Picasso and Barcelona: where everything started

It is not enough to know the works of an artist. You also have to know when they’re doing them, why, how and, in what circumstances (Pablo Picasso).

The Picasso artistic bases begin in Barcelona. In this city we find the when, the why, how and, in what circumstances were decisive towards an unprecedented artistic career. I invite you to watch this video that shows the transcendence of the artist in the artistic scene.


The Ruiz Picasso family moved to live in Barcelona in 1895. They had previously lived in Málaga and la Coruña, two provincial cities at that time. When Picasso arrives in Barcelona, 14 years old, he finds a modern and dynamic city. Barcelona’s outbreak towards the modernity began in 1888, at the Universal Exhibition. This led to technological advances in industry and science, the creation and restoration of neighborhoods, the embellishment of the city through public sculptures. The industrialization and the economic development made increase the bourgeoisie, which was eager for modernity, science, art, and culture.

In painting, in the mid-1880s there was an aesthetic taste for Naturalism, social realism, and the historicist tradition. There is an aesthetic inclination for academicism in drawing, composition and a color palette marked by ocher and black. Aesthetic procedures very much to the taste of bourgeois clients. Within this aesthetic conservative current, the large canvases that Picasso made with only 15 years that are in Picasso Museum Barcelona: The First Communion and Science and Charity. In these works, one can appreciate the compositional, chromatic and expressive genius of a very young man. Both won national awards and this gave enormous confidence to the very young artist. Confidence that aroused the vision to leave academic art and launch new proposals. http://www.bcn.cat/museupicasso/en/collection/mpb110-046.html

Along with this academic and conservative current, a group of Barcelona’s artists, Ramon Casas (1866-1932) and Santiago Rusiñol (1861-1961), the most important modernist painters, will introduce a modern art, inspired by the new French currents of the moment. Both traveled to Paris in the 1890s. There they absorbed the new tendencies of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Back in Barcelona, they bring with them the new art and two fundamental concepts of modernity. On the one hand, the concept of a new artist who paints what he wants by leaving orders as the main part of his artistic activity. Second, the bohemian, understanding this as the carefree life, the joy of living, the halls, the cafes, the nightlife.

With the Bohemia, the artists mentioned together with Miguel Utrillo and Pere Romeu promote the opening of the café-brewery Els Quatre Gats. Local inspired by Le Chat Noir de Paris where gatherings and actions around freedom and creative sincerity were encouraged. This place was a meeting point for modernist artists such as Casas and Rusiñol and members of a new generation such as Nonell, Opisso, Manolo Hugue and the young Picasso with his circle of friends.

The influence of modernist artists on Picasso was enormous, not only on an artistic level but also on the concept of the artist, art for art, bohemian life and the conquest of Paris.

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