From childhood to cubism: on the Picasso travel trail in Spain and France

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From childhood to cubism: on the Picasso travel trail in Spain and France

Málaga, Picasso’s birthplace

Picasso would often tell his children, “I want Málaga to have a large museum with my works” and his wish came true, for balmy sea-facing Málaga now has a splendid museum, soon to stage an exhibition focusing on the body as an instrument of the artist. The sculptures displayed cover the many styles and materials Picasso adopted to express the human form. After exploring the artist’s three-dimensional oeuvre, uncover the places he frequented. Although he never returned after the Civil War, Málaga left a lasting impression on him. With an expert guide you can visit Casa Natal Picasso, Pablo’s birthplace home (now an educational foundation staging exhibitions), his nursery school, then his father’s workshop and his baptism church. Picasso Sculptor: Matter and Body runs from 8 May to 10 September 2023 (museumopicassomalaga.org); Tours by Locals starts at £42pp (toursbylocals.com/picasso-and-old-malaga, stay at Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro (parador.es). double rooms from £114.

A childhood in La Coruña

The Picasso family’s apartment in La Coruña. Photograph: Sergio Azenha/Image

From the age of nine to 13, Pablo Picasso lived in the attractive Galician city of La Coruña. The Fine Arts Museum here is sketchbooks of figure studies, alongside an exquisite adolescent oil painting of a sparrow, and this season its exhibition commemorates 11 periods of the artist’s life. Visit the bourgeois apartment where his family put down roots in 1891, but also take time to appreciate the city’s gritty vibe which would have been all too familiar to Picasso and explore the hilly old town before heading to the port. Here, countless handsome glass-balconied buildings earned La Coruña the Edwardian nickname “the Crystal City”. Picasso: White in the Blue Memory runs till 25 June at the Fine Arts Museum (museobelasartescoruna.xunta.gal), stay at Meliá Maria Pita (melia.com) double rooms from £65.

Picasso and Miró in Barcelona

Els Quatre Gats, Barcelona.
Els Quatre Gats, Barcelona. Photograph: Jon Arnold Images Ltd/Image

The first museum dedicated to Pablo’s works to open during his lifetime was Barcelona’s. Picasso Museum, Picasso spent his teens in Barcelona and at 13 joined an advanced class at the art school where his father taught. Today, the collection boasts more than 4,000 works from his formative years, occupying five large palaces on Carrer Montcada. Alongside two other Picasso exhibitions in the city, it’s joining with the Fundació Joan Miró Later in the year for a show focusing on the artists’ friendship and work. Jump the museum queues as part of a guided Picasso walking tour where you’ll also hear stories of Picasso’s youth, visit his art school, Escola de la Llotja, and see Els Quatre Gats, a beer hall and cabaret that staged his first exhibition. Miró-Picasso runs from 19 October to 25 February 2024 (celebrationpicasso.es); combined tickets for Picasso Walking Tour and skip-the-line admission to Picasso Museum, from £31; stay at the H10 Cubic (hotelh10cubik.com)double rooms from £94.

Barcelona and beyond

Throughout his lifetime, Picasso painted an enormous number of landscapes that focused on his love affair with Catalonia, such as The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro, Having followed in his Barcelona footsteps, visit Horta de Sant Joan, a small hilltop village some 200km from the city where Picasso found solace and inspiration, living there for a year and later returning to develop his proto-Cubist style. He said of the place: “Everything I know I learned in Horta.” Don’t miss the Picasso Center, displaying works he created during his visits here. Then tour the village’s historic heart among whose buildings the Tafetans farmhouse, the Plaza de Missa and the San Salvador convent, appear in his work. The Picasso Center (centerpicasso.cat); stay at Casa del Pintorapartmentstop.com), two nights minimum in a three-bedroom house, from £278.

Old Master influences in Madrid

To install Madrid skyline.
To install Madrid skyline. Photograph: rudi1976/Image

Alongside fabulous tapas bars, cool neighborhoods and a buzzy night scene, Madrid, with its golden triangle of huge museums – the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza – is worthy of a city break at any time. However, with this being Pablo’s commemorative year, there’s no shortage of exhibitions devoted to his output. The artist lived in Madrid while studying at the Fine Arts Academy, and he would often spend time at the Prado, copying works by Goya, Velázquez, El Greco and Titian. Head there, and you can see an exhibition showcasing his Cubist links to El Greco. Alternatively, the Casa de Velázquez is running Picasso v Velázquez, highlighting his novel approach to the earlier master. It joins with seven other Picasso exhibitions scattered across the city. Picasso – El Greco at the Prado runs from 13 June to 17 September (museodelprado.es); Picasso v Velázquez at Casa de Velázquez runs from September to November ,esmadrid.com); stay at La Posada del Dragonwww.posadadeldragon.com), double rooms from £150.

The artist in Paris

Paul as Harlequin (1924) at the Musée National Picasso.
Paul as Harlequin (1924) at the Musée National Picasso. Photograph: Voyez-Vous/Museé national Picasso-Paris

Reassess the artist in a playful new light at Paris’s Musée National Picasso where British designer Sir Paul Smith is curating its collection through a more contemporary lens. Expect rooms decorated in Smith’s trademark colors and stripes, with ceiling hangings of Picasso’s signature Breton tops, alongside pages torn from 50s fashion magazines. Round this off with a self-guided walk through Montparnasse where Picasso first lived in 1900. This walk follows not just the artist’s footsteps, but those of his friends and contemporaries Giacometti, Man Ray, Modigliani and Miró. Stops on the route include his former workshop at 242 boulevard Raspail. Picasso Celebration, Musée National Picasso, Paris, runs till 27 August (musepicasso.paris.fr,, stay at Hotel Jeanne d’Arc (hoteljeannedarc.com), double rooms from £145.

Later years in Antibes

Art in the courtyard of Château Grimaldi.
Art in the courtyard of Château Grimaldi. Photograph: Alex Hinds/Image

Austere-looking Château Grimaldi flanks the ramparts of pretty Antibes and you can soak up views down to the Mediterranean from its terrace. Built in the late 14th century for feudal lords, Picasso lived here for six months in 1946, creating a studio. Antibes appealed as a solid alternative to the hotspots of the Côte d’Azur – and at 60 years old, Picasso was at his creative peak. The castle eventually became the Antibes Picasso Museum, home to about 250 works including drawings, ceramics and carpets. For this commemorative year it is staging an exhibition showcasing the intense creativity of the artist’s last years. Follow this with a visit to nearby Vallauris, a town renowned for its pottery, where Picasso lived with Françoise Gilot and their two children until 1955. The Magnelli Museum here focuses on Picasso’s prolific work in ceramics. Picasso 1969-1972: The End of the Beginning runs until 25 June (antibes-juanlespins.com); the Ceramic Creation of Picasso at Vallauris runs until 30 October ,vallauris-golfe-juan.fr); stay at Hotel Belles Rives in Cap d’Antibes (bellerives.com)double rooms from £168.

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