The spirit of Pablo in Malaga

Janet Reeder strolls through the streets of Picasso's birthplace, Malaga

At the Picasso Museum in Malaga there is a picture painted in the 1970s of doves, one of the many which revolved around his interest in this enduring symbol of peace. And I suppose I would have appreciated it for its charm alone had I not visited the city’s Fundacion Picasso earlier that day and seen another picture remarkably similar and yet painted by his father some 80 years earlier.

‘Picasso depicted what he saw around him. There was no symbolism, he just wanted people to make up their own minds about what they were looking at,’ the museum guide told me. I am not sure I agree with her but to find myself later discussing art over coffee in a bar overlooked by the beautiful Malaga cathedral much, much later in the evening added to my fantasy of connecting with the artist in his own birthplace.

Millions of people pass through Malaga every day - on route to somewhere else, such as Marbella, Puerto Banus or Torremolinos. The coastline is stunning and varied, incorporating long stretches of beach, golf course, chic harbours packed with million dollar yachts and upmarket boutiques and dotted with white Andalucian mountain villages such as Mijas, where we enjoyed tapas at the local winery museum. However, Malaga itself is a superb base. It has everything you’d expect from a Spanish city, winding streets, alfresco cafes, great shopping and an intriguing history that stretches back to Phoenician times.

Picasso must have happily wandered through these streets as a young boy, but he left the city when he was 15-years-old and until he was 19 he would return to shock his aunts by wearing his hair long and consorting with ‘ladies of the night’ who hung around the restaurant Chinitas, which even today serves traditional Andalucian dishes amidst an explosion of colourful kitsch Spanish painting and tilework.

 ‘Look at his eyes. Like nails!’ marvelled our guide pointing at a photo, clearly captivated by the man who charmed wives and mistresses, then like most geniuses behaved appallingly. Not quite sure what she meant. This was clearly some Spanish phrase that had got lost in translation but in a way sums him up quite well.

If flying to Malaga isn’t possible, Tate Liverpool’s thrilling new exhibition Picasso Peace and Freedom, which runs until August 30, gives a sense of how Spain affected his work.

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The section Las Meninas deals with his relationship to the country, even though for most of his life he lived in exile. Here are his famous works such as The Charnel House and Monument to the Spaniards who Died for France which show his concern with fascism in Franco’s Spain.

‘He simply had to carry out something that was already inside him, something that he could already see within,’ said Josep Palau Fabre in 1969.

And this indeed is something we can glimpse when we see his portraits in those eyes, those eyes our tour guide kept insisting were ‘like nails’.

Stay at: Janet Reeder stayed at the four star Hotel Molina Lario and flew to Malaga with Monarch airlines, which offers year-round flight from Manchester airport with fares, plus taxes, starting from �54.99 one way. For more information or to book visit

Flight time from Manchester: Approx 2 � hours.Picasso: Peace + Freedom continues  until August 30.

Visit the website at: Tel: 0151 702 7400

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