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On the teenage Picasso's life in Barcelona.
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ONE
By an offhand coincidence my copy of last month's Catalonia Today, with its cover story on Picasso (Andalusia, 1881 - France, 1973) arrived on the very day I started to read my first book ever about this painter, written by an author quoted in the opening sentences of the lead article in question: Josep Palau i Fabre. His 'Picasso i els seus amics catalans' (1970) describes the painter's life as a young hopeful in Barcelona. Having always regarded Picasso as a century-straddling, almost timeless figure, it was an eye-opener to discover that when he was a teenager he spent much of his time hanging out in bars with a bunch of other young prospects, uncertainty weighing heavily on their aspirations to future greatness. Among his chums – most of them forgotten today - was Ramon Reventós, whose short stories Picasso would illustrate 50 years later. And Jaume Sabartés, who at 19 finally gave up writing poetry in order to become a full-time Picasso devotee. And Benet Soler the tailor, with whom Picasso and the others exchanged sketches for smart suits. And Manolo Hugué, the thief turned sculptor who fascinated Picasso with graphic accounts of Raval low life. And Carles Casagemas, the closest friend, whose shotgun suicide in 1901 triggered off the painter's Blue Period. There were also some well-known members of the crème of the local cultural crème: Casas, Rusiñol, Junoy, Gargallo, Vallmitjana, and Picasso's favourite painter at the time, Isidre Nonell... In this forward-looking, turn-of-the-century Catalan world, Pablo Picasso – Pau to his friends – felt so completely at home, that for the rest of his life, most of it spent in exile, he proudly insisted on speaking Catalan to his many visitors and friends from the Principality. Feeling as he did – so his widow hinted in a 1980 interview – that his birthplace was one thing, but his true native country, quite another. And there was I thinking I couldn't possibly have anything in common with such a towering genius.