Encounter with Picasso’s poet friends

In which way can you relate the verses of two so different poets as Jacint Verdaguer and Rafael Alberti, with Picasso? This and other questions emerged in the symposium Au rendez-vous des poètes a Catalunya, which took place on 28th November in the museum within the framework of the exhibition Picasso poet. The poets were the authentic protagonists of this encounter of experts from various disciplines, who analysed throughout a whole day the poetic complicities of Picasso.

Simposi de Picasso i la poesia

The symposium posed more questions than answers. Throughout the day, numerous “new windows” were opened in this relation between poetry and Picasso, as Jèssica Jaques defined it, co-curator with Androula Michael, of the symposium. Àlex Broch, who acted as a link between all the interventions, confirmed that “Picasso has been studied very pictorially but not so much his literary work, this is an open topic, which still remains pending”.

Àlex Broch, Jèssica Jaques i Susanna Rafart, en un moment de la intervenció de Rafart sobre Picasso i MaragallÀlex Broch, Jèssica Jaques and Susanna Rafart

Picasso never wrote poetry in Catalan but he was a good reader of it. In the symposium, Joan Santanach took a stroll through the life and work of Verdaguer, a poet who was a very popular figure when Picasso arrived in Barcelona in 1895. “The poet symbolizes the artist who is confronted with the real powers. In addition, despite his Catholic ideology, Verdaguer was a permanently dissatisfied artist who would rehearse and innovate as much as he could,” said Santanach. These aspects much have impressed the young Picasso, that as his friend Josep Rocarol would recount, he would walk as far as Vallvidrera to accompany the coffin of Verdaguer during his massive funeral. On the other hand, Susanna Rafart analyzed the appearance of a fragment of Sea views, by Joan Maragall, in the Carnet Catalan, produced in 1906, and its possible links with Picasso’s painting of the time.

The Bohemian world in Barcelona, which Picasso would frequent, above all during the period of the Quatre Gats, was another of the fields of study of the symposium. Eliseu Trenc recalled that writers and artists were mixed together in these groups, in which there were poets such as Joan Oliva Bridgman or Rafael Nogueras Oller. Picasso also took a taste of Catalan Modernism to Madrid with the magazine Arte Joven, which he founded with Francesc d’Assís Soler, an episode of the young artist that was also analysed by Trenc. For his part, Raül Garrigasait described the relation between the three “Bohemians”: Santiago Rusiñol, the musician Erik Satie and Picasso himself.

Eliseu Trenc i Raül GarrigasaitEliseu Trenc and Raül Garrigasait

One of the great poetic complicities of Picasso was Rafael Alberti. “You rule the century,” wrote the poet from Cadiz about the painter. “Both were poet painters and were united, above all, by their political commitment, the vindication of the Spanish literary tradition and the Mediterranean nature,” explained the museum’s documentalist, Margarida Cortadella.

More controversial was the relationship of the poet and art critic Juan Eduardo Cirlot with Picasso. Cirlot, who admired Picasso a lot and wrote books such as Picasso: the birth of a genius, however on the other hand, he didn’t write any verses dedicated to the painter. Lourdes Cirlot believes that this distance was more due to aesthetic rather than political reasons, as has been speculated: “Cirlot asked in a 1959 article why Picasso did not give up the figuration. And the fact is, he was an artist who nourished himself from the outside, as opposed to artists more like Cirlot, who fed themselves from the inside”.

The conference closed with the interventions of Malén Gual and Aitor Quiney, who analysed the poetic reception in Catalonia of Paul Eluard, a great friend of Picasso and who these days is also the focus of the exhibition in the museum Pablo Picasso. Paul Eluard. A sublime friendship. During the day there were moments to listen to poetry by means of the interventions of Blanca Llum Vidal and Vicenç Altaió. Furthermore, during the conference, a collaboration agreement was signed between the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the museum for the recently established Picasso Doctorate, belonging to the Department of Philosophy of this university.

Blanca Llum Vidal va recitar poemes de Paul Celan, Paul Eluard, Palau i Fabre, Picasso i d'ella mateixa Blanca Llum Vidal

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