The 8 names of Picasso: a reading proposal for this summer

From the library we propose recuperating some poetry dedicated to Picasso and published some forty-five years ago.  We are referring to the book by Rafael Alberti (1902-1999), The 8 names of Picasso and I don’t say more than I don’t say published in Barcelona by the publisher Kairós, in 1970, and which was reprinted twice, in the same year and in 1978.

Alberti portada

The 8 names of Picasso and I don’t say more than I don’t say collects seventy-two poems written about and for Pablo Picasso by the poet and also painter Rafael Alberti, between 1966 and 1970. In the last decennium of the life of Picasso (who died on April 8th 1973), the friendship between both artists intensified. Numerous photographs by Roberto Otero (1931-2004) – from the family circle of Alberti – would become the documented chronicle of the family visits during these years to Notre-Dame-de-Vie, the last home of Pablo and Jacqueline Picasso in Mougins, in the south of France.

The collection of poems was structured in seven parts, preceded by a dedication that is an utter statement of principles:

«Dios creó el mundo –dicen-
Y en el séptimo día,
cuando estaba tranquilo descansando,
se sobresaltó y dijo:
“He olvidado una cosa:
Los ojos y la mano de Picasso.»

(“God created the world, they say / and on the seventh day / when he was calm and resting / he jumped up and said: / “I’ve forgotten something: / The eyes and hand of Picasso”)

Albert contraportada

Back cover of the book

The poems of Alberti, numbered from 1 to 72, deal with various aspects both of the personality of Picasso as well as his work processes or specific works. We will comment on some of the poems and highlight some fragments so as to offer you a taste.

The first of the collection of poems is entitled “The 8 names of Picasso”, in which the poet plays with humour with the eight names that the painter was baptised with, posing the question to the reader of what would have happened if Picasso had not been called Pablo.

Another key poem is the one that takes the title “The eyes of Picasso”. Written in Rome in 1966, it was first published in an edition of 20 copies, illustrated by Alberti himself and handwritten by the poet (the well-known “lyricographies”). Dedicated to Jacqueline Picasso, it begins like this:

«Siempre es todo ojos.
No te quita los ojos.
Se come las palabras con los ojos.
Es el siete ojos.
Es el cien mil ojos en dos ojos.
El gran mirón
Como un botón marrón
Y otro botón.»

(“He is always all eyes./ He never takes his eyes off you./ He eats the words with his eyes./ He is the seven eyes./ He is a thousand eyes in two eyes./ The great looker./ Like a brown button and another button”)


Pablo Picasso. Raphael and the Fornarina V: with a voyeur pulling back the curtain. Mougins, 31st August, 1968 (III). Etching on copper plate, printed on Rives vellum paper (Sabartés proof). 41.5 x 49,5 cm (plate);  57 x 64.5 cm (paper). Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1970. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photo: Estudi Gasull. MPB 70.634

We also highlight the five erotic-satirical sonnets of Alberti about the painter Rafael and his lover, known as the Fornarina, which corresponds to the erotic series of twenty-five prints that Pablo Picasso produced about the same topic, from August 29th to September 9th 1968, based around a conversation that took place in Notre-Dame-de-Vie:

“De Rafael a Picasso”
«Maestro, no soñaba yo que un día,
me dibujaras tan divinamente
el gallo erguido de la cresta ardiente
dentro del horno que jamás se enfría

(From Rafel to Picasso. “Maestro, I didn’t dream that one day / you would draw for me so divinely / the rooster holding its burning crest high / within the oven that never cools down”)

The collection also includes the text “I don’t say more than I don’t say” written by Rafael Alberti as a prologue to the book by Pablo Picasso, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz published in Barcelona by the publisher Gustavo Gili, in 1969, and which describes with precision and grace what the literature of Picasso was like:

«He aquí el inventor del cuento o la novela enredadera,
Del poema enredadera,
De la gran poesía enredadera.
Pablo planta un esqueje en el haz de una página. Y comienza
a poblarse

(“Here is the inventor of the tale or the bindweed novel, / of the bindweed poem, / of the major bindweed poetry.  / Pablo plants a cutting on the sheaf of a page.  And starts / to bring it to leaf”)

The language is extremely visual, full of suggestive images, and very musical, with an apparently simple verse, as if it was supposed to be popular poetry.  It talks about all kinds of freedom of the Picassian work, without hiding his friendship and, a little beyond that, his admiration for the artist.


Rafael Alberti shows the book “Diez sonetos romanos” to Pablo Picasso. Mougins, 1966. Fons Roberto Otero. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photographer Roberto Otero

Page by page, the reader will follow an itinerary that can go from 1 to 72, or that can be followed in an absolutely random order. A whole world of images, of colours, of sensations and of associations of ideas which become updated with the memory of the works of Picasso seen.

You can find The 8 names of Picasso and I don’t say more than I don’t say in various public libraries of Barcelona: the Francesca Bonnemaison Library, the Sant Pau i Santa Creu Library and the Xavier Benguerel library.

Margarida Cortadella

  • Jaume Maymó
    July 30, 2015

    LO QE CANTÉ Y DIJE DE PICASSO. També podem trobar o buscar aquest llibre de Rafael Alberti, de l’Editorial Bruguera, publicat als anys 80 (tinc una 2ª edició del gener de 1984). Inclou: Los 8 nombres de Picasso; Visitas a Picasso (recuerdos para La arboleda perdida – 1968-1972); Picasso en Aviñón (1970) i Picasso o el rayo que no cesa (introducción a Le rayon ininterrompu, publicado por Le Cercle d’Art, París 1972).
    El primer llibre, Los 8 nombres de Picasso, comentat per Margarida, és un homenatge de Rafael Alberti als 89 anys de Pablo Picasso. A la primera edició hi trobem també una petita col·lecció de dedicatòries del pintor al poeta, dels anys 59, 61, 66, 68 i 70. Tota una mostra d’amistat.
    Una bona lectura per aquest estiu.

  • Margarida Cortadella
    July 31, 2015

    Moltes gràcies, Jaume, per la teva aportació. Efectivament l’editorial Bruguera, en la seva col·lecció de butxaca “Libro amigo”, va reeditar el llibre afegint-hi textos escrits per Alberti posteriors al 1970. El nostre post recupera el llibre de Kairós per ser una edició senzilla però cuidada, feta en vida de l’artista (és una reimpressió de la primera edició del 1970), que inclou la reproducció de les dedicatòries de Picasso a Alberti (que deixen entreveure la seva relació) i que, a més, es pot trobar en algunes biblioteques públiques de la xarxa de Barcelona.
    Bona lectura i bon estiu!

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