Musée National Picasso-Paris
5 rue de Thorigny, in the Marais district.
When we were in Paris last December we tried to go to this museum, which had recently re-opened on October 25, 2014, but the lines were horrendous so we opted not to wait. So, the next time when we were there in late March we planned and bought a timed ticket online beforehand. It’s well worth doing it that way, as there were still many people lining up. This is an extremely busy popular museum, on the to-do list of many visitors to Paris, especially since its closure (for almost 5 years) and renovation. Full price tickets are 11 euros.
Whether you are a fan of Picasso’s work or not, this museum really is worth a visit, if only to get an overview of the famous painter’s works and to see inside this lovely old building, the Hôtel Salé. In the basement and in the attic area are still many of the huge old wooden ceiling beams, and the Grand Staircase is truly grand, with a sumptuously decorated ceiling. The Hôtel Salé was built 1656-60, and owes its name “salty” to the first owner, Pierre Aubert de Fontenay, a financier who was responsible for collecting the salt tax. It had various occupants until the city of Paris bought it in 1964, and opened it in 1985 as this museum. In 2010 it again closed for renovation and modernization.
The museum has done a good job of arranging the works of Picasso in a roughly chronological and/or thematic way, to better understand his artistic development. For example, we learn of his early beginnings in Spain, studying the great 17th century Spanish painters. He then became more interested in post-Impressionist painters, and Cubism, and later more analytical painting with a denial of perspective and multiple points of view of the same subject. He was also interested in mythology and antiquity, which led him to produce many atemporal figures. Bullfighting was another of his passions and he produced many pieces with bulls and sometimes the mythological minotaur. He had a fascination with the female form, and often deconstructed the figure in surreal ways. He had his Blue Period, his Modern Classic Period, his Spanish Civil War Period, which had a great psychological effect on him and resulted in sometimes radical or violent treatment of his subjects, especially in female portraits.
This is just a bare-bones outline of this complex man and his complicated life.
Each painting or sculpture has a plaque in French, English and Spanish, plus the pamphlet is fairly detailed. You can also get a good audio guide.
The museum is very crowded so be prepared to stand around and wait to see any particular exhibit. There’s a large variety of works—from small sketches, to huge paintings, to metal sculptures. Many of the pieces are very interesting, and when we read the explanations we began to understand why he painted/executed that way, and perhaps a little of what they “mean”. But, I have to admit that in general this is not the kind of art that I really like. I’m probably very much in the minority, I know!
There’s a fun café on the roof overlooking the entrance courtyard, open Tuesday to Sunday. We relaxed up there with some hot tea, and watched people coming and going.
For hours and other information, go to http://www.museepicassoparis.fr