The Pieces of a Jigsaw

I’ve always liked books with pictures. When I was little I spent a lot of afternoons on the sofa leafing through one of the few books with photographs that we had at home. Years later I worked as editor on a collection of history books, which were also illustrated, and I remember my boss at the time saying that the combinations of images should speak for themselves.

Versión definitiva de una página de la publicación

Provisional and final versions of a page of the second number of the Focus collection”Picasso 1936. Traces of an exhibition”

Even now I love turning the pages of any book that has photographs in it and trying to find a storyline. Perhaps that’s why I’m still committed to the belief that each new Museu Picasso publication should be able to be seen as a kind of narrative.

Achieving this goal is not always easy. When we do the catalogue for a large-format exhibition we know we are producing a one-off, and the successes and shortcomings of each publication help us to make the next one better. But when we do a collection of books, the challenge is greater, because the basic parameters of the model cannot be changed. And this is the case with the Focus collection, which was launched to provide lasting testimony to the small-format exhibitions that the museum was planning to base on pieces from its holdings.

Portada de la publicació Focus de l'exposició "Picasso 1936. Empremptes d'una exposició"

Cover of the second number of the Focus collection

We entrusted the design work to Edicions de l’Eixample, and they came up with a wonderful model that answers perfectly to the characteristics of the project. The dimensions, the paper, the layout, the typefaces, the internal structure of two clearly differentiated parts (text and images) and the illustrated cover are all just right.

Esbós a mà de la maquetació de la publicació

Draft of a page of the second number of the publication

The first title, Science and Charity Revealed”, allowed us to establish many of the graphic parameters of the collection, because although the structure was well defined, every new idea that we came up with as we were constructing the dummy raised questions and challenges.

The second title, “Picasso 1936. Traces of an Exhibition”, proved especially tricky. In addition to working with a very different kind of graphic material, we had to fit into a static support a story involving a lot of dynamic elements. The technology used in the exhibition, pure interconnectivity, presented the series of pieces to the public in a much more exhaustive fashion, but ‘trapped’ on paper as we were, we had to think hard about the content of each double page in order to achieve a comparable result.

Provisional and final versions of pages of the second number of the Focus collection

If putting together a model or dummy is always like doing a jigsaw puzzle without knowing how it’s supposed to look when it’s completed, in this case it proved to be more complicated than ever. The designers had to find the visual appeal in material that didn’t seem inherently attractive (press clippings, pages from newspapers, fragments of documents…) and construct an intelligible sequence. They tried out different orders of images, they laid out the blank space, they fitted the captions to the photos and tried to create an attractive rhythm. We wanted the patient reader to be able to turn each page and feel a real desire to read the documents we have presented and gradually come to see how the exhibition came together in 1936.

Would it have been easier to produce a multimedia enriched digital book? Have we really succeeded in explaining to the reader the links between the different individuals, entities and conceptual elements that configured the Picasso exhibition of 1936? These are questions that I for one am still asking myself.

Provisional and final versions of pages of the second number of the Focus collection

Immersed as we now are in preparing the next title in the collection, we are facing a different set of difficulties, but we will keep on working to solve this new puzzle, which you will soon have the opportunity to discover.

Marta Jové

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