The constitution of Museu Picasso
On 27 July 1960 the plenary session of Barcelona City Council agreed to create Museo Monográfico Pablo Ruiz Picasso and to renovate Berenguer d'Aguilar Palace to accommodate the collection. These agreements paved the way for the founding of Museu Picasso, that would open in 1963 under the name Sabartés Collection, albeit the process was not considered complete until the artist's death in 1973.

Agreement of the plenary session of Barcelona City Council for the creation of Museu Picasso
Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Fons Joan Ainaud de Lasarte
The donation of the Sabartés Collection and the renovation of Berenguer d'Aguilar Palace

As a result of the relationship he established with Picasso, Jaume Sabartés ended up assembling a large number of works by the artist in his own personal collection. Advised by Picasso, in 1955, on his yearly visit to Barcelona, he began to make moves to fulfil his dream of donating his collection to the city. This gesture paved the way for the creation of a museum dedicated to the artist, bound by the promise that once the museum opened, Picasso would contribute further works to enlarge the collection. And so he did.

Jaume Sabartés
Fotografia, autoria desconeguda. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Fons Jaume Sabartés
Donation of the Sabartés Collection

On 10 March 1961 Jaume Sabartés sent a letter to Barcelona City Council expressing his intention to donate his collection of works by Pablo Picasso to the city in the immediate future. The letter set in motion the official process that would lead to the signing of the agreements surrounding the donation on 25 April 1962.

Raimon Noguera was entrusted with finding the legal formula that all parties would find satisfactory. The document drawn up included a clause that would enable Sabartés to sell a work if he needed to. Upon Sabartés's death, the works would legally belong to the City Council. The director of Barcelona Art Museums, Joan Ainaud de Lasarte, and the director of the Museu d'Art Modern, Josep Selva, played a very active role in this cause. The works were delivered in different lots, and the operation concluded on 15 September 1962. The mayor in person informed Sabartés of all the details.

The renovation of Berenguer d'Aguilar Palace

On 3 November 1953 the sale of the palace was completed. The City Council paid 644,787.36 pesetas for the building. Between 1954 and 1956 the first phase of the renovation was carried out, and the tenants who still occupied the premises were dispossessed. The renovation plan designed by Joaquim Ros Ramis had an estimated cost of over six million pesetas and the project was awarded to the contractor Francesc Closa Alegret in September 1960. The work continued through 1961, 1962 and 1963 and, given the problems that arose (the unsteadiness of the structure, the lack of foundations and the large number of cultural heritage elements that emerged), ended up costing quite a lot more than foreseen in the original estimate. Among the heritage features found at Berenguer d'Aguilar Palace mention should be made of the mural decorations of the conquest of Majorca by Jaume I, and the wood panelling in the noble hall. Adolf Florensa supervised the alterations, with the assistance of historian Agustí Duran i Sanpere.

Picasso witnessed the transformation of the palace into a museum. He was regularly sent photographs and other documents that enabled him to follow the work step by step, and even received a wooden mock-up of the structure.

Opening of the Sabartés Collection

On 2 March 1963 the mayor of Barcelona, Josep Maria de Porcioles, sent a letter to Sabartés informing him that everything was ready for the inauguration. Seven days later, on 9 March the collection that Jaume Sabartés had donated to the city was opened to the public in a discreet act without the presence of any politician. The opening was a huge success and both Sabartés and Barcelona City Council received numerous congratulatory messages from institutions and individuals.

Sabartés continued to make donations up until his death

After the inauguration of Museu Picasso in 1963, as he had promised, Sabartés continued to donate works from his private collection to the Barcelona museum.

Death of Sabartés

In the early hours of the morning of 13 February 1968, after a long illness, Jaume Sabartés passed away in his Parisian flat on Auguste-Blanqui and was buried in the French capital, next to his wife. The director of Barcelona's Museu d'Art Modern, Josep Selva – with whom Sabartés had struck up a friendship during their meetings to draw up the inventory of the works in the donation – travelled to Paris to offer his condolences on behalf of the City Council.

The donations by Picasso

After the death of Jaume Sabartés on 13 February 1968, as he had promised on several occasions, Picasso continued to enhance the museum collection as a tribute to his well-loved friend.

Picasso in his home at Notre-Dame-de-Vie
Museu Picasso, Barcelona. © Atelier Lucien Clergue
Donation of Las Meninas

In May 1968, barely three months after the death of Sabartés, Picasso donated Las Meninas (a 1957 series of consisting of forty-five interpretations inspired by Velázquez's painting, nine representations of the pigeon-loft at La Californie, three landscapes of the bay of Cannes and a portrait of Jacqueline) and Blue Portrait of Jaume Sabartés (1901) to the museum.

Donation of prints (1968-1971)

Right up until his death, Picasso would continue to send the museum a copy of each print he made, bearing the dedication 'Pour Sabartés'. In most cases, these were artists' proofs that reached the museum via Galerie Louise Leiris in Paris.

Donation of early works (1970)

For a number of years Picasso had been preparing another donation, perhaps the most important in terms of volume and because of its special value for the city of Barcelona. With this gift the artist gave the museum its definite shape in the early seventies.

Donation of Picasso's early works

In 1959, one year after the death of his sister Lola who lived in Barcelona, Picasso entrusted his nephew Javier Vilató Ruiz to find a photographer to record all the works that had remained in his family home at 48 Passeig de Gràcia. The 994 photographs that reproduced the works, taken by photographer Francisco Melich, were sent to the artist. In the autumn of 1969, accompanied by Anna Maria Torra and Gustau Gili, Noguera visited Picasso because the artist needed his advice on some private affairs, including the availability of the assets he had in Spain — in other words, the works of his youth that had been photographed. Noguera gave his verdict, following Spanish law and, on the suggestion of the notary lawyer Ronald Dumas, gave another following French law in view of the fact that the artist lived in France. Once he received the results of the verdicts, Picasso asked Noguera to prepare the paperwork that would enable him to donate some of his early compositions to the museum, which he chose after carefully studying the photographs.

As Noguera has recalled:

'During many unforgettable hours, Picasso certified the genuineness of each copy, barely containing his emotion. Revealing a prodigious memory, he identified places and people, recalled anecdotes and illustrated the drawings with shrewd and precise comments, most of which were jotted down, that made his evocation of Barcelona more vivid and human.'

On 23 February 1970 Picasso signed a document in Mougins, according to which, 'in memory of my unforgettable friend, Jaime Sabartés', he would donate to the city works (personally chosen from the photographs) he had made during the years of his youth and which had been carefully preserved by his family in Barcelona.

Renovation and addition of Baró de Castellet Palace

In order to accommodate the collection of Picasso's early works, Barcelona City Council would renovate the building adjacent to the museum, Baró de Castellet Palace. The building, that dates back to the thirteenth century, had been confiscated by the council in 1963, although the project to enlarge the museum at a cost of over nine million pesetas was not initiated until 1970.

Inauguration in 1970

Given that the political climate of those years seemed favourable enough, the idea was that the inauguration of the extension of the museum (which from then on would be called Museu Picasso) would be a public act attended by local authorities and representatives of all social strata, a gesture designed to help restore normality. However, once the invitations had been sent, Picasso, who had learnt of new death sentences dictated at the conclusion of the Burgos trial, asked the mayor of Barcelona to withdraw the invitations from all those who occupied official positions and to cancel all public statements. The artist wanted to express his protest against a sentence he considered unfair and intolerable and that consequently forced him to withdraw the authorisation he had given. As a result, the extension of the museum housing the new collections was opened on 18 December 1970, in the absence of local authorities by express desire of Picasso.

Death of Picasso

Picasso, who had often declared that he would carry on making donations in order to continue to enhance the city's cultural heritage, passed away on 8 April 1973 at his home Notre-Dame-de-Vie, in Mougins. Having promised that he wouldn't return to Spain until the end of the Franco régime, he died without ever having visited the museum he had conceived and that, from the very beginning, had created as if it were another work of art.

Despite the fact that after Picasso's death the museum would continue to grow thanks to other gifts from members of Barcelona society and from his widow Jacqueline, as well as through the acquisitions made by the council, the artist's death marks the end of the phase of creation of Museu Picasso.

To quote Joan Ainaud de Lasarte, 'In short, we could say that Picasso donated the collections and that he and Barcelona made the museum'.