Àngel Fernández de Soto Llassat was born in Barcelona in 1882, his father being from Madrid and his mother from Tortosa who had settled in the city of Barcelona. Along with his brother Mateu, they would frequent the tavern the Quatre Gats, where they met up with Picasso.
Pablo Picasso. Picasso, Àngel Fernández de Soto and Sebastià Junyer i Vidal in a café. Barcelona, c. 1903. Pen and sepia ink on paper. 13.2 x 9 cm. Gift of Sebastià Junyer i Vidal, 1966. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photo: Estudi Gasull. MPB 70.808 | Picasso, Ángel Fernández de Soto and Carles Casagemas on the Picasso family terrace, in the street of la Mercè circa. 1900. Source: Eduard Vallès Archive, Barcelona
De Soto worked with Ramon Reventós (also a regular of the Quatre Gats) in the company of Mir i Estrada of colonial products, situated in the Princesa street. Àngel worked as the person responsible for doing the orders, while Reventós worked as a clerk.
Among his friends, Àngel was called Patas (‘Feet’) given the fact that, due to the work he had at Mir i Estrada, he spent all the day doing chores going everywhere on foot. Subsequently Miquel Utrillo would change his nickname for Patas arriba (‘Feet up’) as his brother Mateu, maybe because he was a bit shorter, was called Patas abajo (‘Feet down’).
Despite the fact that he surely knew Picasso for having frequented the Edèn Concert of the arrer Nou, it wasn’t until his return from Horta de Sant Joan that they began to meet up regularly at the Quatre Gats. It was around February 1899 and the friendship that they had established would last until the death of Soto, in 1937.
Picasso did various portraits of him, the first of which dates back, according to Pierre Daix, to one of their first encounters in 1899. From among all the portraits, the most well-known one is the oil painting from the Blue Period that he did of him in 1903. The book The Angel of Picasso by Conxa Rodríguez Vives meticulously recounts the history of this work and the friendship and the correspondence that they kept up.
Pablo Picasso. Blue portrait of Àngel Fernández de Soto. 1903. Oil on canvas. 70.3 cm × 55.3 cm. Private collection.
In the portraits, Picasso stylised him and gave him a certain elegance and the air of a dandy at the same time as having a sense of being a sort of sleep-walker with an ironical feel to him. In the museum we have various portraits on paper, some of which can currently be seen in gallery 8 of the permanent collection.
Pablo Picasso. The brothers Mateu and Àngel Fernández de Soto, with Anita. Barcelona, 1902-1903. Conté crayon, blue and sepia coloured pencils and watercolour on paper. 31 x 23.7 cm (irregular). Given by the Barcelona City Council, 1963. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photo: Estudi Gasull. MPB 50.498 | Pablo Picasso. Àngel Fernández de Soto wiht a woman. Barcelona, 1902-1903. Pen and sepia ink, wash, watercolour and Conté crayon on paper. 21 x 15.2 cm. Given by the Barcelona City Council, 1963. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photo: Estudi Gasull. MPB 50.494
During 1903 Picasso and de Soto shared the studio in the street of Riera de Sant Joan (which he had shared beforehand with Casagemas), together with Rocarol and where they also met up, almost on a daily basis, with Sabartés. However, the following year Picasso changed the studio, according to the explanation of Palau i Fabre and Richardson, due to the large number of people that Àngel brought to the studio, especially on the nights when Picasso was working there.
Nevertheless, despite the fact of establishing themselves in different studios, they kept up their friendship and their nights out together. In the summer of 1910 they spent some days together in Cadaqués and in 1917 Àngel attended the banquet in honour of Picasso which was held in the Galeries Laietanes.
Due to financial problems, he resorted various times to his friend Picasso and even worked for some years as an intermediary of the artist in Barcelona, authenticating and managing the purchases of his works of art in the city.
During the Spanish Civil War he would accept the post of secretary of the Popular Art Exhibition that was supposed to have been held in Barcelona during the People’s Olympiad on July 19th 1936, but was finally suspended. Instead of this position, de Soto was appointed secretary of the Sindicat d’Artistes Pintors i Escultors de Catalunya (The Union of Artists and Sculptors of Catalonia).
A short time afterwards, however, Àngel Fernández de Soto died in Barcelona in September 1937, run over by an ambulance or a lorry at the age of 55 years old.
Bibliography and references
“Àngel Fernández de Soto” to: Eduard Vallès, Picasso: amics catalans de joventut. Centre Picasso d’Orta: Museu Picasso. Barcelona, 2009. Pages. 76-77
“Àngel Fernández de Soto” to: Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso i els seus amics catalans. Aedos. Barcelona, 1971. Page 742
“Portraits d’Angel Fernandez de Soto” to: Pierre Daix, Le nouveau dictionarie Picasso. Robert Laffont. París, 2012. Pages 162-136, 125-131
Picasso i els 4 Gats. Museu Picasso de Barcelona. Lunwerg Editores. Barcelona, 1995. Page 68
A Life of Picasso. Vol 1: 1881-1900, John Richardson. Alianza Editorial. Madrid, 1995. Pages 117, 233, 271
El ángel de Picasso. Historia de un bebedor de absenta. Conxa Rodríguez Vives. Parsifal Ediciones. Barcelona, 2003.
Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto – Wikipedia