Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pablo Picasso: Spanish by birth, French by art

Pablo Picasso at his studio in Mougins, France, 1971. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The Musée Picasso in Paris last autumn confirmed the French capital’s unique claim on this stupendously creative painter, sculptor and poet. His genius is so tangled up with the streets and garrets, palaces and attics of Paris, a city that he first visited in 1900 and whose artistic life he would take to new heights.

Pablo Picasso died, at home in Mougins in the south of France, on 8 April 1973. He left 1,876 paintings, 1,335 sculptures, 7,089 standalone drawings, 18,000 prints, 2,880 ceramic pieces and 149 notebooks of drawings. It was the greatest collection of Picasso’s art in either private or public hands.

The collection that Picasso left behind came to about 70,000 items that took a decade to sort out. First, the rights of his wives, mistresses, children and even grandchildren. In 1979, the Picasso family made a huge donation of Picasso’s Picassos to the French state in lieu of inheritance tax. Crucially, public curators were given first choice of the inheritance – they could pick the very best of Picasso’s personal collection to represent his entire career. 

Now belonging to the "French patrimoine national" the collection was given a permanent home in the Hôtel Salé, a fine classical 17th-century building in one of the best-preserved parts of pre-modern Paris. The Picasso Museum opened in 1985, with a collection of 5,000 works by Picasso and an archive of some 200,000 items.

The Picasso Museum in the Marais quarter of Paris. Photograph: Felix Clay

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