louis mazieres via Visualhunt

The Thyssen-Bornemiza Museum contains many Picasso works, including some of his most well-known images. The Frugal Meal, from his early blue period, is a masterpiece depicting poverty stricken figures, based on experiences of his time in Montmartre in Paris. Harlequin with a Mirror is a well-known more classical-style Picasso work. Intended to be a self-portrait, the painting references the Italian commedia dell’arte characters, and at the same time, marks a return to the classical Italian style. Picasso depicted scenes of bullfighting in literally hundreds of his works, and his painting Bullfight from 1934 is a typical Picasso work in which violence and the psyche are at odds, the bull often representing the artist’s alter ego throughout his oeuvre. Cubism, in which objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form, was central to Picasso’s early output. A quintessential work of this style is on display at the Thyssen, Man with a Clarinet. A man with a clarinet is depicted, in a way in which only the most basic cube-like elements can be deciphered. (Paseo del Prado, 8, 28014)

San Fernando Royal Academy of Arts

Those on the trail of Picasso and his time in Madrid can also visit the Royal Academy of Arts, of which he is an alumnus. The Academy itself is an impressive building, which now functions as a gallery and museum of artworks spanning 6 centuries. Many of Picasso’s minor drawings and paintings are on display here, as are those of alumni Dalí, Goya, and de la Renta. It’s a great place to soak up the history of Picasso, who spent some of his formative years as a student in these very halls. (Calle de Alcalá, 13, 28014)

*Main photo by jean louis mazieres via Visualhunt

What is your opinion on Picasso’s life and work?

About the author


Laurence is an Australian expat, who has been living in Europe for about 10 years.

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