Paul Eluard and Picasso, passion for poetry

Often painters write poetry and are friends of poets. For Picasso it was clear that painting and poetry were united. “After all…all arts are just one. You can write a painting with words, just as you can paint sensations in a poem”. The intense relation of Picasso with poetry and writing, which had already begun when as an adolescent he would write letters to his family in the form of a diary, is the theme for this autumn and winter in the Museu Picasso, which it aims to explore in an in-depth way in two simultaneous exhibitions and various activities. On the one hand, one exhibition narrates the friendship, complicity and elective affinities between Picasso and Paul Eluard, one of the maximum exponents of French avant-garde poetry of the 20th century; on the other hand, a second exhibition delves into the poetic and literary production of Picasso himself, an activity that is linked to his production as a visual artist.

Pablo Picasso. Paul EluardPablo Picasso. Paul Eluard. Llapis de grafit sobre paper, 1936. Musée d’art et d’histoire Paul Eluard – Saint-Denis. Cliché :Irène Andréani © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

In fact, Pablo Picasso. Paul Eluard. A sublime friendship and Picasso poet are two exhibitions in one, in the words of the director of the museum, Emmanuel Guigon who illustrates the importance of poetry, both in the work and in the everyday life of the painter. Eluard and the artist from Malaga must have met up for the first time in a play, just after the death of Guillaume Apollinaire in 1918, another great poet friend of the painter . But it wouldn’t be until 1935 that they would begin an intimate friendship, filled with collaborations and mutual admiration. Eluard was already a collector of Picasso’s works, for example. In the exhibition you can see many of the poems that the Frenchman dedicated to the painter, but also such significant works by Picasso as a pencil portrait that the poet took under his arm to Barcelona in January 1936, where he gave a talk on the occasion of the exhibition by Picasso, organized by the group ADLAN.

Imatge gràfica de l’exposició «Pablo Picasso. Paul Eluard. Una amistat sublim»
Picasso poetaImatge gràfica de l’exposició «Picasso poeta»

The political militancy and activism of Paul Eluard influenced Picasso. This is a central theme of the exhibition, in which you can see how Eluard wrote his first political poem, November 1936, impacted by the siege of Madrid during the Civil War. Picasso drew inspiration when he produced the prints of Dream and lie of Franco. Picasso and Eluard would be companions later on, after the liberation of Paris, as militants of the French Communist Party and would participate together in peace movements, which would end up turning Picasso’s doves into symbols of peace.

Paul Eluard, moreover, would be the person who introduced Dora Maar to Picasso. The exhibition also includes Picasso’s portraits of the great surrealist photographer, lover of the painter, who documented the production of Guernica, but you can also see portraits of Nusch, the second wife of Eluard (who had previously been married to Gala, the wife of Dalí). Eluard and Picasso shared, with their partners and other friends, three consecutive summers in Mogins. Picasso often did portraits of Nusch and she would become the non-partner woman of Picasso most portrayed by the painter.

Pablo Picasso. Retrat de Dora MaarPablo Picasso. Retrat de Dora Maar. París, 1937. Oli sobre tela. 92 x 65 cm (sense marc). MP158. Musée national Picasso-Paris © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

Painting and writing go hand in hand in these two exhibitions. For Picasso it was natural to include texts in his works and drawings in his texts, as can be seen in the numerous manuscripts that can be seen in Picasso poet. Writing and drawing are merged into works such as It snows under the sun, in which the phrase is literally drawn by Picasso in diverse variations in 1934. But the poet Picasso, in the most traditional sense of the word, is conformed in 1935, in a moment of personal crisis, with a first poem in Spanish of more than 30 pages, without punctuation and semiautomatic writing. Above all during the first year, poetry would be an obsession for Picasso, already using French, in diverse formats such as the river poems, variations or poems with a classical structure. Picasso also created poems engraved such as the Poems and lithographs series, from 1954, or if not directly intervenes in the text of another, as when he illustrated with a red lithographic pencil Le Chant des Morts, by Pierre Reverdy, in 1948. The exhibition does not forget the playwright Picasso with works such as Desire caught by the tail, written in full occupation of Paris, The four little girls or his last play, The burial of Count Orgaz, from 1957-58, in the which returns to his mother tongue.

 El entierro del conde de Orgaz (facsímil del manuscrit original del llibre) Pablo Picasso. El entierro del conde de Orgaz (facsímil del manuscrit original del llibre). Barcelona, 25 d’octubre del 1969 Fons Gustau Gili i Anna Maria Torra. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Adquisició, 2017 MPB 114.083.15 © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019


«Picasso Poet» website

«Pablo Picasso, Paul Eluard. A Sublime Friendship» website

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