Although Picasso is the paradigm of the twentieth century artist, his formal training began and ended in the nineteenth century. The years he resided in Barcelona — from 1895 to 1904 — were crucial in that they signified the end of his academic period and the start of his career as an artist.

One of the most representative and complex artists of that time was Santiago Rusiñol, painter, writer, collector, journalist and cultural activist. His role in Picasso's development was twofold: as an actual artist — a number of whose works Picasso copied and adapted — and also as a model, and often leading figure, in a range of discourses and themes. Rusiñol was a key figure in terms of his connections to some of the century's important cultural projects, as well as being active in importing European modernity to the Barcelona art world. The two artists coincided physically at a crossroads in time, at once a crossroads in both of their lives. Rusiñol was already a famous artist, yet no longer the leader of the avant-garde he had once been, while Picasso, in contrast, was still a fledgling artist in search of stimuli and points of reference.

Picasso followed a process vis-à-vis Rusiñol in which he chose him as a model, then did portraits of, analyzed, copied and eventually beyond him. Based on Picasso's particular focus on Rusiñol we can infer a broader discourse: the influence on Picasso of and his ambivalent attitude towards the Barcelona art world, from which he would gradually distance himself as Paris became his milieu.

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