Picasso 1936. Traces of an Exhibition

In 1935, the Catalan group ADLAN (Friends of the New Art), founded in 1932 with the aim of promoting avant-garde art, set about organizing a Picasso exhibition in Barcelona. The exhibition was held at the Sala Esteva from 13 to 30 January 1936 and later travelled to Bilbao and Madrid. Picasso himself was involved in selecting the twenty-five works that were to make up the show, and there was nothing casual about the choice: the artist knew exactly what he wanted to show his native land, and also knew very little of his work had been seen there since the beginning of the century. The Picasso exhibition of 1936 was a great success and allowed the Spanish public to see and understand the work of the modern Picasso, at the same time enabling the artist to strengthen his relationship with Barcelona and, by extension, with Spain.

The premise embodied by Picasso 1936. Traces of an Exhibition is to draw attention to the importance of documents in the appreciation of artistic processes. In line with this approach, and on the basis of the extant documentary materials from the exhibition of 1936, the Museu Picasso aims to show how the initial project became a reality, while emphasizing its significance in strengthening Picasso’s relationship with his country.

It is worth noting that this is not a show with documents and archives but a show of documents and archives, in which the structure of the documentary materials and their relationships narrate a moment in history, because the archive is capable of explaining processes and situations that cannot be narrated in any other way.

The critical reception of Picasso’s work in 1936

Invitation to opening of Picasso exhibition at Sala EstevaBiblioteca de Catalunya

The 1936 exhibition was the first opportunity to see a selection of Picasso’s avant-garde works in Spain — up until then people would talk about it without much knowledge — and was thus a major event extensively reported in the press between December 1935 and March 1936. The show attracted notices and reviews from both detractors and defenders of Picasso’s work.

Identification of the Works by Picasso Shown in 1936

General view of the exhibition gallery

The Picasso exhibition at the Sala Esteva in 1936 presented twenty-five works created by the artist between 1907-1908 and 1935, of which twenty-one belonged to eleven private owners who were members of Picasso’s French avant-garde circle — the Galerie Pierre, Marie Cuttoli, Tristan Tzara, Henri Laugier, Lise Deharme, Jacques Lipchitz, Léon Kochnitzky, Maurice Raynal, Eugenia de Errázuriz, Georges Wildenstein and Christian Zervos — and the other four belonged to the artist himself.

Original photo of cubist work exposed at Sala Esteva Peinture Back of original photo with notes, title and stamps Peinture
Back of original photo with notes, title and stamps Guitarre Original photo of cubist work exposed at Sala Esteva GuitarreFons Sala Esteva. Museu Picasso, Barcelona

The research carried out by the Museu Picasso has identified and evaluated for the first time the works by Picasso that were exhibited in Spain in 1936, first in Barcelona and then in Bilbao and Madrid. This research was based above all on the photographic documents that are part of the Sala Esteva fonds acquired by the museum in 2009, reproductions of which can now be seen in this room. These twenty-four copies have been obtained from digital reproductions of the original photographs and printed with pigment inks on pure cotton paper.

The discourse of the archive: the human factor as an organizational base

The staging of the Picasso exhibition in 1936 would not have been possible without the network of intellectuals and artists from Spain and France who almost individually — some in Barcelona, others in Bilbao, Madrid and Paris — tackled and overcame the series of problems confronting the project of showing Picasso’s work in the country of his birth.

The correspondence of ADLAN, the group that organized the exhibition, is the source of the present show, revealing the genesis of the documents and their relationships. This way, making the discourse of the archive visible, the documentary reading allows to know not only the facts that took place but, especially, the way of acting, the way of thinking about those who made possible the exhibition of Picasso in 1936.

Diagram room 3 Jaume Sabartés

Ontology: explicit formalization of a shared conceptual scheme

The ontology presented in this room has been created with the aim of conceptualizing and giving a graphic representation of the Picasso exhibition of 1936, with a view to understanding the artist’s relationship to Barcelona and to Spain. This ontology has been constructed on the basis of experimentation, putting into practice new ways of formalizing and structuring the information and the documentation that have allowed us to recreate the event, and in so doing to generate and share new insights into Picasso and his work.

Ontology picassoOntology namesOntology groups