The celebrated Museu Picasso is housed in a series of medieval palaces converted specifically for the museum. It’s one of the most important collections of Picasso’s work in the world, but even so, some visitors are disappointed: the museum contains none of his best-known works, and few in the Cubist style. But what is here provides a unique opportunity to trace Picasso’s development from his early paintings as a young boy to the major works of later years.
Particularly fascinating are the early drawings, in which Picasso – still signing with his full name, Pablo Ruíz Picasso – attempted to copy the nature paintings in which his father specialized. Paintings from his art-school days in Barcelona (1895–97) show tantalizing glimpses of the city that the young Picasso was beginning to know well – the Gothic old town, the cloisters of Sant Pau del Camp, Barceloneta beach – and even at the ages of 15 and 16 he was producing serious work. Later, there are paintings from the famous Blue Period (1901–04), the Pink Period (1904–06) and from his Cubist (1907–20) and Neoclassical (1920–25) stages. The large gaps in the main collection (for example, nothing from 1905 until the celebrated Harlequin of 1917) only underline Picasso’s extraordinary changes of style and mood. This is best illustrated by the large jump to 1957, a year represented by his 44 interpretations of Velázquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas, in which Picasso brilliantly deconstructed the individual portraits and compositions that make up Velázquez’s work.