The birth and creation of the Museu Picasso was not easy in a country and a city in which there were quite a few collectors of the painter and the environment surrounding Franco was against them. Picasso vowed to not put a foot in Spain while there was a dictator but it was very clear to the artist that Barcelona should have a Picasso museum. His Catalan friends who visited him in the last decades of his life coincided in highlighting the fact that Picasso loved to talk about his years in Barcelona. Nostalgia? For sure, but also a deep awareness that the years in Barcelona had profoundly marked his career.
However, it was not an easy task to create a museum from just about nothing at all, and the project needed a lot of generosity and a skilful game of complicities by a group of people who contributed to the creation of the institution. Among them, the secretary and friend of the artist, Jaume Sabartés, the gallery owner Gaspar or the notary public, Raimon Noguera. Initially it didn’t count on a lot in terms of the collection. The artist himself planted the first seed, so to speak, when in 1919 he donated the painting Harlequin to Barcelona City Council. In addition, the municipal art collection counted on 22 works of Picasso from the Plandiura Collection, acquired in 1932.
Pablo Picasso. Harlequin. 1917. Oil on canvas. 116 x 90 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photo: Estudi Gasull. MPB 10.941
The museum opened its doors on 9th March 1963, in a very discreet way, thanks to the donation of the personal collection of Jaume Sabartés – made up of the works that the artist had been giving to him as gifts; the above-mentioned municipally owned works; a drawing from the collector Lluís Garriga i Roig; the engravings for the book The metamorphoses of Ovid, donated by no other than Salvador Dalí and a cubist collage, Head, donated by Gala, among other pieces.
The second incorporation of works in the museum took place after the death of Sabartés in 1968. In homage to his friend, Picasso donated the Blue portrait of Sabartés (1901) and the set of 58 canvases from the series Las Meninas, one of the most emblematic ensembles of the centre nowadays.
But it was the third incorporation of works given by the painter himself which would end up giving the museum its own personality. Coinciding with a major enlargement of the museum in the 1970s, Picasso donated works from his childhood and youth that the painter had left in the house of his sister, Lola, in Passeig de Gràcia. It was an incorporation that greatly enriched the institution with 921 works, on different supports, making the museum an international reference for the study of the artist’s formation period.
Since then, the collection of the museum has not stopped growing. Among the most outstanding incorporations are the donations from the artist’s widow, Jacqueline Roque, in two periods: 41 ceramic pieces in 1982 and Woman in white hat (1901) in 1985. Jacqueline’s daughter, Catherine Hutin gave a sketch for Las Meninas in 2009 and precisely from her collection, a Barcelona work from the Blue Period, Rooftops of Barcelona (1903) loaned by the Ministry of Culture in 1991. Other relatives of the painter have also given works to the museum such as Pablo Vilató Ruiz: Female Bust (1970) and Seated Man (1969).
Pablo Picasso. Barcelona rooftops. Barcelona, 1903. Oil on canvas. 71 x 111 cm. Permanently ceded by the Ministry of Culture, 1991 MPB 112.943
Other works are the result of acquisitions. In 2000, the sculpture was purchased of Head of a Woman (Fernande) and the Carnet Catalan, done in Gósol in 1906, the book The Siege of Jerusalem, by Max Jacob (1914), with three etchings by Picasso, a copy that belonged to Paul Éluard or the oil painting Fairground stall (1900), acquired by the Fundació Barcelona Cultura in 2005.
Among the most recent incorporations in the museum it is worth highlighting the donation of 163 photographs by the photojournalist David Douglas Duncan in 2013, the donation by the publisher Gustavo Gili of copper plates and documentation, the acquisition of the Gili-Torra Collection, and the donation of the Brigitte Baer Archive, donated by David Leclerc in 2015, crucial for the study of the graphic work of Picasso.
Written by the Museum