The fundraising effort proposed by Utrillo never materialized, but from that moment on there was an awareness of the need to purchase a Picasso and to strengthen the artist’s ties to Catalan art circles.
In February 1918, only a few months after Picasso left Barcelona, Ricard Canals, a friend from the artist’s bohemian years in Paris, wrote him a letter voicing his chagrin about the absence of works by Picasso in the museum and inviting him to show in the 1919 Exposició d’Art, as part of the Les Arts i els Artistes association, of which Canals was the president.
Along the same lines, in August 1918, Vell i Nou magazine published a special issue on Picasso, with a reproduction of Harlequin on the cover. It included an article by Joan Sacs (a pseudonym for Feliu Elias) on Picasso’s art since his departure to Paris at the beginning of the century up to the most recent works he had produced in Barcelona, in which “alongside his deliberately transcendent cubism, he aims to cultivate the most disinterested realism.”
Somehow Picasso came across a copy of the magazine and believed the author of the article was Manuel Utrillo –an assumption that Angel Fernández de Soto contradicted in a letter dated November 17, in which he insisted that Picasso ought to show in the exhibition that was being organized, and telling him it struck him as a splendid idea for him to donate Harlequin. Be that as it may, between November 1918 and January 1919, Picasso confirmed his gift of the paint-ing, as is apparent in the article “La liberalidad de Picasso” published in La Publicidad on January 17: “Pablo Picasso has decided to relinquish one of his most significant and most recent works to benefit our struggling Modern Art Museum. Picasso is giving us one of latest paintings from Barcelona, his half-length Harlequin, which we reproduce in these pages.”.
In a letter dated March 11, Canals requested the artist’s authorization to show the pieces he had painted in Barcelona two years earlier, at the time in the hands of the Picasso family, so he could exhibit them alongside “the one that you have had the courtesy to selflessly cede to the museum.” Last of all, at the Exposició d’Art held from May 28 to June 30, 1919 at the Les Arts i els Artistes association, he included eight works by Picasso, including Madame Canals [Benedetta Bianco] (1905), Blanquita Suárez, Columbus Avenue and Harlequin (1917). A list of the works on display appeared on pages 68 and 69, and number 517 was listed as Arlequí (Ofert als Museus Artístics Municipals), a reproduction of which was printed on Plate 14.
After the exhibition closed, Canals forwarded a letter to Picasso from the Board of Museums thanking him for the donation and assuring him that they would do everything within their power to purchase another painting, although that never came to fruition. Bureaucratic problems slowed down the donation process, and it was not until 1921 that Harlequin was officially included in the Museo de Bellas Artes collection, according to the minutes of the Board of Museums.