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Picasso. The sketchbooks

December 18th, 2020 - April 4th, 2021

Pablo Picasso. 'Study for Old Fisherman'. Page of the sketchbook. MPB 110.913c. Málaga, June 1895. Graphite pencil on paper. 8.1 x 12.2 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1970
MPB 111.170 © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2020

Picasso used sketchbooks as a kind of diary in which he investigated and experimented in order to solve the problems inherent in his creative process. Such was the importance of these sketchbooks for the painter that in 1907 he wrote on the pages of one of them: “Je suis le cahier” (I am the sketchbook). Moreover, he never disposed of most of his sketchbooks, but instead kept them with him all his life.

The Museu Picasso Barcelona has nineteen of the one hundred and seventy-five sketchbooks that Picasso filled with his drawings between 1894 and 1967, and seventeen of these are from a donation made by the artist in 1970, corresponding to the period of his childhood and youth. The other two are acquisitions.

It is essential to display these sketchbooks to the public and make them available to specialists by means of a catalogue raisonné because of their importance and consistency and also the quality of the drawings they contain. They can therefore contribute to a greater understanding of the artist’s work and, in turn, lead to a comprehensively researched publication on the techniques, procedures and themes that appear in them.

This exhibition needs to display the entirety of these drawings by using a suitable technology that can make them attractive to the general public, as well as displaying the universe of subject matter contained in them, themes that are common in the artist’s work or that otherwise disappear over time. A series of works will therefore be displayed to contextualise them and demonstrate their iconographic and stylistic richness: family portraits, landscapes, academic learning by copying plates, plaster casts, sculptures and studies of nature, Picasso’s relationship with the masters –Velázquez, El Greco, Goya– subject matter for major compositions, etc. Works from our museum and those from other institutions will be included, including the Museo del Prado, Calcografía Nacional, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Museu de Montserrat, MNAC and Reial Acadèmia de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi.

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    The lack of catalogues or monographs dedicated to this subject matter clearly shows there is a need to produce an excellent publication. The only publication devoted to these sketchbooks is entitled Je suis le cahier and it was produced by Arnold and Marc Glimscher for an exhibition at Pace Gallery in New York in 1986. It contains an inventory of all the sketchbooks and yet only a few are given in-depth analysis, and none of those are in our Museum. The sketchbooks kept at the Musée National Picasso-Paris and Museu Picasso Barcelona are reproduced in their general catalogues, but they have yet to be thoroughly studied and catalogued. For this reason, a book catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition and it will include a number of articles by various specialists, such as Marilyn McCully, Laurence Madeline, Rafael Inglada, Javier Barón, Eduard Vallès, Javier Portús, Jèssica Jaques, Eugenio Carmona and our museum’s scientific staff. All the drawings will be reproduced – intensive digitisation work involving many of our museum’s departments will be required for this – as will any separate sheets with notes, and the essays will be lavishly illustrated with the works displayed in the exhibition and other images that will help to provide increased understanding about the importance of this journal.

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