This year represents 50 years since the death of Jaume Sabartés, an essential figure in the life of Pablo Picasso and the man behind the foundation of the Museu Picasso of Barcelona. For this reason, from 23rd November we will be paying homage to him with the exhibition «Sabartés by Picasso by Sabartés», that not only takes an in-depth look at his friendship with the Cubist master, but also his career as a biographer, writer, translator, professor and intellectual.
Sabartés and Picasso were born in the same year, in 1881, and met each other in Barcelona in 1899 when they were students in La Llotja. The connection between them was immediate and they soon became regular members of the meetings in the Quatre Gats, establishing common friendships with Manuel Pallarès, Sebastià Junyer or Àngel Fernández de Soto, among other young artists. From that point on and until the death of Sabartés, in 1968, they were inseparable despite the fact that in various stages they were geographically separated thousands of kilometers apart.
In the exhibition there is a notable place for the epistolary relationship that Sabartés and Picasso maintained between 1905 and 1967. As a result of the opening of the archive of the correspondence of Sabartés that we did at the beginning of the year, and thanks to the collaboration of the Musée National Picasso Paris, we have been able to make a selection of letters that show the complicity, affection and even the irony that laid the foundations of friendship between the two of them.
Pablo Picasso: “Humouristic composition. Jaume Sabartés and Jacqueline Pierreux”, c. 1957. Coloured grease pencils on printed magazine paper. 35.3 x 26.2 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Donation Jaume Sabartés, 1964. MPB 70.676. Photo credit: Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photography, Gasull Fotografia.
There is a place for humour in the portraits that Picasso dedicated to Sabartés throughout his life, where the parody makes him pose as a faun, a satyr or a decadent poet. Sometimes this humor gets to be sexual and awkward, with a type of jokes that they called “things to tremble and laugh.” In the exhibition we have some examples, such as the compositions in which Picasso draws Sabartés flirting with pin-up girls cut out directly from magazines such as Vogue or Ciné-Révelation.
But, as we have said, «Sabartés by Picasso by Sabartés» vindicates the professional side of Sabartés beyond his condition of confidante of the legend. Thus, the exhibition highlights his importance as Picasso’s disseminator and biographer, which was crystalized with the publication of one of his best-known books: Picasso, portraits and memories, translated into French, English, Italian, German and Japanese. In addition, it takes an in-depth look at his stage in Guatemala, where he lived for more than 20 years and where he joined the circle of intellectuals as well as collaborating in newspapers such as El Comercio, the Diario de los Altos or the magazine Juan Chapín.
Finally, the exhibition reserves a space to explain how Sabartés promoted the creation of a museum dedicated to Picasso in the city of Barcelona. An ambitious and complicated project, given the political position of Picasso, who was manifestly contrary to the dictatorship of Franco, but it was finally possible to be carried out thanks to the collaboration of the city council and other institutions of the city. The Museum opened its doors on March 9, 1963 and gradually expanded the collection with works directly donated by Picasso and Sabartés.
«Sabartés by Picasso by Sabartés» is curated by Emmanuel Guigon, director of the Museu Picasso Barcelona, and Margarida Cortadella, in charge of the library. You can visit it until 24th February 2019, and by acquiring an admission ticket this also lets you visit the exhibition «Pablo Picasso and the publishers Gustavo Gili», which is being held during the same dates. And if you don’t want to miss any details, you can book a joint guided visit to both exhibitions.
Written by the Museum