Picasso’s study of the street of la Riera de Sant Joan of Barcelona

Throughout his life, Picasso worked in several studios and workshops. During the years he lived in Barcelona he shared studios with other artists: one of them was located on number 17 of Riera de Sant Joan street. He settled there for the first time in 1900, along with his friend Carles Casagemas, and he would return to move there for the second and last time with Ángel Fernández de Soto in 1903.

Riera de Sant JoanPlanol Districte 2. PC Caixa 37.Carpeta 5 (dcte.2)

Pablo Picasso. Riera de Sant Joan Street from the window in the artist’s studio. Barcelona, 1900. Oil painting on wood. 22,3 x 13,8 cm. MPB 110.213 I Detail of the general plan of the District II with indications of the neighbourhoods, blocks of houses, numbering and pertitent signs. AMCB. Source City Council of Barcelona. Q162 Surveying: Plan of the City, PC-37 file 05/12. Contemporary Municipal Archive of Barcelona

La Riera de Sant Joan was a narrow street, perpendicular to the sea, between the cathedral and the market of Santa Caterina, and run as far as the crossing of the streets Sant Crist de la Tapineria and Gracià Amat. But this street, the studio of Picasso, and the surrounding streets and buildings disappeared with the reforms for the opening up of Via Laietana in 1907. In the database of photographs of the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona some snapshots of the street are preserved.


Pablo Picasso. The street of Riera de Sant Joan from the artist’s studio window. Barcelona, 1900. Charcoal on printed paper. 34.8 x 26.1 cm. Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1970. MPB 110.898

During the first stay of Picasso in 1900, along with Casagemas, the artist painted both the inside and the outside of the studio, sometimes mixing both spaces. From this period date works such as Riera de Sant Joan Street, from the window in the artist’s studio, Lola, the artist’s sister, in the studio in Riera de Sant Joan and Rooftops and Church of Santa Marta. This last work reproduces a small 18th century church, the church of Santa Marta, which was also demolished to construct Via Laietana. Its facade is currently placed in one of the pavilions of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.

Lola, germana de l'artistaPicasso 054

Pablo Picasso. Lola, the artist’s sister, in the studio in Riera de Sant Joan. 1900. Oil on canvas. 55.5 x 45.5 cm. (irregular). Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1970. MPB 110.054 | Pablo Picasso. Rooftops and church of Santa Marta. Barcelona, 1900. Oil on canvas stuck on wood. 21.3 x 22.5cm. Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1970. MPB 110.102

According to an explanation by John Richardson in his biography, during this period, the studio was mainly paid by his companion Casagemas and he added:

“But as there was money only for the barest essentials of furniture, Picasso resorted to trompe -l’oeil. Visitors panting from the climb would find the walls on the final flight of stairs “frescoed” with a running frieze of caricatural figures. Inside the loft Picasso had used his brush to conjure up an embarrass de richesse. Console tables groaned with fruit and flowers and piles of gold coins, bookcases with shelves of richly bound volumes. The walls were lined with a suite of grand furniture, an elaborated bed and even a safe for valuables. There was also a page to run errands and a voluptuous maid with mammoth breasts to look after the maîtres de maison. Casagemas collaborated on the large allegorical “masterpieces” and facetious inscriptions that covered the walls of the studio”. (pag. 151)

Three years later, in 1903, after the death of Casagemas, and after Picasso’s second trip to Paris, the artist returned once again to this studio, this time accompanied by Ángel Fernández de Soto. The artist looked out of the window again and picked up the urban landscape theme; he repeated the same views even though he worked with a different style from his previous stay, thus also getting different results.

Obra de Picasso "Terrats de Barcelona" 112.943 MPBLa Vida. Cleveland Museum of Art

Pablo Picasso. Barcelona Rooftops. Barcelona 1903. Oil on canvas 71 x 111 cm. Loaned by the Ministry of Culture to the City Council of Barcelona. MPB 112. 943 | Pablo Picasso, La Vie, 1903, Oil on canvas. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1945.24

It was also during this second stay at the studio of la Riera de Sant Joan that Picasso painted his major work from the Blue Period, La Vie, in which the protagonist was Casagemas himself. Between October and January 2014, the museum held an exhibition that established connections between La Vie and some of the works of the collection of the museum.

Cristina Martín

Bibliography and links

Catalogue of the exhibition “Journey through the Blue: La Vie”, pages 21 and 22

A life of Picasso. Vol I: 1881-19003. John Richardson and Marilyn McCully. Random House. New York, 1991. Pages 151 and 270. 151 y 270
Guia de la Barcelona de Picasso. Josep Maria Carandell i Robusté. Ajutnament de Barcelona. Barcelona, 1981. Pages 13
File of the work Riera de Sant Joan Street from the window in the artist’s studio
Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona
Exhibition “Journey through the Blue: La Vie”
Articles in the Wikipedia: “Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau”
Journals on the Collection: Barcelona Landscapes

  • Damià Amorós
    October 13, 2014

    En aquest mateix carrer també i tenia el taller l’escultor Francesc Pagés Serratossa.

  • Cristina Martin
    October 15, 2014

    Moltes gràcies Damià per la teva aportació! Sempre es bo poder ampliar la informació de la recerca. Gràcies.

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