Ateneo (Arts and Sciences Association). Old School of Fine Arts of San Telmo
Located next to the Plaza of the Constitution, today it is home to the Ateneo. This building, at the entrance of the Calle de la Compañía, was originally a part added to the old temple of the Order of the Jesuits, to build and host the Order's Old College Novitiate.
Originally built around 1590, the building has undergone numerous major changes in both its structure and use. It was initially designed to house the novices of the Order when it was a Jesuit Convent in the 17th and 18th centuries. It later became the Nautical School and then, in the 19th century, the School of Fine Arts of San Telmo, where Picasso's father, José Ruiz Blasco, was a painter and professor of Linear Drawing and Adornment and where Pablo Picasso first came into contact with classical studies. Picasso never studied there as his father was transferred, but certainly the teaching and learning environment and the school atmosphere transmitted by his father, who was also the Curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, made their mark on the young Pablo. We must remember that his early works such as First Communion and Science and Charit gained honourable mentions at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1897, and had that classical and academic air which would later evolve into new styles.
Part of the building became the Women's School of Education and School of Arts and Artistic Crafts during the 20th century and today a state school still occupies that part of the building. The part that housed the School of Arts and Crafts is currently the Ateneo, a cultural institution which organises cultural activities in any field of knowledge ranging from exhibitions to lectures and all free of charge.
While the interior has undergone major modifications to suit these uses, the general structure of the building retains its original splendour and elegant Mannerist style with a beautiful staircase finished in 1606 and conference rooms. One of these, the Function Hall, has a striking flat ceiling with a pictorial decoration of balustrades in false perspective, acting as a trompe l'oeil and the beautiful street façade with its round arch supported on stone pillars which, in turn, rest on pillars. Above, a triangular pediment containing the imperial coat of arms and sides of the scrolls and two oriel windows visually lighten the façade.