Picasso on the Barcelona of the 60s

This past month of May, the roundtable about “Picasso in the Barcelona of the 60s” took place, bringing together expert historians, writers and architects to talk about the context of the birth of the museum within the framework of the exhibition that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the museum “The Museu Picasso, 50 years in Barcelona.The Origins”.

Picasso Exhibition organized by the Fundació Joan March and the Museu Picasso. 05/12/1978. Photo: Eduard Olivella

Sílvia Domènech, in charge of the Department of Knowledge and Research, presented the session by remembering that around 1955 Jaume Sabartés, who was personal secretary and close friend of Picasso, on one of his visits to Barcelona launched the idea (that Picasso himself gave him) of giving his collection of the artist’s works to the city of Barcelona to create the Museu Picasso of Barcelona. From this moment on, there was a movement of the Barcelona and Catalan society, not only of the friends of Picasso from his youth but also from the intellectual sector that helped and cultivated the idea that enabled them to present a proposal for a museum to the mayor of Barcelona who in that moment was Josep Maria de Porcioles i Colomer.  And Porcioles accepted it, despite the fact that Picasso was the Spanish artist most identified with the Communist Party during Franco’s era.

From a political-historical point of view, the historian Joan B. Culla situated the birth of the museum in a post-war context in which the economy was beginning to recover, and in which the new Mayor of Barcelona, Porcioles, entered the scene with a political project that extended beyond the city.  With the approval of the Municipal Charter in 1969, an urban and economic development project was produced that was based to a great extent on construction and tourism. And within this context the “Operation Picasso” was set in motion, and one that would be an operation of image and prestige of the Barcelona of Porcioles in terms of international tourism.

Plan of the church of Ronchamp

Jaume Vidal Oliveras, historian and art critic, explained about the reception and repercussion of Picasso’s work in the opening of the museum.  At the end of the 1940s, symptoms were detected of changes in orientation of the cultural policy of the Regime with a propagandistic background. Some key episodes of renovation were the Hispano-American biennial exhibitions in Madrid, Cuba and Barcelona, even though Picasso refused to participate in the first call.  With regard to the exhibitions related to the artist, the first was in 1948 in the Galeries Laietanes, made up of his early work, drawings and pastels from his Barcelona period and lithographs, that had previously been exhibited in Madrid.  But the space in which there were more exhibitions about Picasso was the Sala Gaspar that monopolised the presence of the artist from 1954 until his death with a total of 26 monographic exhibitions.

According to Jaume Aulet, essay writer and professor of literature – literature is very important for understanding the modernisation of Catalan culture.  But what was the relation between Picasso and literature? The relation of the most media-known writers from the current of historic realism with Picasso was not especially significant.  We have to look for more isolated authors who were not so linked with the movement, such as the case of Palau i Fabre who wrote the book “Homage to Picasso”, Pere IV, Salvador Espriu who wrote the article “Catalonia and Picasso” on the occasion of the inauguration of the frieze of the Architects’ College that had been unpublished until 2013 when it was published in the newspaper ARA within the framework of the Espriu Year. Or it would also be the case of Perucho who wrote a book about Picasso and Horta de Sant Joan and who also included an obituary poem in the book “The dead” published in 1999.

Front and right side facades of the building of the College of Architects of Catalonia

Enric Granell, architect and professor of Art History and Architecture, highlighted the repercussion Picasso Picasso had in the field of architecture and the cultural impact.  The first time that rationalist architecture and the art of Picasso were seen together was in 1930 in Sant Sebastià when Jose Manuel Aizgurua, who was the number 3 of the Falange Española, presented himself in a national architecture contest, the theme of which being the construction of a modern art museum, and he made use of Picasso’s sculptures in his drawing.  It is also interesting the relation of Picasso and Le Corbusier where in the church of Ronchamp that he designed, we can make out, plan in hand, the possible face of Picasso.  And returning to Barcelona, Francisco Juan Barba Corsini, who was charged with a series of apartments in the high ring of La Pedrera and used the idea of the torsion of fish bones that he saw in Picasso for producing the spiral staircase.  Finally, we mustn’t forget the construction in 1956 of the new headquarters of the Architects’ College in which Picasso was charged with the design of the friezes that decorate it.

The next exhibition dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Museu Picasso will be focused on the Collection of the museum and will be inaugurated on July 4th.

Related links
50 years of Picasso’s friezes on the Architects’ College of Catalonia

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