Picasso’s Barcelona Roofs

We are pleased to share with you some excerpts from an article by Francesc Pujols, ‘The Rooftops of Barcelona’, ??first published in “La Publicidad” on 18 June 1920. Though written a few years after Picasso’s time in Barcelona, when he painted a number of pictures with the city’s rooftops as their theme, the writer seems to be describing some of the works in our collection. We are thankful to the poet Enric Casassess for sending us the article, which came to his mind as he was walking round the Museu Picasso.

Picasso work "Roofs of Barcelona" 112.943 MPB

Roofs of Barcelona. Pablo Picasso, 1903

‘[…]Catalan architecture, dispensing with the pitched roof and retaining what we call the solera, because the sun beats down on it, produced the roof terrace, which in all honesty is the pride of Barcelona, ??where it rests on the brow of the house like a crown of gold and silver with the stars for diamonds, and makes the city as flat as your hand, and locals and visitors to Barcelona alike can go up onto the roof and stroll to and fro contemplating and admiring the succession of rooftops one after another, like a plain extending from the sea to the hills, hung with washing drying in the sun, flapping like the flags of the ships in the port, as if they were the hair on the houses’ heads, and this plain links together and like a ring fits a finger the sky, the hills and the sea that surround and protect us. […]

‘A day came when, influenced and blown by the wind from the North of Europe, which drives everything before it, nothing would do but to put pitched roofs on the houses again, aggravated by the fact, which we can never forgive, that instead of putting back the old roofs of red terracotta tiles […] they put on slate tiles, black as soot or as grey as a rainy day […]

Picasso work "Urban Landscape" 110.206 MPBPicasso work "Rooftop Parapet and Water Tank" 110.228 MPBPicasso work "Urban Landscape" 110.087 MPB

Urban Landscape (1896), Rooftop Parapet and Water Tank (1895-96), Urban Landscape (1896). Pablo Picasso

‘And in the presence of this calamity that ruins our houses, and which we trust will not long endure, since it is to be hoped that the young architects now coming up will open their eyes one of these days, the wretches that do it should understand that to steal the flat roofs is to rob the houses of Barcelona of their greatest treasure, ??which they love more than anything, because they seem to touch the sky […]

‘The architects of today, who have let themselves be tricked by Northern Europe, conceal and disguise the flat roofs, placing them on top of all the black tiled roofs they make, so that the residents can hang out their washing and go up there whenever they want, to touch the sky with their teeth and see the sea and the hills around Barcelona. […]

Picasso work "Roofs of Barcelona" 110.020 MPB

Roofs of Barcelona. Pablo Picasso, 1902

‘And so we may say that if the fashion of hiding the roof behind the parapet passed away and was succeeded by the jewel we have today, we ask that there pass away as soon as possible the fashion of hiding the flat roof, dissembling it on top of the pitched roof, as if it were something not fit to be seen, and in this way Barcelona will not lose one of the few charms ithas, and which everyone envies us, because if it did not rain as much as it does in the countries of the North, we are sure that they would copy it from us.’

Francesc Pujols, The Rooftops of Barcelona,La Publicidad”, 18 June 1920 [from Francesc Pujols, Articles, selected and edited by Enric Cassany, Quaderns Crema, Barcelona, 1983]

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