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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 primary supply teacher ne...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Regional ESF Contract Manager

£32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home