In Picasso’s footsteps: Picassian Route
The early part of Pablo Ruiz Picasso's life was inextricably linked to Málaga, where he was born in 1881. He was also a true malagueño through his family tradition. His life and work went on to earn him the title of the most universally famous malagueño ever to have lived.
On this route, you will discover his childhood home and the artistic environment of his early years, giving you a better understanding of the development of his art and his personality. The itinerary includes a visit to the Museo Casa Natal Picasso (Picasso’s childhood home, which has been turned into a museum), as well as the Museo Picasso Málaga, two incredible, unique museums you won't find in any other city, since Málaga was the birthplace of Pablo Ruiz Picasso.
1. Museo Casa Natal Picasso
In the Plaza de la Merced (formerly Plaza de Riego), one of the most significant areas in Málaga for its historical and cultural importance, stands the house where Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born. It was built in 1861 by the master mason Diego Clavero, on the site that remained following the seizure of church property, specifically the convent of Santa Maria de la Paz. Together with the rest of the houses that stretch along the northeast sector of the square, this harmonious arrangement of houses is known as the Casas de Campos, completed in the 1870s and named after the developer, Antonio Campos Garin, Marquis of Iznate.
The first floor of this house – then number 36 – was rented by José Ruiz Blasco (1838-1913) in 1880 when he married Maria Picasso Lopez (1855-1938), and there, the couple’s first son, Pablo, was born on the night of 25 October 1881. The family lived there until 1884, when they moved to number 32 in the same square. In 1983, it was declared an Historical-Artistic Monument of National Interest, and in 1988, Málaga City Council set up a museum dedicated to this universal artist, an established institution that still retains part of the 19th century structure and which currently displays a great number of Picasso's mementos and art works that bear witness to his academic learning and the influence of Málaga through themes such as doves, the Mediterranean, bulls, as well as his nostalgia for Spain.
In 1997, his first home was fully restored, and there is now an outstanding Exhibition Hall just a few metres away, in No. 13 Plaza de la Merced.
2. Picasso’s second childhood home (No. 17 Plaza de la Merced)
Having spent his first two years on the first floor of No. 36 Plaza de la Merced, in 1884 Picasso moved with his family to the third floor of number 32 (today no. 17) of the same square, his last residence in Málaga before travelling, in 1891, to La Coruña. In this new house, he began to draw and paint. Two drawings still survive from this time – both in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona – Pigeons and Hercules with his club, copied in this latter case from an original artwork that hung in the hallway.
3. Former site of the Colegio de la Sagrada Familia
(No. 14 Calle Madre de Dios)
At No. 14 Calle Madre de Dios, not far from the Plaza de la Merced, El Colegio de la Sagrada Familia was a school run by French nuns, attended by the painter’s sister, Maria Dolores Ruiz Picasso. The school was founded in October 1874 by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux, or Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, one of the seven branches that formed the congregation.
4. Plaza de la Merced
Plaza de la Merced would have been the place where Pablo Ruiz Picasso played as a child, and perhaps where he made his first marks in the sand. It was here in this busy and romantic square in Málaga that his parents met, and it was also home to politicians such as General Riego, sculptors such as Fernando Ortiz, writers such as Juan José Relosillas, architects such as Geronimo Cuervo, and painters such as Bernardo Ferrandiz.
Home to a public market in the 15th century, and a place of leisure and recreation for the bourgeois in the late 19th century, the sound of the bells tolling in the church of La Merced, next to the home where Picasso was born, would have been heard by a rich tapestry of characters that the brilliant artist went on to portray over time. Sellers of all manner of goods, from turkey to milk with their small herds of goat, sweets, jasmine posies, and jams, along with guitar players, maids, and soldiers gathered around the giant obelisk erected in the centre of the square as a tribute to General Torrijos, whose slogans of freedom and justice would have echoed in the ears of the young Pablo Ruiz Picasso.
And we cannot forget that in this square, even today, as then, pigeons and doves fly overhead, the symbol of the paradigms announced on the soldier’s cenotaph, which, up until his death, Picasso painted – an interest inherited from his father – as the perennial and mythical emblem of his long-standing work.
5. Site of gatherings attended by Picasso's father
(No. 75 Calle Granada)
In the Plaza de la Merced, on the corner with Calle Granada, you will find Farmacia Bustamante, a pharmacy formerly belonging to Antonio Mamely, a place where Picasso's father would occasionally meet with friends. Opened in 1747, it is the oldest pharmacy in the city of Málaga. José Ruiz Blasco was in the back room of this pharmacy when an earthquake struck the city on Christmas Day 1884, forever casting a tragic memory in the young Picasso. From there, José Ruiz Blasco headed across the square to collect his family and head to a safer place.
6. Iglesia de Santiago
Picasso was baptised in the parish church of Santiago, in the rather grand Calle Granada, formerly Calle Real, which was the local parish for his home in the Plaza de la Merced. He was christened on 10 November 1881 by the priest from the Iglesia de la Merced, José Fernández Quintero, and with the baptismal waters he was given the names Pablo Diego José y Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad, with Juan Nepomuceno Blasco Barroso and María de los Remedios Alarcón y Herrera as his godparents.
In the parish church of Santiago, one of the oldest in Málaga, with a baroque interior and a Mudejar tower, his paternal grandparents had married in 1820 and his parents in 1880. In that same font, his two sisters also received the baptismal waters: Dolores (1884-1958) and Concepción (1887-1895).
(+) Learn more
7. Former Municipal Museum
The Municipal Museum was on the second floor of the building that, from 1869 onwards, housed the city hall, in Calle San Agustin. This building, former site of the seminary of San Juan de Dios, the monastery of the Augustinian Fathers, and the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Málaga, was known to Picasso because his father worked there from 1879 onwards as a curator of the paintings on public display there at the time. Picasso often recalled the workshop where his father spent hours as a drawing teacher: “The workshop that was a room like any other, nothing special about it: a little dirtier, if anything, than the one I had at home; but it was quiet there,” the master recalled.Indeed, one of the first oil paintings by his son Pablo - View of the port of Málaga (h.1890) - was copied from the one made by his father, in turn reproduced from the one painted in 1878 by the seascape painter Emilio Ocón.
The building is currently under construction, waiting to be turned into the Málaga Provincial Library.
Since his father taught technical drawing and adornment at the Málaga School, which was located in the Plaza de la Constitucion at the entrance of Calle Compañía, this was the first place where Pablo Picasso came into contact with the classical plaster models that, a few years later, in La Coruña and Barcelona, he copied as a required subject for his studies.
The many painters who passed through the classrooms of San Telmo were also teachers and friends to José Ruiz Blasco, and, therefore, also to the young Picasso, who clearly learned from them as a skilled pupil, applying the lessons learned to his later work. Bernardo Ferrándiz, Muñoz Degrain, Martínez de la Vega, and Moreno Carbonero, working in the last third of the 19th Century, created a Golden Age for painting in Málaga, and Picasso took advantage of this, seeing first-hand the magnitude of the great historical scenes they painted, which were so in vogue at that time.
Currently the building is the seat of the Ateneo de Málaga cultural association. It has an exhibition hall that puts on exhibitions of visual arts.
(+) Learn more
9. Former Colegio San Rafael
This school, located at No. 20 Calle Comedias, was run by Emilio Gutiérrez, and we know, from Picasso himself, how his nanny, Carmen Mendoza – model for one of his youthful drawings – would have to drag him there every morning. The time Picasso spent at this private school is full of memories. As an old man, he recounted to his biographers and friends how he spent hours drawing and staring out the window, how he escaped to visit the headmaster’s wife in the same building, and the personal objects belonging to his father that he would take to class with him (a brush, a cane, a dove…) to make sure that they would come and collect him at one in the afternoon.
In the 20th Century, the site of this school, the Escuela de San Pedro and San Rafael, moved to the Plaza de San Francisco, where the Artistic and Literary Lyceum of Málaga was also located. Currently this building is not open to the public.
10. Former Artistic and Literary Lyceum (Maria Cristina Conservatory)
The Liceo de Málaga, located in the Plaza de San Francisco, in the same place where the Maria Cristina Royal Conservatory now stands, was the quintessential gathering place for artists in Málaga in the 19th century. Built on part of the former convent of San Francisco, after which this small square is named – home to the Pomona fountain (1864) – this recreational centre was almost certainly attended by Picasso accompanied by his father, who regularly attended the gatherings held there, providing young Pablo with the opportunity to see the works that artists of the day had left behind as a memento of the time they spent here.
In this Lyceum, a genuine pictorial museum and library of the 19th Century, in one of the rooms known as El Senado, meetings of its most distinguished members were held, and it was here that Pablo Picasso would be baptised with champagne by Martinez de la Vega, to celebrate the success achieved by the young artist at the National and Provincial Exhibitions of Fine Arts of 1897, with his work Science and Charity.
11. Secondary School (Instituto Gaona)
Shortly before leaving Málaga, in October 1891, Picasso was examined at the Secondary School located at No. 1 Calle Gaona. A former monastery of the Philippians, it opened its doors as a school in 1846, and three years later, the Sailing School set up on this site, a deeply rooted institution in the city.
Picasso referred on several occasions to the examination he had to undergo in order to gain access to the secondary school he attended in La Coruña, a document that has been preserved to the present day, kept with the application and payment of fees for Latin and Spanish and Geography, and which involved a brief dictation and a division, signed by Picasso at the end of June of this year. The headmaster was Ramón Ibáñez Ibáñez, who served as president of the Board that admitted the young Picasso to this school.
12. Plaza de Toros La Malagueta (bullring)
Built by the sea in 1874 and inaugurated with cattle owned the widow of Murube in 1876, the Plaza de Toros de la Malagueta was, from the time Picasso was a child, a recurrent reference and motif in his early drawings and oil paintings, and a later projection of Picasso’s whole vision of bullfighting. Works such as The Picador (h. 1889) and his drawings of bullfighting scenes, which he created whilst living in Málaga and La Coruña, are but memories of when the young artist would go with his father to watch the most famous bullfighters of the day: Mazzantini and Lagartijo.
Picasso retained a series of memories of this bullring, such as the day he saw his master, José Moreno Carbonero, paint a large canvas for one of his historic paintings, or the sight of horses gored by the bulls, which he would later use profusely as a reference in many of his compositions in the 1930s, and which would culminate with the famous wounded horse of Guernica (1937).
(+) Learn more
The fascinating work of the artist and the beauty of the Palacio de Buenavista make the Museo Picasso Málaga a unique place to enjoy art and culture.
The MPM collection contains more than 230 pieces covering Picasso's revolutionary innovations, as well as the wide variety of material and technical styles he mastered. From his early academic studies to his personal vision of classicism; from the overlapping planes of Cubism to his explorations with ceramics; from his interpretation of the great masters to his final paintings in the seventies.
The Palacio de Buenavista is home to the Museo Picasso Málaga. Located in the heart of the historic city centre, it harmoniously blends Renaissance and Mudejar forms with the purity of contemporary lines. In the basement of this magnificent example of 16th century Andalusian architecture there is an archaeological site containing Phoenician, Roman and Arab remains, silent witnesses of the city's history.
The wonderfully evocative Museo Picasso Málaga is home to temporary exhibitions, educational and cultural activities, a library, and a specialised bookshop.