The session that we devoted to the Proses by Ramón Reventós was based on a double interest: on the one hand, (re)discovering an author who, as Malén Gual, curator of the collection of the Museu Picasso and luxury guest, pointed out, didn’t manage to group together in a book the prose that he had published in the satirical magazines of the time (Papitu, Cu-Cut, L’esquella de la torratxa and El be negre amongst others); and on the other hand, to explore the illustrations that Picasso did, in 1946, for two of these texts -‘L’últim centaure’ (The last centaur) and ‘El capvespre d’un faune’ (The twilight of a faun)- in the edition that was edited by the Editorial Albor of Ferran Canyameres, the history of which deserves a chapter apart.
The mix is explosive. The prose of Reventós, written in that ‘faltering Catalan, very typical of Barcelona’, as Joan Fuster said, are a strange combination, sometimes poetically fortunate, of the customs of Vilanova and Rusiñol, the humorous and satirical tradition of the popular weeklies, and an extremely particular sensibility, capable of writing beautiful pieces such as ‘The Story of a Summersault’ and bring forward procedures that the Catalan literature would find again with Trabal or Calders. The illustrations of Picasso, for their part, accompany the text with a surprising modesty and delicacy. Surprising, observes Gual, because traditionally Picasso had tended more to approach the texts that he decided to illustrate in a strong sense, without subjecting the drawing or illustration to the narration (as we saw last year, in the case of the illustration of The Metamorphoses of Ovid, focussing on the secondary scenes or in rather transitional moments in the story, leaving aside the scene of the transformations themselves). In the case of Reventós, however, Picasso limits the reach and ambition of the illustrations to a subtle follow up of the story, something that may have something to do with their intimate relation, a friendship that seemed to have accompanied Picasso throughout his life, with the writer.
Portrait of Fernande Oliver, Picasso and Ramon Raventós altGuayaba. 1906. Fons Vidal Ventosa. Museu Picasso, Barcelona
Gual offered us an extremely interesting observation: we tend to read Picasso – and the history of his friendships, of his relations, of his various coterie – from the historical point of view that already knows who Picasso is, that is to say, who he was to become, something that makes us situate the painter at the centre of all the dynamics that surrounded him. In the case of the relation with the Reventós, however, Picasso (who he knew from very young, when he had just arrived in Barcelona) wasn’t anyone yet, and the Reventós were an intense family, very much cultured and interested in everything (obviously, in all the artistic disciplines) and, therefore, a potential catalyser of this uncontainable absorbing capacity of this young man from Malaga. In the case of the relation of Reventós with Picasso, just a final point: in the illustrations of the two stories by Reventós, there appear some centaurs and fauns that Picasso hadn’t drawn before, and that would be deployed, in all their splendour, in the works from the period of Antibes.