The women in the time of Lola

Lola Ruiz Picasso (1884-1958), the artist’s sister, is the major protagonist of the autumn and winter of 2021-2022 in the Museum, with an exhibition that vindicates her figure. The exhibition frames Lola in the family context of the artist but highlights aspects such as the fact that she also painted and above all her fundamental role as “guardian of the treasure” of the works that Picasso left in Barcelona, which would end up being the largest part of the donation of nearly a thousand pieces which the painter donated to the Museum in 1970.

Lola Ruiz Picasso

It is in the framework of the activities around the exhibition on Lola that the third edition of the Picasso Doctorate has been organised, with six sessions between November 2021 and February 2022, entitled Gynocentric interpretations of Picasso’s work. The aim is to open up a debate on vital and creative aspects of Picasso from a gynocentric perspective that focuses the reflection on the universal value from the eyes of women and to explain the living conditions of women and their transformation from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, precisely the time spanning the years of Lola’s life. It is, as Jèssica Jaques, co-director of the Doctorate with Androula Michael, says, “putting women at the centre of Picasso’s activity.”

Doctorat Picasso 2021-2022

With this point of view, the aim is to offer a new vision of Picasso’s work, which is one of the goals of the Picasso Doctorate, an initiative born in the 2019-2020 academic year, organised and produced jointly by the Museum, the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB ) and the Université de Picardie Jules Verne of Amiens. In this way, the Museum strengthens its relations with the university world, from interdisciplinary and cross-cutting studies on Picasso and contemporary creativity, and positions the museum as a centre of international research on the painter. It can be accessed by registering for the UAB Doctorate in Philosophy, but it is also a programme open to the public free of charge through the Museum’s YouTube channel.

Moderated by Jèssica Jaques (UAB), the inaugural session of the third edition, Women in the Time of Lola, on 18th November, contextualised the time of Lola Ruiz Picasso based on the situation of women of her time with the participation of two speakers: Mary Nash and Danièle Giraudy. After the rigorous presentations which counted on the gratitude of Miquel Molins, director of the Fundació Banc Sabadell which participates in the project, the curator of the exhibition on Lola, Malèn Gual, presented the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue as an introduction to the session.

Mary Nash, Professor Emeritus of the University of Barcelona, ​​specialist in the history of women and pioneer of studies on women and gender in Spain, gave a review in her presentation of the archetypes of women that existed at the time that Lola was living. At the beginning of her life, Lola found the dominant archetype of the “perfect wife, angel of the home”, the centre of the ideology of domesticity. It is a model that was justified through nature, science, and religion that was very difficult to transgress. An example is the fact that Lola stopped going to school when she was very young. From the 1910s and the 1920s onwards, “the new modern woman” would appear, a model – minority, anyway – who was the independent girl, slim, elegant and sophisticated but who, on the other hand, in Catalonia would be a model who didn’t fit in with this definition, since the feminists of that time in our country were rather bourgeois women who sought social reform through equal rights for women. Nash gave some examples: the writers and journalists Carmen de Burgos , Dolors Monserdà and Carme Karr, the pedagogue Francesca Bonnemaison or the painter Lluïsa Vidal.

The third archetype corresponds to the women citizens from the period of the Second Republic who were activists in the struggle for equality, such as the writer, journalist and traveller Aurora Bertrana, and the lawyer and politician Clara Campoamor, a fundamental figure in achieving women’s suffrage in Spain. During the Civil War, leading the fight from the front and from behind, there were many women fighting, from politicians – such as Frederica Montseny, the first woman minister in Spain, and militia women, to the fighting mothers or the women who worked in the rearguard. Finally, after the Civil War, during the last years of Lola Ruiz Picasso’s life, the Franco regime brought back the archetype of the woman “queen of the home and perfect wife”, which granted women the unique role of being breeding mothers.

The intervention of the other speaker of the session, the former director of the Picasso Museum of Antibes and curator and author of books on Picasso, Danièle Giraudy, focused on the figure of Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s sixth partner between 1943 and 1953 and mother of his children Claude and Paloma. Gilot met the painter when she was 21 and he was 61. She already had a clear vocation as a painter, which she didn’t give up at any time in her long life which reached one hundred years of age. Unlike Picasso’s other partners, “Gilot always led her life with ambition” and always felt “more a painter than a mother, painting was her raison d’être and she had the energy to have created her own work”. But her work was not sufficiently recognised, according to Giraudy because “she had the audacity to leave Picasso,” which she paid for over many years with ostracism, especially when Gilot wrote her book about her relationship with the painter in the early 1960s.

At this point, the session had an exceptional guest, a great connoisseur of Gilot’s work and a friend of hers, Annie Maillis, who has curated two exhibitions about the artist and is also the author of a documentary about her on the channel, Arte. Maillis also believes that Gilot was “the victim of a great injustice” as a painter. “Her mark was undoubtedly the vindication for her freedom, despite the fact that her life was marked by ruptures. With her father, who did not want her to be an artist, and with Picasso, because she never lent herself to the painter’s games”. That’s why Gilot’s archetype is that of “the creative woman, she was not a girl who succumbed to a predator,” Danièle Giraudy added. According to Mary Nash, this archetype of Gilot as “an intelligent, strong and empowered woman does not finally have its doors open because total freedom for women does not exist.”

You can see the session here.

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