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Malaga tells the story of Picasso

From left to right: 'Bust of man', 'Boy with a spade' and 'Motherhood'.
From left to right: 'Bust of man', 'Boy with a spade' and 'Motherhood'. / © FABA © Sucesión
  • The new collection at the Picasso Museum highlights the great versatility and diverse techniques explored by the artist during his 75 years of creative activity

Picasso was 13 years old when he painted 'Portrait of Lola'. In fact, he finished it on 1 December 1894. It has never been confirmed that the picture is of his sister, but his family environment constantly featured in the imagination of this artist from Malaga throughout his artistic career. This oil on canvas will be waiting to welcome visitors in the first room of the remodelled permanent collection at the Picasso Museum, which is due to be inaugurated on 13 March. The portrait reflects a different setting, a new stage in the existence of the museum which opened 14 years ago and has become the most-visited museum in Andalucía: it has decided to tell its visitors even more about Picasso.

In the new agreements between the Junta de Andalucía and the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz Picasso para el Arte (FABA), 38 of the 43 pieces which had been on loan from the family institution will no longer be on display. These include some which have become icons such as 'Olga Khokhlova with mantilla' (1917), 'Paul on a donkey' (1923) and 'Susanna and the elders' (1955). For the new story which the rooms at the Buenavista Palace are about to tell, the foundation is lending 48 paintings, 19 sculptures, 26 ceramics, 13 drawings, 13 graphic works and a sketchbook, in addition to the 233 pieces which Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the artist's daughter-in-law and grandson, donated initially. The permanent collection will now be renewed every three years and the graphic work every three months.

What, then, will the Picasso Museum of Malaga be telling us about the artist from the 13th of this month? "The story of Picasso," says José Lebrero, the director, but this is a difficult challenge bearing in mind that the story covers an important part of the history of 20th century art. We are talking about one of the most influential and most prolific (over 20,000 works) artists of the 20th century, and 75 years of creative activity. This is a major creative adventure, a unique artistic journey.

The new permanent collection is arranged chronologically to highlight Picasso's great versatility and diverse techniques. Between the first and last of the 11 rooms "a whole life passes," as José Lebrero says. "Between one point and the other lies an important chapter in the history of art in the 20th century."

He is aware that the chronological arrangement is likely to cause controversy, but says it makes the exhibition no less interesting. "Over such a long period of time you can see in some periods that certain things return, that they have been there before. It gives an idea of a versatile permanence, and I think that is very 21st century," he explains.

Painter, sculptor, engraver, sketcher, ceramic artist: Picasso broke away from the academic tradition at which he excelled and so admired. The extraordinary creative adventure into the best and most complete 20th century artist culminates in Room 11 of the museum with his final works. The room has been named 'Painting the Golden Century'. More than 70 years have passed since he painted 'Portrait of Lola'. There are six pictures in the room, three of which which featured in the previous permanent collection: 'Bather' (1971), 'Man'(1970) and 'Man, woman and child' (1971). The others have not been seen before: 'Boy with a spade.' (1970), 'Motherhood' (1970) and 'Bust of man' (1971). From 1965, Picasso became interested in Rembrandt's works and Shakespeare's poetry. Even when he was a young man living in Barcelona, he would travel to Madrid to see the Prado Museum and discover the works of Velázquez, Murillo and El Greco. In his later years, however, he remained an unconventional artist.

"You can see that from the works in this room; he was still exploring colour, the way of constructing the picture, on themes which may have been of no interest to anybody else," says Lebrero. "Why would a man of his age paint a boy with a spade? Maybe older people just like to recall their pleasant childhood memories. He liked to remember spending days on the beach with his children, Paloma and Claude. Picasso was a family painter, he didn't need models. His family and the people around him were his models and were almost always in his studio."

These 11 rooms of the Picasso Museum in Malaga are now designed as a new look at the story of this artistic genius, who has left us the biggest and richest personal creative legacy in the history of art.