Picasso and Malaga

Signature of Picasso: "Picasso de Málaga"

Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in Malaga on October 25, 1881. In 1891 he left for La Coruña with his family and then for Barcelona. He came back to Malaga on five occasions: in the summers of 1895, 1896, 1897 and 1899 and for a few days of winter between 1900 and 1901. From 1904 he lived in France, where he passed away in 1973. About 10 years and several short visits are the assessment of his stays in his homeland, but his Malaga origin is perceived in his personality, his concepts and ideas; in his works as well where he developed themes coming from his childhood such as bullfighting. Especially some of his written poems are significant because he recalls Spanish flavors and traditions, showing preference for his homeland.

It has been written of Picasso that he felt resentment towards Malaga, and that he had consciously forgotten everything relating to that city. It is difficult to lend any support to this thesis after listening to the words of his daughter Maya, or after reading the many testimonies of the people who were close to him commenting on how much he used to enjoy recalling his childhood in Malaga and reasserting his origins. In the prologue to the Malaga-Picasso, Picasso-Malaga Dictionary, compiled by Rafael Inglada (Arguval, 2005), Maya writes: “Malaga. I have heard these three syllables resonate throughout my life like the galloping step of a thoroughbred horse. Malaga: the days of my youth… And this is how, to the delight of a little girl, the stories of my father’s childhood began”. Countless were the times I heard the stories of Picasso’s early years, which he recreated and embellished with great detail. “When I was 15 or 16 years old my father decided that I should know his family, his native land, his home. During the course of our conversations that was to become our family, our native land, our home. I could not but love the aromas, the food, the songs, the dances”. And she signs the text La Boquerona, “ the nickname by which my father referred to me all his life”. In 1962, Picasso recommended to his eldest son Paul, and his wife Christine Pauplin, that they spend their honeymoon in Malaga. As Christine says: “he used to reveal to us his fondness for Andalusia. At the dinner table, he found nothing that could equal his memory of the taste of an Andalusian stew, the variety of aromas or the flavour of the fruit […] He called us ignorant: we knew nothing of the drought, the aridity of the land, nothing of the dignity and generosity of the Andalusian people. Flamenco was his favourite music. He always asserted his claim to his Andalusian origins and complained when a badly informed journalist referred to him as “Picasso, the Catalonian painter”. But what angered him most was the idea that his work might not be exhibited in Andalusia. In 1957, a group of young Malaga born painters set off to visit him at his home in Cannes; the reception he gave them was warm and emotional. Picasso enquired, “How is the Plaza de la Merced?” Does it still have the marble benches and the pebble stone paving? How often I skinned my knees trying to remove them! And the pigeons? And what about that song “good bye to the prison yard, to the place where the barber’s shop stands..? Do they still sing it?”, he asked, humming along in the style of el Piyayo. And Picasso organised an impromptu exhibition of “Malaga Artists” in the garden of his villa, counting himself as one of them by including his own works amongst the ones of those young men (who from that moment took on the name “the Picasso Group”). Palau i Fabre relates (Querido Picasso [Dear Picasso], Barcelona: Destino, 1997), that he was present at a conversation in which Jacqueline – Picasso’s last wife reminded her husband that he had said that “he would like to be buried in the Plaza de la Merced in Malaga, beside her”. It is worth recalling that, finally, in the days following the painter’s death the only flowers his widow accepted were those offered by the filmmaker Miguel Alcobendas on behalf of the city of Malaga.