Picasso on record: testimonies. Joan Gaspar

Joan Gaspar Farreras (Barcelona, 1941) comes, on his father’s side, from a family of gallery owners, and on his mother’s side from a lineage of doctors.


Collocating the plaque with the name of the museum on the façade of the Palau Berenguer d’Aguilar c.1963. Photograph: Hernández. Museu Picasso, Barcelona | Plaque with the name of the museum on the façade of the Palau Berenguer d’Aguilar. c.1963. Museu Picasso, Barcelona

The mother of Joan, Elvira Farreras Valentí, was secretary of André Malraux when he came to Barcelona to shoot part of the film L’Espoir (Sierra de Teruel) – The Husband (Sierra de Teruel). Elvira kept in touch with Malraux and, above all, with Max Aub, factotum of this production and relevant writer.

On October 1st 1940, Elvira Farreras married Joan Gaspar Paronella. After the Spanish Civil War, in December 1939, Joan and his cousin Miquel had re-opened the Sala Gaspar, in the street of Consell de Cent of Barcelona. This gallery had originally been an old shop of frames and mirrors founded by Joan Gaspar Xalabarder in 1903 in the street of Sant Pere més Alt. In 1909, they moved to the street of Consell de Cent. In 1927 it took on the name of “Sala Gaspar” and first of all his nephew Joan Gaspar Paronella joined the business and afterwards his son, Miquel Gaspar Paronella.


Gaspar family, Jaume Sabartés and Catherine Hutin in the house of the Putxet. s/d. Documentary collection of the Museu Picasso, Barcelona

At the end of the nineteen forties, thanks to Vidal Ventosa, a youth friend of Picasso, they met Jaume Sabartés. This contact was decisive for the gallery owners, opening the doors for them to Picasso’s home. According to Joan Gaspar:

“the Gaspars reached Picasso in 1955 by the hand of Sabartés and of Antoni Clavé […]”

He highlights:

“…the excellent relation between Sabartés and Gaspar Farreras. They were often invited to lunch at the house of the Putxet. My sister Elvira even thought he [Sabartés] was a distant relative who lived in Paris.”

From 1956 onwards, the Gaspars would regularly put on exhibitions dedicated to Picasso in their gallery, among which it is worth highlighting the “30 Unpublished Paintings of Picasso” (1960).

The Gaspars formed part of that Barcelona civil society which was crucial for the consolidation of the Museu Picasso: the notary Raimon Noguera, the publisher Gustau Gili and the doctor Reventós, amongt others.

“One day, having supper in the house of the Putxet, he [Sabartés] said:  ’The Museum will be made from my ashes’. My mother, Elvira Farreras, told him that he could make a donation while alive […] and the negotiations began with Mayor Porcioles. The intervention of the notary Noguera was crucial, as a personal friend of Porcioles; the deputy mayors Pau Roig Giralt and Josep Blajot i Pena prepared the ground for  the idea […], and the one who put it all together was the Director of the Museum of the City Council, Joan Ainaud de Lasarte. It always counted on the collaboration of the couple, Anna Maria and Gustau Gili, and of course, of the Gaspar family.”


Gaspar family, Jaume Sabartés and Catherine Hutin in the house of the Putxet. s/d Documentary collection of the Museu Picasso, Barcelona

Sabartés frequently visited Barcelona. The relations with the Gaspar cousins was strengthened, to the extent that:

“When Sabartés had the apoplexy attack, Picasso asked the Gaspars to look for a flat with easy access and with a lift, for him. They found one in the Boulevard Auguste Blanqui. The flat was paid by Picasso and on the death of Sabartés in 1968, he gave it to Pilar Solano [who took care of Sabartés during the last years of his life].”

Joan personally experienced the process prior to the opening of the museum through Jaume Sabartés. Between 1950 and March 9th 1963, Picasso’s secretary often came to Barcelona. He had become a good friend of the Gaspar-Farreras. During the process prior to the opening of the Museu Picasso, from time to time Sabartés went to visit the works.  On some occasions the Gaspars accompanied him:

“I remember that each time Sabartés came to Barcelona we went to see the works of the museum.  Sometimes with my brother Pere, we pushed him up the stairs seated in a chair that the works surveyor, Andrés, lent us.”

When the Museu Picasso was inaugurated, Joan Gaspar, the son, was 21 years old.  The gallery owner wrote:

“I remember that it rained on the day of the inauguration. The people attending were very emotive, making favourable comments and were very grateful for the initiative of Jaume Sabartés, who was there and very touched, whom afterwords went to visit “Picasso” (he always called him so) to explain who had attended: the Reventós, Vidal Ventosa Anguera de Sojo, the Vilatós, all the Pallarès, father and son and all the friends and family who had directly collaborated in “wrapping up” the project.

[Among those attending was] Totote, widow of Manolo Hugué. There were also some priests, maybe Ramon Roquer or Mossèn Camprubí (brother of Joan Capri) or Mossèn Manuel Trens very closely linked to the world of art, the art critics Alexandre Cirici, Joan Cortès, Joan Perucho, Palau i Fabre. Now my memory fails me, but everyone linked in relation to or in spirit with the world of Picasso was there, the world of freedom that was so scarce in those times and in which the cultural activity which emerged tended to be marked by the revolting National Catholicism which was pursued and “controlled”, sometimes with physical violence, by the politico-social brigade led by the blood brothers Creix, the Olmedo and someone else.

Seen now it seems hardly coherent with the regime of Brazo en Alto and Camisa Azul, of which in 1963 many still remained, some still convinced, others that took advantage of the Revolución Nacional Sindicalista, those who “You don’t know who you are talking to” and if you talked in Catalan they said “talk in Christian”. The fact of being able to open the Sabartés Collection was a dynamic manoeuvre, discreet but effective.  So effective that the Museu Picasso emerged enlarged and splendorous.

Now the Fundació Museu Picasso is an essential element for the boosting and the activity of a museum in the 21st century.”


 Museu Picasso of Barcelona. 06/05/1963. Documentary collection of the Museu Picasso, Barcelona

In 1963, in the moment of the opening of the museum in the carrer Montcada of Barcelona, there was a little bit of uncertainty in the air, sifted by the collective euphoria and the firm will to start up that project despite the critical voices of the most reactionary sectors from the regime of the time. They were difficult times to present the works of Picasso in the Spanish State; the government of Franco wasn’t inclined towards the creator of the mythical mural of Guernica.

Claustre Rafart i Planas

Related links

Exhibition “50 Years of the Museu Picasso in Barcelona”
Picasso on the record: testimonies. Assumpta Escudero
Picasso on the Barcelona of the 60s

  • Jaume Maymó
    January 24, 2014

    benvolguda CLAUSTRE, com et pots imaginar trobo molt interessant i m’encanta aquesta sèrie d’articles que has iniciat, els “testimonis”, tot coincidint amb els 50 anys del Museu. felicitats un com més per la feina que feu tots plegats

  • Claustre Rafart
    January 27, 2014

    Moltes gràcies, Jaume. Malauradament no queden gaires testimonis de l’època vinculats al Museu. La memòria oral s’integra amb la documentació de tal manera que enriqueix el relat històric. T’agraeixo l’estímul atès que no té sentit escriure si no hi ha lector.

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