Pablo Picasso: Humorous 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.
The compositions with pin-up girls form a sub-category in the correspondence between Pablo Picasso and Jaume Sabartés. These small creations are an example of the humour that impregnated their friendship, not evading any type of joke, not even the dirty or sexual ones. They referred to them as “things to make you tremble and laugh,” and they did so increasingly in the 1950s, when both were already in their seventies.
The term pin-up emerged in the 1940s to refer to models who appeared in posters, drawings, photographs and calendars that were pinned to the wall since the end of the 19th century. The immense majority of pin-ups were actresses such as Jane Russell and Betty Grable, who reached their maximum popularity during the Second World War. Later on, Marilyn Monroe would be added to these as one of the first pin-ups of the magazine Playboy, founded in 1953.
In the correspondence between Picasso and Sabartés, the image of the pin-up often constitutes the letter itself. The artist used to cut or rip out the central pages of magazines such as Ciné-Révelation or Vogue and he drew Sabartés in a lewd or flirting attitude with the model in fashion. Most of the times theses were parodic situations in which the older man implored the sexual favours of the young beauty. Even so, it was Sabartés who incorporated the term pin-up in the letters following a conversation on a flight from Nice to Paris with an American passenger on March 6, 1956.
Here are some examples of these humorous compositions, along with the ironic messages that Picasso addressed to Sabartés.
The woman who appears in this first composition is Dani Crayne, a North American actress and model who played roles in films such as The Story of Mankind (1957). In the caricature, Sabartés approaches her to kiss her and Picasso writes the following: “Dear Jaume. Here you can see yourself again doing what you always do. It can’t go on like this. However, I’m still sending you another hug.”
Pablo Picasso: Humorous composition. Jaume Sabartés and Dani Crayne, 22nd May 1957. Coloured grease pencils on printed magazine paper, 34.5 x 26.1 cm. 73 x 58 cm. MPB 70.672.
In this second composition, we can find the swimmer Esther Williams, who also starred in numerous films in Hollywood between the 1940s and 1960s. Picasso touched up the photograph and wrote on the back: «Dear Jaumet. Here we are as always the two of us and as you can see, in love and happy. Dear and beautiful son. How I look forward to seeing you again, totally shattered. Go and pull out your tita, do not be foolish, you’ll see how crazy it makes me […]But how embarrassing to see you getting into such liassons at your age (ours)».
Pablo Picasso: Humorous composition. Jaume Sabartés and Esther Williams. Coloured grease pencils on printed magazine paper. 23/05/1957. 35.6 x 26.5 cm. 73 x 58 cm. Donation Sabartés, Jaume, 1964. MPB 70.675.
Finally, in this third composition, Jaume Sabartés appears behind an unidentified pin-up and Picasso once again writes a funny rebuke: “Here you have a portrait done as a monkey. Tell me if you’re not ashamed, seeing it. Show it to Pallarès, you are made to tremble and laugh. Another hug from your Picasso”.
Pablo Picasso: Humorous composition. Jaume Sabartés as a monkey with a pin-up. Graphite pencil, coloured pencils, and scraped on cut-out printed magazine paper. 23/05/1957. 35.6 x 26.5 cm. 73 x 58 cm. Donation Sabartés, Jaume, 1964. MPB 70.675.
If you want to see the contents of these humorous compositions of pin-ups and others that filled the friendship between Picasso and Sabartés, you now have a great opportunity with the exhibition “Sabartés by Picasso by Sabartés”, which you can visit in the Museu Picasso of Barcelona until 24th February.
- Exhibition “Sabartés by Picasso by Sabartés”
- Interview with Margarida Cortadella, curator of the exhibition
- Study of the correspondence between Picasso and Sabartés
Written by the Museum