Eugenio Arias: Friend and barber to Picasso

Forced by poverty to leave school early, barely literate, Eugenio Arias learned barbering from his uncle and had a life common to many who fled Spain under Franco to seek a new life in France – except for his long friendship with Pablo Picasso.

A man with a thirst for culture, and love of his birthplace, Arias founded a Picasso museum in the small town of Buitrago el Lozoya, north of Madrid, with the 60 paintings and artworks given to him by the Spanish-born artist during 26 years of friendship and hair-trimming.

Arias's father was a tailor, his mother a shepherdess. He was inspired by his schoolteacher, but at 11 was sent to work. His uncle ran a barber's in the town, and taught the boy the trade. When the uncle died a few years later, young Eugenio Arias took over the shop, which was more than just a barber's: it boasted a little library where many locals learned to read, and gathered for discussions about theatre. Eugenio took part in a theatre group run by the local education inspector.

A Communist sympathiser, he helped set up a party group in 1931. He fought – and cut comrades' hair – throughout the Civil War, first in Somosierra and later in Teruel, where he received a leg wound that gave him a limp for the rest of his life. When the republic was defeated in 1939, Arias fled to France and joined the Resistance. At a meeting in Toulouse to honour Spaniards who fought against the Nazis, the Spanish Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri, "La Pasionaria", introduced him to Picasso, who was already famous. After the end of the Second World War, Arias opened, in 1948, a barber's in Vallauris, in the French Midi, where Picasso had one of his homes.

The artist became a regular client, and arranged for Arias to visit him every month in his various houses in Vallauris, Cannes and Mougins. Picasso even gave his barber a car to make sure he need never miss an appointment. A warm friendship developed. They played cards and went to bars together, but despite political affinities, talked rarely of politics, rather of day-to-day matters, of bullfights and their nostalgia for Spain. Arias described Picasso as "a second father to me; he treated me as a son". His own parents, unable to get a passport, could never visit him in France.

When Arias married his companion and fellow Resistance combatant Simona Francoual, in 1950, Picasso was best man. And when the artist died in 1973, Arias wrapped him in a Spanish cape sent by his mother, and sat beside him all night.

Picasso's barber displayed his art collection initially in his shop in Vallauris, turning down succulent offers from rich German and Japanese art-lovers. When the dictator Franco died in 1975, Arias returned to Buitrago and donated all the gifts he had received during his years of friendship with the artist to the local council. Buitrago's Picasso Museum opened in 1985 and became a landmark on the Picasso trail in Spain.

Elizabeth Nash

Eugenio Arias Herranz, barber: born Buitrago del Lozoya, Spain 15 November 1909; married 1950 Simona Francoual (one son); died Vallauris, France 28 April 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones