From Picasso “Pour Sabartés”

When Anna Guarro and I sat down in February to programme the series of articles of the blog dedicated to the 50 years of the Museum, these lines were not foreseen.  Well, what I mean to say is that personally I hadn’t thought about writing anything else about Sabartés. It was Anna’s idea, who proposed writing a text entitled “Pour Sabartés”. Sincerely, initially it seemed to me that perhaps there was already enough with so much Sabartés, but it’s clear, “What the boss says, goes” (with all my affection, Anna), so I took the idea on board and decided I would think about it in April.  And now that I’ve sat down to write, I have to say that, after doing the exhibition and the booklet about the origins of the Museu Picasso, where I have tried to be as objective as possible, and having written the blog entry about the papers of Sabartés, from which the “dedication” and affect that Sabartés had towards Picasso emerges, I can now see that this could be the opportunity to let my intuition run free and to try and transmit how I feel the “dedication” of Picasso towards Sabartés.

Jacqueline with a straw hat

Pablo Picasso. Jacqueline with a straw hat. Mougins, 14 January 1962. Linoleum cut: etched with a gouge, in four colours, on linoleum, printed on paper (4th state). 74,9 x 61,7 cm (làmina). Gift of Jaume Sabartés, 1962, 1962. MPB 70.266 (dedication in the right corner)

The two friends met when they were very young, when they were teenagers – they were just eighteen years old, but they immediately grasped the complicity that would unite them (“we started to realise that we could understand each other and feel the pleasure of being together”), a complicity that would last the whole of their lives.  Picasso started doing portraits of Sabartés in 1900, just a year after they had met, and he continued to do so over the years.  Sometimes they were drawings, other times oils and other, poems; but he didn’t only paint portraits of his friend, he also turned him into the recipient of many of these portraits.

In 1935, whenPicasso lived in Paris and started to suffer from the loneliness of the genius, he asked his friend to come back and join him, and Sabartés went and stayed forever.  It is in that moment that Picasso started to give him a copy of all his prints with a dedication; at the start they were long writings, often jokingly (one of the registers that both shared) and later on, when Sabartés lived in Paris and Picasso was in the south of France, the dedication became “Pour Sabartés”. And “Pour Sabartés” was even after the death of Sabartés in 1968, when Picasso continued giving a copy of each of his prints to the Museum of Barcelona “Pour Sabartés”… For the artist, the Museum represented the figure of Sabartés, the native city of his friend, the memories of youth.  And “Pour Sabartés”were the major donations of works by Picasso to the Museum of Barcelona “in memory of my unforgettable friend”. Sabartés was no longer, but Picasso bore him very closely in mind until his own death in 1973.

Retrat blau de Jaume Sabartés

Pablo Picasso. Blue portrait of Jaume Sabartés. 1901. Oil on canvas. 46 x 38 cm. MPB 70.491

“Pour Sabartés” is one of the ways in which Picasso expressed his admiration for Sabartés, but it is more than that, and I would say much more.  Dedicating something that someone created to a person is, undoubtedly, a really lovely and sincere way of showing affect and deep respect, and Picasso, who couldn’t be any other way, was fully aware of this and proceeded accordingly.

On the occasion of this anniversary, we have wanted to do justice to the figure of Sabartés, that rather unknown character, and often labelled as a dark shadow of Picasso, but who was key in the formation of the Museum thanks to his relation with the artist and with the city of Barcelona. However, today I would like to highlight an aspect of the figure of Picasso that is perhaps less known.We always see the genius (without a doubt he was one) and the complex person, but Picasso was also a friend of his friends and a defender of lost causes. He was loyal to his friends and with Sabartés he clearly demonstrated this.

 El toro

Pablo Picasso. The bull. 1946. Etching. 32,5 x 44,4 cm. MPB 70.012

I would like to finish with a story of Picasso “Pour Sabartés”. In 1901, the artist painted in Paris the Blue portrait of Jaume Sabartés. Some weeks later, both of them had to return to Barcelona and Picasso put a painting in his suitcase and told his friend that when he got there he would pass by his home and would give him the portrait, but he didn’t do so, he first went to the tavern of the Quatre Gats and left it hanging there.  Years later, once the bar had closed, the work passed from hand to hand until Picasso bought it to get it back, and from that moment on it remained in his home, by his side.  When Sabartés died in 1968, Picasso gave the work to the Museum of Barcelona… “Pour Sabartés”. It is now hung in gallery eight of the Museum, and here we have it… in memory of Picasso “Pour Sabartés”.

Knowledge and Research

Related links
Exhibit: 50 years of the Museu Picasso in Barcelona
Article: Sabartés, that great friend
Event: Jaume Sabartés Visit

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