An initial exhibition in the museum by Jean-Maurice Rouquette in 1957 helped galvanise the bonds that the artist had always maintained with Arles. Those bonds went deep, mingling as they did with his Andalusian passion for the bullfight and, more importantly still, the presence of Vincent Van Gogh, the most obsessive of his artistic 'mentors', which etched itself into his painting.
Meanwhile, in Vauvenargues the following year, Picasso turned to a series of eight portraits of Jacqueline dressed as an Arlesienne. These strongly echoed his Arlésiennes of 1912, and 1937, with Lee Miller as the model, which drew upon the off-yellows of Van Gogh's portraits of Madame Ginoux. Neither Lee Miller nor Jacqueline, incidentally, actually wore the costume in question.
In 1971, two years before his death, Picasso sealed his attachment for Arles by offering the museum a carefully selected group of fifty-seven drawings. Fresh from his hand, they were very representative of the extended series which he was producing at that time, and with an extraordinarily febrile pictorial quality: a sort of diary of a painter, "written" freehand, so to speak - in chalk, in felt tip pen, in ink and so on. They revolved around three themes, in countless variations: that the of Harlequin, the Painter and his model, and most of all the lofty figure of the Musketeer, half-hidalgo, half-matador, a fascinating final self-portrait. Going beneath the references to Rembrandt, Velázquez or El Greco, a study of this series of drawings reveals that, magnetized as he was by the theme of the Musketeer, Picasso had now ushered into his theatre both the great festive gypsy tradition of of Arles and the stern endurance of the Knights of Malta.
It was a historic gift in more ways than one, breathing new life into the collections as well as establishing a new place for drawing, already so prominent in the Réattu, and which would prove to be such a catalyst for the museum.