We landed in Málaga a week ago today, after a long, cramped flight from JFK. It's a lovely little city, which we explored last summer (see my blogs from July 2003, in the Archive, for notes on the ancient Roman theater, the Alcazaba, guitar, and García Lorca's old hangout, the Café Cantante de las Chinitas). The highlight this trip was Sunday´s visit to the newly opened Museo Picasso, in what used to be the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and before that a palace of some noble, and long before that, a fortress and homes built by Phoenician colonists in the 6th century BC. The ancient remains were rediscovered not long ago (the noble who built the palace on top of them surely knew they were there), and can be viewed in the basement of the present museum. Walking among them is a shock to one's personal time system. When I think that people much like us were going about their urban business 26 centuries ago, I have to laugh at the importance I tend to give to my own brief lifespan.

Pablo Ruiz Picasso's creative lifespan was pretty near the limit any of us can expect these days. His first, very impressive realistic portraits of family members shown in the museum were painted when he was 12 or 13 -- ¡caramba! That boy could draw! And he was still inventing new forms when he was in his 90s; some of those works are here, too. You remember his famous remark in his mature years, that he had spent all his life trying to paint like a child. That was because as a child, he painted like Rubens or Velázquez or any of the other great painters he chose to imitate. He had incredible facility, but was quickly bored by doing anything that was that easy for him.

I was especially impressed by one series of 13 sketches he dashed off in one afternoon in Paris. No. 1 in the series was so highly abstract it was almost impossible to make out anything but a complex design, but from there (if we are to trust the numbering he gave the sketches) he worked backwards to an ever more recognizable drawing of a seated nude with her legs crossed. If you delight in extreme visual intelligence and the exuberant enjoyment of physicality, don't miss this collection, assembled mostly (or maybe entirely) from works in the possession of his numerous descendants.

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