Pablo Picasso and the Four Cats.

In the heart of old Barcelona, very close to the medieval Gothic Quarter, in one of the narrow streets where it is easy to get lost for non-natives, there is an iconic place associated with the life of the artistic bohemia of Barcelona and Pablo Picasso, among others. It is the Casa Martí, also known as the 4 Gats restaurant.

The building is a masterpiece by the famous Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. It was built in 1896, during the golden age of Catalan Modernism, by the Marti brothers, industrialists of silk fabrics. No one from the Marti family intended to live in this house, it was an investment in real estate, to put it in modern terms. For rent. But in that era, houses belonging to rich people were their calling card. The best architects and craftsmen were invited to build them. Casa Martí is built in the neo-Gothic style, magnificent work of forging and stone carving, as well as sculptures of Eusebi Arnau himself decorate the facade of the house.

Pere Romeo and Four Cats

But what does it have to do with cats and a restaurant, you may ask?
There was a local man in that era, his name was Pere Romeo, a great lover of theater, cabaret, variety shows, and generally of Parisian bohemian life. He even worked in the famous cafe Au Chat Noir (The Black Cat) in Paris, was fond of the Chinese shadow theater productions – in a word, a creative person. Returning to Barcelona with a lot of creative baggage and ideas, but alas, without money, he was able to find rich people willing to embark on a similar venture, namely to recreate in Barcelona the atmosphere of Parisian Cafés Chanson.

The three enthusiasts were the famous Catalan artists Santiago Rusinol, Ramon Casas and Miguel Utrillo, all from wealthy families. That is, these three plus the initiator of the project were the “Four Cats” who embarked on such an adventure, exactly in accordance with the Catalan expression “four cats”, which means a small company of special people.

The seed fell on fertile ground. The artistic life in Barcelona, undoubtedly the most European city in Spain, was booming at that time. Fresh innovative ideas that came from France and Paris, the mecca of cultural life, were of great interest among the local artistic bohemia. “4 Kota” very quickly became a popular place. There was not only delicious food and drink. There were creative discussions, a grand piano played in the evenings by such famous Spanish composers as Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz, and concerts. Antonio Gaudi used to go there.
Young solo exhibitions of young artists were held there.

Pablo Picasso

It was in “4 Cats” that the young Pablo Picasso, an artist then little known in Barcelona, was able to present his first solo, though not official, exhibition of his works. The restaurant existed for seven years, from 1897 to 1903. For its owner, Pere Romeo, the atmosphere and creative spirit of the establishment were more important than the income from it. How many young artists in need of money found hearth and a hot lunch there! Including Pablo Picasso, who sometimes couldn’t afford to pay for his food. Picasso, wanting to thank his hospitable host, offered to make drawings for the restaurant menu. Neither of them could have known at the time that these early works by the future world-famous artist would be kept and exhibited at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona! Picasso adored Barcelona, where he lived for 9 years. It was the place where he spent his adolescence and youth, the time of his studies, his formation and simply his happy years.

But no one, not even in his wildest dreams, could have imagined that on March 9, 1963, 63 years later, while the artist was still alive, there would be a Picasso museum on Montcada Street. It is located in a building made up of five splendid townhouses of the Catalan aristocracy in a neighborhood that enjoys 900 years of history. One of his best museums! A 10-minute walk from “4 Cats”.
And the restaurant “4 Cats” has reopened. And if you’re in Barcelona, be sure to stop by! Over a cup of fine coffee, a delicious lunch or dinner, enjoy the interiors of the epoch, photographs and of course, reproductions of works by Pablo Picasso proudly hung there.
And don’t miss the originals at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona!