The Museu Picasso will be fifty years old. On this occasion we will publish in our blog a series of articles that commemorate this event and that get the museum’s trajectory closer to the citizens. There were many people who worked together and fought hard to make the dream come true of opening a museum dedicated to the artist in Barcelona, the city with which Picasso felt closely tied. And there are also many anecdotes which built up this story. Through these people and the anecdotes, we would like to narrate our history.
We start this series talking about one of the key figures in the formation process of the Museum: Jaume Sabartés (Barcelona, 1881 – Paris, 1968), personal secretary and great friend and confidant of Picasso.
Picasso and Sabartés
At the end of the fifties, Sabartés resided in Paris and came to Barcelona with the idea of starting to pull strings so as to make an ultimate homage to his friend. In 1962 he gave the legacy of works that the artist possessed to the city, as well as part of his own personal collection. Just one year later, on 9th March 1963, the Museu Picasso of Barcelona was inaugurated.
Within the framework of the search for documents that help to understand Picasso and his artistic context, the Museu Picasso acquired in 2009, part of the personal archive of Jaume Sabartés (produced between the forties and the end of the sixties) that had ended up in private hands. This purchase is an authentic jewel that the Centre of Knowledge and Research of the Museum is working on, so as to ensure its definitive conservation and foster its accessibility. The processes for the treatment of the archive, documentation and preservation that are being applied are the standard ones; but I don’t want to go on too long with over technical explanations, what I really want to talk about are the impressions that the work of the Jaume Sabartés Collection have revealed.
Jaume Sabartés. c.1961
I don’t know exactly how many or which hands this documentation has passed through since the death of Sabartés until entering the museum, but, checking the order in which it was found on reaching me, it became very evident to me that its initial structure, that which is created in a natural way as a consequence of the activity that generated it, had to a great extent disappeared. This obliged me to look deeper into the papers of Sabartés, into his activity, and as a consequence, into his life. In this way, I started to get to know his way of doing things and of thinking, and I started to reconstruct the relation that joined him with Picasso. Opening his telephone book on any page meant finding personages of the level of Éluard, Gaspar, Vidal Ventosa, Leiris, Braque, etc., which give testimony to the width and depth of his relationships with the cultural élite of the time, a fact that also emerges from the hundreds of books from his library dedicated to him by authors such Miró, Kahnweiler, Penrose or Cassou. Flicking through the notebooks in which he accounted for even the smallest detail, he showed himself to me to be a careful and cautious person, who wasn’t precisely rolling in it. Reading about the huge amount of paperwork that he had to do so as to publish some of his writings, I could capture the feeling of his tenor and moods, and see it how difficult it was for him to bring these writings to light; the majority ofwhich, even though they were written in Spanish, were published abroad.
Jaume Sabartés visiting the Palau Berenguer d’Aguilar. October 15, 1963
I could speak forever about many other impressions, but what struck me most, was the dedication of Sabartés to Picasso. Most of the documentary collection is based around the figure of Picasso. It is especially interesting to perceive the relation between both characters through the more than five hundred photos that make up the collection. In studying these photos, and almost without realizing it, you pass from the life of Sabartés to that of Picasso; photos that sum up, perhaps more than any other document, the complicity between the two friends and that explain, in the same way, the life of one and the other. Sabartés, in the biography Picasso. Portraits and Memories, remembered a decisive moment of his life when, on November 12th 1935, when he joined Picasso once more: “From this moment on, my life joined the same course as his, without wondering how long this excitement would last: because we aim to make it forever.”
Josep Selva, Miquel Gaspar, Jaume Sabartés i Joan Gaspar at Sabartés home in París
This part of the Jaume Sabartés archive explains some years of his professional life, but also his private life, because the dedication of Sabartés to Picasso, for some reason unknown to me, reached the heart itself of his own life.
Knowledge and Research
“Jaume Sabartés Visit”