Sabartés by Picasso by Sabartés

23.11.18 - 31.03.19

Fifty years after the death of Jaume Sabartés (Barcelona, 10 June 1881 – Paris, 13 February 1968), the founder, along with Pablo Picasso, of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, the personal archives held by the Museum have finally been made available to researchers. To mark the occasion, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona has organised an exhibition that aims to pay tribute to Jaume Sabartés, and not just as the life-long friend and confident of the 20th-century’s most decisive painter, but also due to his own personal career as a biographer, writer, translator, teacher and intellectual, politically committed to the issues of his time.

Picasso painted the first portrait of Sabartés in 1900 and, over their more than sixty-year friendship, continued to draw and caricature him regularly. Sabartés wrote more than twenty texts about Pablo Picasso, an ongoing compendium that examined and shed light on the artist’s biography and work processes, with the firm belief that Pablo Picasso was and would be, in the future, the 20th-century’s greatest and most multifaceted genius.

The title of the exhibition makes reference to the circular line drawn by the careers of the two friends: pictorial writings and literary portraits of a life lived together.



    Jaume Sabartés and Pablo Picasso were born the same year, 1881. They met in Barcelona in 1899. As Jaume Sabartés explained in his memoir Picasso, Portraits and Souvenirs, he and the young Picasso immediately developed a rapport.

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    Both of them were students at La Llotja School of Fine Arts and regularly frequented the café Quatre Gats in the company of other young Barcelona-based artists. Sabartés also travelled to Paris in the autumn of 1901. Pablo Picasso and Mateu Fernández de Soto were there to meet him at Gare d'Orsay. That first journey, which lasted until 1904, the year Pablo Picasso finally settled in Paris and Jaume Sabartés left for Guatemala, resulted in a string of indelible memories: conversations, student workshops and the places they visited in Barcelona at the start of the 20th century. And, of course, their friends: Manuel Pallarès, Sebastià Junyer i Vidal, Ramon “Moni” and Cinto Reventós, Carles Casagemas, Emili Fontbona, Àngel and Mateu Fernández de Soto and Joan Vidal Ventosa, the relationship with some of who was rekindled forty years later, always against the backdrop of Barcelona and their formative years.


    The year 1904 would prove crucial in the lives of the two friends: Picasso settled once and for all in Paris, while Sabartés left for Guatemala, where a maternal uncle owned a corner shop called La Palmera.

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    There he experienced the dictatorship of President Manuel Estrada Cabrera, the conservative government of Carlos Herrera and the coup d’état that brought General José María Orellana, a follow-on to the Estrada Cabrera regime, to power. Jaume Sabartés formed part of the country’s group of progressive intellectuals and artists and fulfilled numerous functions in several newspapers, including El Comercio and Diario de los Altos, and the magazine Juan Chapín. He went to New York in late 1911, and, upon his return in early 1913, moved to the city of Quetzaltenango. Following the overthrow of Estrada Cabrera, he returned to the capital and stayed there until 1927, when he left the country for good. Between 1928 and 1935, Sabartés lived in Montevideo, Paris and Madrid. Sabartés wrote two novels about the dictator, translated and published in France under the titles Don Julian and Son Excellence.

    Pablo Picasso
    Jaume Sabartés with Pince-Nez
    Paris, late 1901. Oil on canvas. 46 x 38 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1968. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photograph, Gasull Fotografia

    Cover of the magazine Juan Chapín, number 39. (December 15, 1913), with a photograph of Jaume Sabartés as press director. El Comercio, from Quezaltenango


    In the over twenty texts that Sabartés published on Picasso, he divulged certain aspects of everyday life that we would never have seen without such an inside perspective. He worked with the journal Cahiers d’Art, founded by publisher and gallery owner Christian Zervos; and Verve, the art magazine owned by Tériade, who wanted it to be the world’s most beautiful.

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    PHis texts were published by Paris-based publishers such as Braun, Louis Carré, Maximilien Vox, René Drouin and La Bibliothèque française. He worked with Picasso on collector’s books for publishers such as Cercle d’Art and Au Pont des Arts. One of his most celebrated publications, “Picasso, Portraits and Souvenirs”, was translated into French, English, Italian, German and Japanese. As Picasso’s biographer, Sabartés set about documenting the artist’s family, one of the most recurrent themes of his letters with Picasso.
    Picasso, on his part, portrayed Sabartés continually throughout their friendship with a wide range of media: paintings, drawings, engravings, and also writings.

    Pablo Picasso
    Jaume Sabartés as a faun playing the pipe
    14th October, 1946. Charcoal on paper painted previously in pale blue, 66 x 50,5 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Donación Jaume Sabartés, 1962. MPB 70.239. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Fotografía, Gasull Fotografia


    After Jaume Sabartés and Pablo Picasso went their separate ways in 1904, the former to Guatemala and the latter to Paris, the friendship that began in Barcelona was kept alive thanks to the habit of writing letters.

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    This epistolary relationship grew more intense after 1935, when Jaume Sabartés and his partner, Mercedes Iglesias, moved to Paris. Some of the letters from Sabartés’ initial years as Picasso’s personal secretary did not even need stamps, as Pablo Picasso would simply slot them underneath his friend’s door. Not even the telephone, which Pablo Picasso acquired early on, would replace the written dialogue they maintained over the course of their forty-year epistolary relationship.

    The selection on display is a sample of the almost seven hundred letters that Pablo Picasso wrote to Jaume Sabartés, and which are now in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. As for the letters Jaume Sabartés sent to Pablo Picasso –of which there are over one thousand–, they are housed inside the Musée National Picasso in Paris.


    One of the leitmotifs of the correspondence between Jaume Sabartés and Pablo Picasso is humour. Over the years, we find jokes of a highly sexual nature, referred to by the pair as “erotic and festive”.

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    This sexual humour, crude in some cases, became even more commonplace in the late 1950s, when Picasso and Sabartés were approaching their 80s. Picasso included in his correspondence with Sabartés the odd postcard of young, attractive ladies, or used the centre pages of the magazine “Ciné-Révelation”, or advertisements from magazines such as “Vogue”, featuring pictures of young contemporary actress like Josette Arno or the swimmer Esther Williams. Picasso would write on the printed page and redraw the photograph, depicting Sabartés in ridiculous situations or grotesque positions, as an old man begging a young beauty for sexual favours.

    The term “pin-up” was first used by Jaume Sabartés in his letters to Picasso in a story about a flight from Nice to Paris, on 6 March 1956, in reference to an American passenger.

    Carta con dibujo de Pablo Picasso (Cannes, 28 de marzo de 1956) a Jaume Sabartés (París, 7 rue des Grands-Augustins), escrita sobre una hoja de cable de la Western Union

    Pablo Picasso
    Humorous Composition. Jaume Sabartés and Jacqueline Pierreux
    c. 1957. Coloured grease pencils on magazine printed paper. 35.3 x 26.2 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Gift of Jaume Sabartés, 1964 MPB 70.676. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photograph, Gasull Fotografia


    Jaume Sabartés lived, until July 1962, in the top floor of the block of flats on Rue de la Convention, 88, in Paris. Following his wife’s death in October 1954, he struck up a friendship with a group of female neighbours, who helped him whenever he needed it.

    The stories Sabartés told Picasso gave rise to a series of jokes that inspired some of the engravings on display in the hall. Picasso depicted Sabartés as a relentless philanderer who engaged in romantic encounters with the neighbours. As a result, we can see Sabartés, naked, clutching a bouquet of flowers or offering a drink to a naked woman dancing uncontrollably. Picasso placed Sabartés in a country bacchanal or dressed him like a toreador next to a certain Carmen, or in a bullfighting scene, with the neighbour sitting on a donkey.

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    This hall also holds the complete series (seven stages) of an engraving entitled “Sabartés with two women”, completed between 4 July 1959 and 31 March 1960, as well as a caricature of Sabartés drawn a few days before he returned from his 75th birthday celebration in Brussels.

    Pablo Picasso
    Sabartés con dos mujeres (I estado)
    Cannes, 4 de julio - 22 de agosto de 1959. Grabado en la punta seca sobre plancha de cobre, estampado sobre papel vitela, 38,5 x 30,5 cm. FABA Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte

    Pablo Picasso
    Sabartés con dos mujeres (VIII estado)
    Cannes, 4 de julio - 22 de agosto de 1959. Grabado en la punta seca sobre plancha de cobre, estampado sobre papel vitela, 38,5 x 30,5 cm. FABA Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte


    Jaume Sabartés donated his collection of works by Pablo Picasso to the city of Barcelona in 1962. The collection originally consisted of three hundred and sixty-two works, of which two hundred and thirty-eight were original lithographs. Sabartés, in numerous writings, underlined the importance of the collection donated to Barcelona, which he considered virtually comprehensive.

    The selection on display features works by Picasso from different moments in his life, and, as you can see, all are dedicated to Sabartés. The first work from our collection dates to 1925. Picasso stopped doing lithographs in 1930 and did not resume the practice until 1945, while in Fernand Mourlot’s specialised workshop. The last lithograph from our collection is from July 1962.

    Pablo Picasso
    Family Portrait. I, Man with Crossed Arms
    Mougins, 21 June 1962. Lithograph. Lithographic crayon on transfer paper transferred to zinc plate, printed on Arches vellum watermarked paper (Sabartés proof). 56.5 x 75.5 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Gift of Jaume Sabartés, 1966. MPB 70.380. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photograph, Gasull Fotografia


    Jaume Sabartés’ relationship with Barcelona, his city despite having left it in 1904, is key to the founding of the Picasso Museum. Barcelona remained home to a slew of family members and friends from his youth. And these led to new acquaintances, such as gallery owners Miquel and Joan Gaspar, who he met through another childhood friend, Joan Vidal i Ventosa, in the late 1940s.

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    Sabartés introduced them to Picasso in Cannes in 1955, a journey that would mark the beginning of a relationship of trust, on the back of which the gallery Sala Gaspar organised its first exhibition of works by Picasso in 1956.

    The friendship with the “Gaspars”, as they were affectionately called by Picasso and Sabartés, grew increasingly stronger during the gallery owners’ frequent trips to Paris, and during Sabartés’ time in Barcelona, where he spent his holidays every year until 1964. These experiences helped weave the fabric that Jaume Sabartés needed to get his most ambitious project off the ground: the creation of a Picasso Museum in Barcelona.

    A difficult endeavour given Pablo Picasso’s overt political position in opposition of the Francoist dictatorship, but one made possible thanks to the institutional solutions provided by, among others, Mayor Josep M. de Porcioles and the notary public Raimon Noguera; Joan Ainaud de Lasarte, director of the Barcelona Art Museums; and Josep Selva i Vives, director of the Modern Art Museum.


    The almost three hundred works from the collection donated by Jaume Sabartés arrived in Barcelona in September 1962, following the signing of a series of agreements to protect Sabartés’ ownership rights until his death.

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    The Picasso Museum in Barcelona opened to the public on 9 March 1963. This collection also came to include the collection of Pablo Picasso’s works owned by the Barcelona City Council, at that time housed within the Modern Art Museum. Pablo Picasso, however, continued to give Sabartés a sample of his entire graphic opus, and Sabartés continued to make annual donations to his museum in Barcelona.

    Jaume Sabartés died on 13 February 1968 in Paris. As a tribute to his friend, Pablo Picasso gave to the city his series on "Las Meninas", in addition to a portrait of Jaume Sabartés painted in 1901. He also donated the letters he had sent to Sabartés (just under seven hundred) and took over from his friend, informing the Picasso Museum in Barcelona that, from that point forward, he would donate a copy of every engraving dedicated to Sabartés.

    In 1970, Pablo Picasso gave to the city the collection of works from his formative years, which had previously been kept in his sister Lola’s flat in Barcelona.

    Pablo Picasso
    Version of Las Meninas on A Page in the Book Entitled Les Ménines et la vie by Jaume Sabartés
    2 June 1960. Coloured wax crayons on paper. 32 x 24.2 cm. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Acquisition, 2008. MPB 113.223. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Photograph, Gasull Fotografia

    Visit of Joan Vidal Ventosa, Jaume Sabartés, Catherine Hutin-Blay and Gaspar family at the Museu Picasso
    Barcelona, s.d.
    Photograph, unknown. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Centre de Coneixement i Recerca


Guided tours

Catalan: Sunday 11 am / Spanish: Sunday 12.15 am

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  • Sabartés by Picasso by Sabartés

    “Sabartés by Picasso by Sabartés” aims to contribute to making known the life and work of Jaume Sabartés i Gual (Barcelona, 1881 - Paris, 1968), founder of the Museu Picasso of Barcelona. Intimate friend and confidant of Pablo Picasso, he was his personal secretary from November 1935 until he died. But, apart from this well-known facet of his life, Sabartés carried out an intense professional activity as a writer and biographer of Picasso.

    This monograph contains a large selection of documents from the personal collection of Jaume Sabartés which is held in the Museu Picasso of Barcelona: photographs, books, documents related to his publishing work and with the creation of the museum and, especially, a selection of correspondence with Pablo Picasso, from 1927 to 1967.

  • Authors: Emanuel Guigon, Margarida Cortadella, Margarida Casacuberta, Fatiha Idmhand, Malén Gual, Claustre Rafart, and Sílvia Domènech
    Year: 2018
    Pages: 241 pages
    Languages: Catalan, Spanish
    Format: 24 x 22 cm
    Publisher: Fundació Museu Picasso of Barcelona
    Price: €34

  • ISBN
    Catalan 978-84-948685-4-2
    Spansih 978-84-948685-5-9

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