For all of us at the Museum the greeting card for Christmas 2010 and this new year that has just begun had a star that was foreseeable but at the same time unexpected: a photograph of Pablo Picasso! The unexpected part is that this is an unpublished photograph, the very existence of which was previously unknown.
Pablo Picasso – Vallauris 1954 (donation)
The picture, together with two more, was the generous gift of Alejandro Nadal, son of the painter Carlos Nadal, who gave them to the Museu Picasso in July 2010. The photographs were taken by Alejandro’s father, at Picasso’s house in Vallauris in 1954. The Museu Picasso was delighted to accept them as a valuable addition to the Picasso study centre.
We would all like to thank the Nadal family for this lovely gift, which enhances our collection and enables us to know a little bit more about Picasso’s life and milieu. For this article, we asked Alejandro Nadal to explain the background to the picture.
Alejandro Nadal’s testimony
‘Carlos Nadal took this very interesting picture of Pablo Picasso in Vallauris in 1954, a photograph in which the painter’s penetrating gaze contrasts with the affection with which he holds his cat.
At that time, Carlos Nadal (Paris 1917 – Sitges 1998) was a promising 37-year-old Spanish painter, born in Paris but living in Brussels since 1949. In 1954, Louis Manteau, his dealer in Belgium and the Netherlands, lent him his house on the Côte d’Azure for a while to prepare an exhibition. By way of Manteau or one of his other dealers at the time (he had exhibited in the Pinacoteca and the Sala Gaspar in Barcelona on several occasions in the early fifties, and also at the Galerie Georges Giroux in Brussels) he had the opportunity to visit and get to know Pablo Picasso in the nearby town of Vallauris.
Carlos Nadal – circa 1950
For Carlos Nadal this was a unique opportunity to meet and talk to the artist he considered the master of masters, the great Pablo Picasso. Then aged seventy-three, Picasso was an exceptionally famous painter. But in a gesture of generosity, for all his fame and prestige, he showed no hesitation in opening the doors of his house to a virtually unknown young painter.
Despite the age difference of more or less a generation, the two had several things in common: they were both painters’ sons, and had started their apprenticeship at a very early age. Both were Spanish expatriates, had lived in Barcelona and attended classes at the Llotja art school. They lived or had been born in France, where they had developed their professional careers (Carlos was born in Paris and spent three years living in the Spanish hall of residence on the university campus in the late forties). And both had suffered the hardships of their times, including wars, exile and hardship.
Carlos Nadal and Pablo Picasso – Vallauris 1954 (donation)
But they were also both resolute, self-made people. Besides having a solid academic training, they were people with a vocation and a total passion for art. And they were very had workers.
Carlos Nadal and Pablo Picasso had similarly strong personalities.
They seemed to be cut from the same cloth.
Artistically, of course, they pursued very different lines or styles, but this didn’t matter to either of them. It’s well known how broadminded Picasso was towards other artists with very different approaches.
What did they do, what happened during those few hours or days they spent together in Vallauris?
It’s possible that they worked together.
But one thing is sure: they talked and talked.
So what did they talk about? Without entering into excessive speculation, they would have talked about their beloved Barcelona, Spain, the war, the refugee camp where Carlos had been in, the 1937 Expo in Paris… and also the Llotja, the Spanish artists who were exiles, whether by choice or by force, those who were not in exile… a lot of things.
But mostly they talked about painting, art and their world.
And as they talked, Carlos was looking at and listening to the master, his great master Pablo Picasso, as he stroked his cat in a corner of the kitchen, and he photographed him.
From Carlos’s own account we know of some of the topics they discussed in these conversations: the mutual influence between artists and the importance of the cultural heritage, the step by step evolution of art, its construction grain upon grain, reality versus myths in the world of art…
Carlos Nadal in his studio – Sitges circa 1990
That visit marked Carlos Nadal forever.
In fact, Pablo Picasso marked him in the most elegant and honorable way that a master can mark his pupil: without wanting to influence him, respecting the artistic direction he had set for himself.
In spite of his penetrating gaze.
And while he stroked his cat.’