Picasso came to Paris for the first time in 1900, at the age of 19. Until 1955 Paris was always somehow his base, although he always moved around a lot, in the beginning back and forth to Spain, later with parallel homes and workshops in the countryside. The last part of his life he lived mainly in the south of France. He died at the age of 91 in 1973.
He changed addresses quite often in Paris, in the beginning because of lack of money, later often according to change of life partner… I have blogged about his most famous Montmartre address (see here), the Bateau Lavoir, where he passed the blue, the rose, the African-influenced, the cubism periods…and also about two addresses in the Montparnasse areas (see here)… and of course about the newly reopened Picasso Museum (see here).
This is about a third address, rue des Grands Augustins. He stayed here for quite a while, 1937-55, including during the WWII years – not making any exhibitions during the Nazi occupation years. I don’t know if it was the actor Jean-Louis Barrault, who had occupied the place with an experimental theatre, or the photographer Dora Maar, who finally indicated the address to Picasso, but he was obviously very happy about the place. Dora Maar became a partner.
This is where one of Picasso’s most famous paintings was executed. In the beginning of 1937, Picasso had been commissioned by the Spanish Republican government to make a wall painting for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. When he learned about the bombing of Guernica by German and Italian warplanes, he changed his initial plans and started in the beginning of May to make his painting. Dora Maar took photos… Finally he was ready, but a bit too late for the opening of the exhibition.
We must remember that Spain was in a civil war in 1937. It took a lot of violence before Franco managed to take power in 1939. We can see the modest Spanish Republican (against Franco) pavilion, more or less neighbour to the imposing German pavilion during the Fair. The pavilion also showed works by Juan Miro and by Alexander Calder – the Mercury Fountain.
The Guernica painting travelled a lot after the World’s Fair exhibition and later, on Picasso’s request, ended up at MoMA in NYC. Picasso clearly didn’t want his painting to go to Spain before “the restoration of public liberties and democratic institutions”. Finally the painting came to Spain in 1981, eight years after Picasso’s death and six years after Franco’s death. It’s now exposed at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
It seems that there is a dispute ongoing about the future of this historic building, rue des Grands Augustins – yes, there is a lot more to be said about it. The present owners want to transform it into some kind of luxury hotel… Nothing seems to be decided.