The itinerary combines five great artists of the 20th century, all of whom are related by art, friendship, and the city of Florence.

We start with Pablo Picasso.  There are endless books dedicated to his works, so we will focus on Pablo himself, then proceed on to the life of Jean Cocteau, Picasso’s friend and ‘colleague’ for nearly sixty years. We use this quote to define Picasso:

“… if all the stages of life could be represented as points on a map and traced with a line, the result would be a figure of a Minotaur …” And like the animal of the Theseus myth, he annihilated everyone that entered his Labyrinth.

Picasso was born in Malaga, of Italian blood on the side of his maternal great-grandfather born in Sori, a village in the province of Genova.

As a child, his eclectic temperament manifested in the unique talent and passion for the forbidden; at the age of seven he was drawing bullfighting scenes live in the arena and spying on the hidden world of the Gypsies. After moving to Barcelona, he attended the Academy and devoured the Spanish avant-garde. The Minotaur arrived to Paris in 1900 with the goal to become the greatest artist of the century. It was said that his ambition was dictated by his peniafobia (the fear of becoming poor). Pablo returned several times to Paris before settling in an old Montmartre piano factory in 1904.  The famous Bateau-Lavoir of “Bande à Picasso” was a lively group of friends and artists who collectively defined art history. Picasso sought notoriety in Paris. He shared a room with poet and painter Max Jacob; there was only one bed, so the two slept in turns, one during the day, the other at night. Jacob would write letters in French to the hotel owners with whom Picasso was in debt. When Guillaume Apollinaire wanted to eat bouillabaisse, he would sell ten or twelve Picasso drawings to a junk shop for 40 cents. His fame grew as he experimented with friends. Picasso’s studio became a pilgrimage for models searching for free art, and an exchange of opinions, transgressions, parties, and sex. Picasso here passed his blue and pink period, as well as the birth of cubism.

In 1915, Jean Cocteau, the young “parlor poet,” reformed by the war, began attending the Montparnasse artistic avant-garde along with Picasso and the inseparable Jacob and Apollinaire. It was said that the penniless three did not welcome the arrival of Cocteau, but the eagerness to “discover new worlds” and Cocteau’s cultivated relationships in affluent Paris solidified their friendship, although ulterior motives were apparent.

Cocteau’s desired to create and experiment was fueled by his relationship with Picasso, as well as his extremity in art and life.

Vice and art united them; alcohol, drug use, and sexual obsession were constantly fused with art. They loved the beauty, humor, diversity, rapid decision-making, and execution of this association. Cocteau recounts:

“… this is his kingdom. Picasso is a king … he can do whatever he wants as long as there are no mistakes within his registry. To approach the world and sacred monsters he invents, one must know its syntax and its language. Otherwise, you are a snob or blind …” Cocteau involved Picasso in the development of his show Parade, for which Pablo designed costumes. They worked for two months for the Rome ballet in 1917, where Picasso fell in love with dancer Olga Koklova. He casually followed her to Florence, together visiting churches, museums, and palaces.

Florence called Picasso again in 1949, this time without Cocteau. During his second visit, tired of the classic tourist sites, Pablo observed the city. The portrait artists of the Uffizi, and the street artists who loved living freely fascinated him. We can say that Florence and Cocteau were complicit in Pablo’s first marriage to Olga, one of the eight most important women in his life. This list included many lovers; all were attractive, and some were artists, his muses, models, lovers and victims of the Minotaur. Some were very young and unaware of his incredible personality, yet desired his company.  Some were crazy, some suicidal. His vehemence was huge in art, as well in life. The Lungarno Collection combined Picasso and Cocteau through the tetralogy, dedicated to the Minotaur, a figure that they both loved and represented several times in their work and stay in the French Riviera. Jean Cocteau, an eclectic artist and investigator, was the opposite of Picasso.  He was the representative of the Parisian bourgeoisie, a fine man who loved to wander from poetry to writing, from acting to drawing. His homosexuality accompanied his inspiration, he supported and promoted his lovers, unlike Picasso, who humiliated and crushed his companions. Cocteau loved Italy as a boy, from the first time he vacationed in Venice with his mother.  Jean understood Italian painting and created homage in many of his works to the great Bramante, Giotto, Michelangelo, and Paolo Uccello.

Picasso, is tied to another important character of the Lungarno Collection, Mario Sironi. Picasso recounts: “… you have a great artist, perhaps the greatest of the moment and do not realize it.”

Italy has underrated in the past, but today it is recognized as one of the great masters of the ‘900. Sironi was one of the most tormented painters of the collection, or as his nephew recalls a “relentless visionary.” In 1950, Pablo Picasso, perhaps with his friend Jean Cocteau, sent a letter from Antibes with a drawing of a goat on the back requesting advice on upcoming works.

The letter was addressed to Marino Marini, whom he had met years before in Paris. Marino, a famous Tuscan artist, was the emotional opposite of Pablo. He was always traveling and curious, but considerably modest in private life. His one great love, his wife Marina, accompanied him through his journey in art. We conclude our trip through Florence, with one of the collections highly represented artists of that period, Ottone Rosai. The collection shows many of his works which portray the highlights and humility of the city, and as a man; we recognize his homosexual affinity for Cocteau and his dedication to Picasso. The Lungarno Hotel lobby is rich in precious works, and the stories of other great artists are interwoven on the various floors of the hotel, in the name of culture and the 20th century European art.