Picassophiles unite! Here's the ultimate guide to all the Picasso museums in Europe -- in France, Spain, and Switzerland. And a preview of a new museum opening in 2021.
Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a revolutionary. His art is unparalleled in terms of quality, quality, and vitality. With his countless innovations, most art historians consider Picasso the greatest artist of the 20th century. He certainly had plenty of genius and charisma, which fascinated both critics and admirers alike.
Picasso was a Spanish expat and co-founder of cubism. He left an amazing legacy. Over his long life, from prodigy to icon, Picasso moved from Spain to Paris to the south of France. Every spot he called home claims him as a "native son," with museums devoted to his art work.
Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait at 90
Picasso’s art was intertwined with his personal life. His muses were his children, lovers, and wives. He had a series of long relationships with women, punctuated by affairs, often trading one muse for another when she failed to inspired him.
To Picasso, love was "the greatest refreshment" and he never left the concession stand. But let's not hold that completely against him. He was also a hard working artist with a boundless imagination.
Let's take a tour of the six museums in Europe either dedicated to Picasso or with a significant Picasso collection. For art lovers, some of these museums are unmissable sites in France and Spain.
a blistering depiction of Picasso's wife Olga: Grand Nu au Fauteil Rouge, 1929
Where To Find Picasso Museum in Europe
1. Picasso Museum, Paris France
Paris' Picasso Museum is quite lovely. It's housed in the gorgeous 17th century Baroque Hotel Sale in one of my favorite Parisian neighborhoods, the Marais.
What I love most about the museum is that it houses all the art that Picasso couldn't part with. It's a personal collection that he created, curated, lived with, and kept nearby his entire life. The museum represents all the artistic periods of his life, all the women he loved, and reveals his extraordinary range and talent.
Nude in a Garden, 1934, by Picasso -- a portrait of Picasso's mistress Marie-Therese Walter
Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937, by Pablo Picasso -- Picasso's mistress during his Surrealism phase
As you stroll through the Picasso Museum, which is organized chronologically, you can feel the ebb and flow of his life. And you can see, writ large, the progression of his artistic styles and the succession of his long suffering female casualties.
Here's my complete guide to Paris' Picasso Museum. You can take an audio tour of some of the seminal masterpieces in the museum here.
Picasso moved from Malaga to Barcelona as a teen. He lived there from age 14-24 and considered it his true home. With help from his father, Picasso enrolled at the School of Fine Arts. A young Pablo fell in with a bohemian crowd that mixed wine, women, and art.
Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Bonnet, 1901
Founded in 1963, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona was launched with a donation of 574 works by Picasso’s secretary, Jaime Sabartés. In 1970, Picasso himself donated 800 more pieces to the museum. Some were shocked that those works went to Spain and not France. Picasso’s widow, Jacqueline Roque, also donated 41 ceramic pieces and the early Picasso painting Woman with Bonnet.
Here, you can see one of the most extensive collections of his work, certainly the best collection in Spain.
Pablo Picasso, Science and Charity, 1897 -- Picasso painted it when he was only 16
Pablo Picasso, Royan, 1939 -- portrait of Picasso's friend and assistant Jaime Sabartes
Now, there's over 3,000 pieces, many from Picasso's formative years in Barcelona. And the setting of this museum is stunning. It's lodged in five adjoining medieval stone mansions in Barcelona's funky-chic El Born neighborhood.
You can browse the highlights of the museum's online collection here, though the images are rather small. You can take a virtual tour of the palaces here. The palace tour takes you on a private guided tour of the museum's architectural elements. You can also check out their Twitter hashtag #MuseuPicassoVirtual to get daily doses of art on your feed.
Address: Calle Montcada 15-23 08003 Barcelona
Hours: Tues to Sun 9:00 am to 8:30 pm, Thurs 9:00 am to 9:30 pm. Free on Thursday afternoons from 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm and the first Sunday of each month, from 9:00 am to 8:30 pm
The Picasso Museum in Antibes is housed in the ancient Grimaldi Palace and boasts some secret Picassos. From the terrace, you have a beautiful view over the bay. If you're looking for an intimate quaint museum, this is it.
After WWII, Picasso left dreary Paris (and his first wife) for the south of France, with his lover Francoise Gilot. An established artist at that time, Picasso was world famous and wealthy -- a rare condition for any artist. His French Riviera works reflect his later life — they're sunny, lighthearted, and hedonistic.
Pablo Picasso, La Joie de Vivre, 1946
Pablo Picasso, Faune Blanc, 1960
Picasso played on the beach and used the museum's medieval building as a studio in 1946. In Antibes, Picasso was happy and prolific. In gratitude, he donated 23 paintings and 44 drawings to the town's museum, putting Antibes on the tourist map.
Address: Chateau Grimaldi, Place du Chateau, 06600, Antibes
Hours:10:00 am to 12:00 pm & 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Entry fee: 6 €, 3 € for students and seniors, under 18 free
Picasso Museum in Malaga Spain, housed in the Buena Vista Palace
4. Picasso Museum, Malaga Spain
Opened in 2003, the Picasso Museum in Malaga is housed in the Buena Vista Palace, a pretty combination of Renaissance and Mudejar architecture. Small but sweet, the museum holds 285 works donated by Picasso’s family members or held on permanent loan. Mostly from his grandson Bernard.
The collections spans Picasso's lifetime and gives a good overview. You won't find any masterpieces here. But highlights include Picasso's early academic studies, cubist pieces, and some of his last paintings from the 1970s.
Pablo Picasso, Child with a Shovel, 1971
Pablo Picasso, Lola the Artist's Sister -- Picasso painted this when he was 13
Reine Sofia Museum in Madrid Spain with Roy Lichtenstein's 1962 Brushstroke
5. Reina Sofia, Madrid
Opened in 1992, the Reina Sofia is Madrid’s modern art museum. Its collection is comprised entirely of art work from 1900 to the present. There's a special focus on Picasso and it holds perhaps his most famous painting.
The star of the Reina Sofia, and the toast of Europe really, is Picasso's Guernica.Guernica is Picasso's grim depiction of the seemingly casual Nazi bombing of Guernica Spain in 1937. The painting puts a human face on the collateral damage.
The dark chaotic subject matter is shown in gruesome detail, complete with a modern pieta, a hidden human skull, and daggers. The monochromatic color only heightens the emotional impact.
Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937
The huge mural was commissed by the Spanish government to decorate its Pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exposition. Picasso rarely took commissions. They cramped his style and produced artificial deadlines.
But Picasso was persuaded to accept this one by his mistress and Surrealistic photographer, Dora Maar. Guernica is showcased in a room with Picasso's preparatory drawings, so you get a real feel for his creation process.
Pablo Picasso, Weeping Woman’s Head with Handkerchief [III]. Postscript of Guernica, 1937
Pablo Picasso, The Painter and The Model,1963.
The Reina Sofia is located in a 16th century hospital. It can be a bit confusing. Its permanent collection is spread across four floors. You'll need a map for locating specific artists or masterpieces. (Guernica is in Room 6 on the 2nd floor.) Photos are only allowed in certain areas.
Lucerne Switzerland, home to the Rosengart Collection
6. Rosengart Collection, Lucerne Switzerland
This museum has a stunning Picasso collection. Opened in 2002, the Rosengart Collection was founded by vanguard Angela Rosengart. Born in 1932, she was a forward-thinking woman. Offered an evening gown for her birthday, she instead requested a drawing by Paul Klee.
Beginning in 1948, Rosengart was active an art dealer and influencer. She counted Picasso as a personal friend. Rosengart modeled for Picasso five times, quite platonically. Of her portraits, Rosengart says she "snuck into immortality through the back door."
Pablo Picasso, Buste de Femme (Jacqueline), 1963.
Housed in the former Swiss National Bank, the Rosengart Collection is spread over 3 floors. The entire ground floor is dedicated to Picasso. His 50 works are arranged in chronological order, from 1938 to 1969. You can see Picasso photos from American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan of documenting his life and work.
The collection also includes works by Chagall, Degas, Cézanne, Kandinsky, Miró, Matisse, Renoir, Monet, Pissaro, and Seurat.
Picasso's eyes, photographed by Duncan. Rosengart called them "deep, piercing Spanish eyes" that felt like "arrows"
Hours: Daily Apr to Oct: 10:00 am to 6:00, Nov to Mar: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entry fee: CHF 18.00
the convent, Collège des Prêcheursin, which will house the new Picasso museum just outside Aix-en-Porvence
7. Coming Soon! The Jacqueline and Pablo Picasso Museum in Aix-en-Provence
Single artist museums are a rarity. But Picasso was so prolific that he will now have another eponymous museum. This one, the Jacqueline and Pablo Picasso Museum, is due to open in 2021 just outside Aix-en-Provence in southern France.
The museum is being founded by Catherine Hutin-Blay, Picasso’s stepdaughter by his second wife Jacqueline Roque. She recently purchased an old convent, Collège des Prêcheursin, near Jacqueline and Picasso's burial site, to house her collection.
Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline Sitting in Profile, 1954
Hutin-Blay's collection includes nearly 1,000 paintings and 1,000 other pieces. There are 400 portraits of Jacqueline. The works have never been exhibited before March 2019, when they were on display in Berlin.
The museum will be nearly 10,000 square feet. It will have spaces for a permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions, an auditorium, a research center, and pottery center.
If you love Picasso and would like to do a Picasso pilgrimage in Europe, pin it for later.