It's easy to be confused by the many Picasso Museums in Europe – in Malaga, Barcelona, Paris and Antibes. A brief study of the influential Spanish artist's life explains all. Born in Malaga; raised in Barcelona; lived in Paris and holidayed in Antibes. It's a surprise only in one sense that Malaga, the Andalusian city of Picasso's birth, has devoted a fine museum to one its most famous sons – Picasso had a lifelong loathing of the city and rarely went back to Malaga as an adult, despite living there to the age of ten and enjoying, it seems, a happy childhood. It's thought the disdain many Catalans have for the south – and many of Picasso's friends were Catalan – may have turned him against Malaga.
His family moved to La Corunna in Galicia when he was ten and his early work there in the north west of Spain showed great promise. Curiously, La Corunna has resisted the temptation to have its own Picasso Museum. His family next moved to Barcelona, where his father was employed at the Art College. This was the formative period of Picasso's life – he was fourteen when he arrived there in 1895 – and his artistic development. Picasso was accepted into the city's art school, La Llotja, although he was not to enjoy the experience. He did, however, make lifelong friends and also spent time working in a remote part of the Catalan countryside at Horta. This was to prove one of the happiest times of his life, living rough with a friend from the area, Pallares, who in one famous incident, saved Picasso's life. The young artist slipped on a steep slope and fell into a rushing torrent where, not being able to swim, he would have drowned but for his friend diving in to rescue him.
Without Pallares' brave action, the world would be without Picasso's later masterpieces like Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, painted in 1907, and Guernica (1937). Works from that stay in Horta are now displayed in the Museu Picasso in Barcelona amongst many other works from his teenage years and early twenties, particularly from his Blue and Rose periods. During this stage of his life, Picasso was a regular at Els Quatre Gats, or the Four Cats, a short-lived tavern that was only open from 1897 until 1903. It was, however, a hugely influential place in Catalan art and intellectual life and it was here that Picasso learnt much about aspects of life other than painting. Els Quatre Gats' location can still be seen today on the ground floor of the Casa Marti, which is now a café. Barcelona, while Picasso lived there, was the most unstable city in Europe with strikes and protests, often suppressed by the authorities with violence.
As yet unpoliticised, the young artist seemed more interested in the low life of Barri Xines – brothels were an important part of life and art – than the political drama around him. It was only after the outbreak of the Civil War in Spain that Picasso formally embraced the Left. Later he would became a Communist. After spells in Madrid, a city he loathed and like La Corunna, without a Picasso museum, the artist was off to Paris, then very much the intellectual and artistic capital of Europe.
While he travelled for some years between Barcelona and Paris, often impoverished, he was to spend most of his life in France, despite struggling at first to add French to his native Spanish and self-taught Catalan. The influence of Paris in his life makes the city's Musee Picasso the most important of the museums devoted to his work.
Picasso is said, with his American friends the Murphy's, to have started the trend of summer holidays on the French Riviera, until the 1920s, exclusively a winter resort area. Antibes and Juan les Pins were favourites of Picasso and he was prolific during his summer stays, so it's hardly surprising that the fourth great Picasso museum is at Antibes. It was in the south of France, at Mougins in Alpes-Maritime, that Picasso died in 1973 while having dinner with friends. His final words were said to be "Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can not drink any more."