Picasso's paintings and sculptures inspired by passion for Absinthe

Cheers: In Malaga, Spain, citizens revere Picasso and the drink that inspired him. Bars such as this are also a tourist drawcard.
Cheers: In Malaga, Spain, citizens revere Picasso and the drink that inspired him. Bars such as this are also a tourist drawcard.

IT will be a day of celebration in the Spanish city of Malaga tomorrow ... although one tinged with a modicum of sadness.

Annually on April 8, the locals sit at the café tables on the Plaza de la Merced in the centre of Malaga, and toast the man who was arguably the city’s favourite son - master painter and sculptor Picasso - on the anniversary of his 1973 death.

Inevitably they drink glass after glass of absinthe, the drink that is said to have inspired so many of Picasso’s masterpieces.

Most of us know him by the single name Picasso. But his baptisimal name was a real mouthful – Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso.

During his lifetime he created more than 140,000 paintings and drawings; some 100,000 engravings; 300 sculptures, and untold thousands of other documents.

These include café menus which he would illustrate to pay for meals in his days as a struggling young artist in Barcelona and Paris.

There is firm evidence that Picasso, like artists Vincent van Gogh and Édouard Manet before him, drank copious amounts of absinthe before turning to his canvases. His obvious love of the drink, which could be up to 85 per cent proof, is seen in scores of his creations.

One of his most important works is Woman Drinking Absinthe painted in 1901. He also made a series of six sculptures of a bottle of the fiery tipple, topped by a real absinthe spoon and a cube of sugar, used by devotees to make the drink more palatable.

They were created in 1914, a year before France, and most other countries, banned the drink because it was an alleged hallucinogen. It was more than 80 years before most of the bans were repealed, by which time Picasso had died.

Picasso’s birthplace, a dark yellow and white building adjacent to the Plaza de la Merced, is a magnet for tourists.

Liked a tipple: Picasso contemplates the effects of absinthe. Photo by Gordon Andrews, Australian designer of our first decimal currency banknotes.

Liked a tipple: Picasso contemplates the effects of absinthe. Photo by Gordon Andrews, Australian designer of our first decimal currency banknotes.

And the visitors queue up to have a “selfie” with a statue of the great man sitting on a bench nearby. Sadly, it is difficult to get a good shot because of the shadows cast on the bronze sculpture. But it doesn’t stop the tourists posting the dark photos on Facebook.

Picasso was 91 years old when he passed away at a private retreat at Mougins, near Cannes, in south-eastern France. He still enjoyed the good life, especially beautiful women, the finest food and a liqueur or six.

He suffered a heart attack at a dinner party and it is said his final words were: “Drink to me. Drink to my health. You know I can’t drink anymore.”

Out there: One of Picasso's series of six sculptures dedicated to his favourite alcoholic drink Absinthe, which may be the source of his abstract inspiration.

Out there: One of Picasso's series of six sculptures dedicated to his favourite alcoholic drink Absinthe, which may be the source of his abstract inspiration.

The Absinthe Drinker: Picasso's love of controversial beverage absinthe was the subject of many of his paintings - the most famous is this one.

The Absinthe Drinker: Picasso's love of controversial beverage absinthe was the subject of many of his paintings - the most famous is this one.