I was eight years old the first time I clued into the fact that there was a famous person named Pablo Picasso.
The year was 1999, the movie 10 Things I Hate About You had just come out, and my older cousin was sitting on my living room couch watching it as she babysat my younger brother and I.
“Romantic? Hemingway? He was an abusive, alcoholic misogynist who squandered half of his life hanging around Picasso trying to nail his leftovers.” – Kat Stratford, the coolest person ever in my eight-year-old eyes.
Now, I’m not saying that 10 Things I Hate About You immediately turned my young self into a huge Picasso fan, as this is a pretty small reference to garner such intensity, but it planted the seed. Actually, now that I think of it, it probably also planted the seed as to why I detest Hemingway so much (for the reasons above plus the blatant machismo in his writing. For those of you gearing up to fight me on this, yes I’ve read ‘The Sun Also Rises’ and ‘The Old Man and The Sea’; I STILL don’t like him.)
Anyway, as I got older I eyed the work of Picasso time and again – that time I studied cubism in school, as well as the first time I really became obsessed with 1920’s Paris, among others.
But I would be lying to you if I told you that I knew about Picasso’s connection to Malaga before I got there.
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso
I originally didn’t have any plans to go to Malaga, so booking a bus ticket to the southern Spanish city was super spontaneous. The morning I began this journey, I learned that I had three days off from my volunteer position in Granada. So, I looked at a map, saw what was close, and booked travel and accommodation on the spot. Bing, bang, boom. Done.
Malaga felt like a world away from Granada. If Granada is the San Francisco of Spain, then Malaga felt more like a more quaint Los Angeles or even Miami. Situated in Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun), Malaga was founded around 770 BC by the Phoenicians, soon after which it was taken over by the Romans, then the Islamic, then, after the Reconquista in 1487, the Crown of Castille.
Meaning this city has a shit ton of history, and a bunch of ruins to show for it.
So, having not known much at all about Malaga before I got there, I was delighted to learn that (aside from it also being the birthplace of Antonio Banderas), it was where Pablo Picasso was born.
This knowledge seemed to give my time in Malaga a purpose. No longer was Malaga just a three-day-long escape from Granada (I’ll write more about why I chose the word “escape” later), but now I had a mission – Picasso.
I began this mission with the most obvious choice, the Museo Picasso Malaga. The museum is situated in a beautiful old Renaissance building, the Palacio de los Condes de Buenavista, which is a National Monument in and of itself. The collection of Picasso art here was donated by his daughter-in-law and grandson who felt very strongly about showcasing Picasso’s ties to Malaga.
Picasso’s relationship with his birth-city was distant. He was born in Malaga’s Plaza de la Merced on October 25, 1881, and lived there for the first decade of his life with his family. After that, he would visit the city intermittently when on vacation, and then for the final time in January 1901. By the time he left Malaga for good, he was nineteen and had started to see some commercial success with his artwork in Barcelona and France.
The Museo Picasso was formatted just as I thought it would be. It started with Picasso’s early work, took us through his significance in the world of cubism, spoke about his muses, and ended when his ability to work did.
But the museum was inspiring. It told a bit about what life was like in Paris during Picasso’s time there, when creative types would flock to the bohemian cafe’s to perfect their crafts. The little mechanical guide in my ear told me about how and why his creative style changed over time and what influenced them.
But my absolute favorite part of the Picasso museum, which had nothing to do with Picasso himself, was a couple of older tourists I met there.
A gentlemen was holding a door open for his wife, and when I came up to it, I asked “Does this lead to the second part of the museum?”
He looked at me and said, “Where are you from, you speak good English.”
He turned to his wife and said, “That girl there’s from Canada. She speaks good English.”
To me, “You speak good English. We’re from California.”
Me, “Cool, uhh thanks, sir.”
After the museum, I skipped over on down the street to the house in which Picasso was born. If you’re wondering how to get from point A to point B, never fear, there are signs everywhere as this is super touristy thing to do. Just follow the yellow brick road.
The house was underwhelming to say the least. It was more or less just the house he was born in with some artifacts from his family. If i’m being totally honest with you, save yourself the 3 euros and just look at the house from the outside while having a tinto de verano in the sun on a patio. You’ll be much happier this way.
All in all, Malaga was exactly what I needed. The city has an abundance of sun, palm trees, and beach, yes, but there is more to it than that. There is history, there are some extremely nice people, there is music, there is art, and, if you stray from the city centre, there are some really cool gritty little barrio’s just waiting to be explored.
Also, as a side note, this whole Picasso theme here is seriously making me what to go to Paris.
And why not?