Artistic exploration: Discover Picasso’s Spain

Painter, sculptor, printmaker and ceramicist, Pablo Picasso was one of the most influential and prolific artists of the 20th century, who spearheaded the invention of Cubism alongside Georges Braque, and contributed significantly to the development of modern art. To mark the 50th anniversary of his death on 8 April 1973, the Spanish and French governments have joined forces to launch a series of 50 events and exhibitions around the world commemorating the artist. Dubbed the ‘Picasso Celebration 1973-2023’, fans of the polymath will be able to delve deeper into his life, influences and inspirations everywhere from the Prado Museum in Madrid and the Centre Pompidou in Paris to the Met in New York.

prado museum madrid

Deep-dive: The Prado Museum in Madrid offers a one-stop-shop to discover more about Picasso’s life and work Credit: Getty

Those keen to follow in his footsteps around his native Spain should begin their journey down south in Málaga, where Picasso was born on 25 October 1881. The young Picasso seemed destined to become an artist – his father was an accomplished painter and Pablo’s first word was ‘piz’, a shortening of the Spanish word for pencil. Having been trained to use oil paints at the tender age of seven, by 13 Picasso had surpassed his father in skill and ability. While in Málaga, pay a visit to Santiago Church – built in 1490 on the site of an old mosque – to see where Picasso was christened, then swing by the Picasso Birthplace Museum in the Plaza de la Merced, where you’ll find fascinating sketches for one of his most famous works, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

picasso museum malaga

Must-see: don’t miss the Picasso Museum in Malaga for a chance to see some of Picasso’s most famous sketches Credit: Alamy

While Picasso spent the majority of his 91 years living and working in France, he was proud of his Spanish roots and wanted his creations to be on display in his homeland. The best place to lap up his artworks in Málaga is at the Picasso Museum in Buenavista Palace, which brings together over 200 mixed media works by the artist from the private collections of his grandson Bernard and daughter-in-law Christine. Then take a stroll along the palm-fringed boulevards to La Malagueta bullring, where Picasso was mesmerised by the matadors as a young boy. The bullfight would become a recurring theme in his works as an adult.

la malagueta bullring

La Malagueta Bullring: the bullfight was a recurring theme in Picasso’s work Credit: Getty

Those curious to find out where a teenage Pisasso developed his style should make the journey to the port city of A Coruña in Galicia, in northwest Spain, where Picasso moved to in 1891. Pop into the School of Fine Arts to see where the young artist honed his precocious skills as a draughtsman, then pay a visit to the Picasso Museum House where he lived, and which has been preserved to look like it’s suspended in time, and the young Picasso has just stepped away from his easel. Legend has it that a 13-year-old Picasso held his first exhibition in a furniture shop located at 20 Rúa Real to glittering reviews, later letting off steam at the Rosalía de Castro Theatre, which inspired his harlequin paintings.

a coruna harbour galicia

Harbour sunset: A Coruña in Galicia where Picasso set up home in 1891 Credit: Getty

Continue your Picasso pilgrimage in the Spanish capital of Madrid, where the artist was awestruck when he first stepped inside the Prado Museum aged 14. Encountering works by the likes of Velázquez, Goya and El Greco had a profound effect on the teenager, who continued to be inspired by the trio throughout his life. His most famous work – the eight metre-long monochrome mural Guernica – is on display at the Reina Sofía museum, where you’ll bear witness to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War in the artist’s tragic depiction of a town under siege. 

l'acrobate picasso, 1930

L’acrobate, 1930: An acrobat’s body in agile pose fills the frame in this Picasso piece Credit: © Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2023

End the excursion with a trip to the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, where Picasso enrolled at the School of Fine Arts in 1895, moving into his first studio – under the watchful eye of his father – and exhibiting his works in the city for the first time at legendary café Els Quatre Gats, where he socialised with fellow artists Ramón Casas and Santiago Rusiñol and created the artwork for the venue’s menu. “That’s where it all started. That’s where I understood how far I could go,” Picasso said of Barcelona. Spending his early twenties in the Catalan hotspot, Picasso mixed in avant-garde circles and developed the sombre works of his Blue Period.

els quatre gats barcelona, one of picasso's favourite restaurants

Dine with the locals: Els Quatre Gats, Barcelona was one of Picasso’s favourite haunts Credit: Alamy

Explore Picasso’s Spain

Considered one of Spain’s most famous artists, Pablo Picasso dominated the 20th-century art world, and his influence and impact can still be felt today.

Throughout 2023 Picasso fans can enjoy a bustling programme of events and exhibitions across Spain to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, making it the perfect time to revisit this beautiful country.

Find out more and plan your holiday at


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