8.11.2019 - 01.3.2020
«If I were Chinese, I would not be a painter but a writer: I would write my paintings.»
«When it comes down to it, all arts are one. You can write a painting with words, just as you can paint feelings in a poem.»
Picasso emerged as a full-fledged writer starting in 1935; André Breton had then consecrated him in his text “Picasso poète”, which was published in Cahiers d’art that same year. Even so, his inclination for words, for writing, poetry and language, goes back to when he was a young adult, when he created small newspapers and sent them by post to his parents.

This exhibition seeks to reflect the importance of poetic writing in Picasso’s creative trajectory, which should be considered from a broad, global perspective. In the presentation of his hand-written texts, which are beautifully presented, we see the strong bond between writing and painting, which accentuates the complexity of his textural work (in collage, repetitions, variations, successive additions, and so on). His autobiographical character is like an “intimate, sensorial diary”, poetically laying bare the artist’s personality.

For these reasons the sources and beginnings of Picasso the writer are featured here, as well as the relationship between his texts and his paintings, the persistence of certain subject matter and his extraordinary poetic creativity, breaking language up as if it were a “verbal mass”, exercising the same degree of freedom he applied to all other media. In a confession to his friend Roberto Otero he is unwavering: «In the end I am a wayward writer.»


  • Snowing in the Sun (10-01-1934)

    Snowing in the sun. This phrase, which picks up poetically on a strange weather phenomenon, exemplifies Picasso’s plethoric gesture, as he writes at the same time as he draws. The exhibition features five of the eleven variations on eleven sheets of Arches paper, which engender the rhythm of his handwriting with his movement. Picasso experiments with the spatiality of writing and subtly plays with the sonorous poetic charge of the words. The lines he draws lovingly shape the words and images. The “o” of the word “sol” ends up absorbing the snow in its roundness, turning itself into a figure.


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    Picasso was always sensitive to writing and to the beauty of words. Yet this form of expression did not really emerge for him until 1935. While the moment happened to coincide with a personal crisis and the reorientation off his visual production, his writing is not circumstantial, instead testifying to a deep and ongoing connection to his artistic concerns. Anxious to experiment with this new material, Picasso began to write a drawn-out text on his native tongue with no punctuation, which took up more than 30 pages of Arches paper. Picasso the poet, confident in his role as a man of letters, sketched out his first notes on various grounds, including in a highly sensitive blue notebook, a kind of x-ray in which he openly explains himself. It speaks of the writing process, and deals with translation and some of his favourite subjects: love, bullfighting, time, food…. The most varied range of poems arose from his writing laboratory: poems winding like a river, in loops and variations; rhizomatic poems and other more classical poems, with their rhymes and verses.

    Pablo Picasso
    «Il neige au soleil», Neva al sol
    París, 10 de gener de 1934. Ploma i tinta xinesa sobre paper de dibuix verjurat. 26,8 × 32,8 cm. Musée national Picasso-Paris. Dació Pablo Picasso, 1979. MP1123 © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Thierry Le Mage. Musée national Picasso-Paris. © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

    Pablo Picasso
    «sur le dos de l’inmence tranche», Al dors del gran tall de meló ardent
    París, 14 de desembre de 1935. 2.º estado. Ploma, tinta xinesa i llapis de colors sobre paper de dibuix verjurat. 25,5 × 17,2 cm. Musée national Picasso-Paris. Dació Pablo Picasso, 1979. MP1146 (v). © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

  • 1936: Images and Words

    In April and May 1936, during his stay in Juan-les-Pins with Marie-Thérèse and Maya, Picasso made almost daily drawings with texts on sheets of Arches paper, folded in half. These drawings led to paintings such as Portrait of a Girl, from 3 April, and Woman by the Dresser, from 9 April 1936. Sometimes, in turn, his paintings led to writings.
    In this way, images and words are closely bound. Picasso did various studies of Marie-Thérèse, contrasting a highly realistic profile on the same sheet with another, rougher simplification of a wire head. Likewise, he draws numerous minotaurs, which are essentially self-portraits.

    1937–1939, the Spanish Civil War

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    In his writings from 1937 the disastrous consequences of the war in Spain hang over him. From 15 to 18 June, Picasso does the two plates for The Dream and Lie of Franco, which denounce the brutalities of Francoism.

    In the life of the artist another woman had appeared, Dora Maar, who is present in both the texts and the drawings preparing The Weeping Woman (1937). Another more violent and sarcastic painting decries the bond between the Church and Franco’s army: Portrait of the Marquis with the Christian Buttocks Throwing a Coin at the Moorish Soldiers Defending the Virgin (September 1937). In a notebook from February and March 1937, Picasso drew a hieroglyphic on a postcard he sent to Dora Maar, with a written solution to the conundrum: “Buying this postcard gives you bad luck.”

    Picasso often revived his poems from 1938 in his engravings, such as the one from 8 February (II), which goes with the engraving from 18 October of that same year entitled Bust of a Seated Woman. Or just as well the one from 22 June, engraved in capital letters in the illustrated book entitled Homage to Lacourière, published by Iliazd.

    Pablo Picasso
    Retrat de noia
    Juan-les-Pins, 3 de abril de 1936. Oli sobre tela. 55,5 × 46 cm. Musée national Picasso-Paris. Dación Pablo Picasso, 1979. MP150. RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Adrien Didierjean © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

    Pablo Picasso
    Banyista a la caseta i paisatge de Juan-les-Pins
    19-21 de abril de 1936, p. 1v. Tinta xinesa i aiguada sobre paper, full doblegat per la meitat. 26 × 17,3 cm. Musée national Picasso-Paris. Dación Pablo Picasso, 1979. MP1157 (v.) © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

  • TTheatre

    Thanks to his plays and stage instructions, Picasso embraces a total spatial experience where he can work with all the senses. In Desire Caught by the Tail (1941), written in French in a few days during the German occupation, the characters exorcise their fear and sing about love, hunger and the cold; they have names like Big Foot, Pie, Cousin and Drapes.

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    For the play The Four Little Girls (1947–1948), also written in French, Picasso uses red colour pencil diluted with a bit of blue. The action takes place in a vegetable garden where the girls, who are no longer little, play at rituals that are at once sweet and cruel. They sing and enjoy the relative pleasure they have regained after the war in southern France, bursting with intense flavours and aromas. More tragic tones are expressed in his final work, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (1957–1958). This is an atypical piece that breaks down the division by genres; it starts with a dialogue between two characters, numbered 0 and 1, and ends with a long monologue, like a melancholic litany. In this final work, Picasso returns to his native tongue in a final homage to his homeland, which is now barred to him.

    Engraved and Lithographed Poems

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    Picasso created a set of poems on engravings and lithographs, with Poèmes et lithographies [Poems and Lithographs], published by the Galerie Louise Leiris being the most important. The texts were written from February to September 1941, and illustrated from 6 April to 29 May 1949.

    Printed in the workshop of Fernand Mourlot, the 14 lithographs making up the set are divided into four parts, combining text and image. In February 1945, the texts had already been published under the title “Fragments” in the journal L’Éternelle revue.

    Previously he had done this with other handwritten poems like “Trozo de almíbar” [Bit of Syrup] (1939), which Picasso chose to accompany The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (1969), “XXXIV. El clarín se retuerce…” [The Bugle Writhes] (1939, fragment of the poem written on 18 April 1935), and “Poésie de mots inconnus” [Poetry of Unknown Words] (1949).  

    Pablo Picasso
    El entierro del conde de Orgaz (facsímil del manuscrit original del llibre)
    Barcelona, 25 d’octubre del 1969 Fons Gustau Gili i Anna Maria Torra. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Adquisició, 2017 MPB 114.083.15 © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

  • Pierre Reverdy, Pablo Picasso: Le Chant des morts, 1948

    Pierre Reverdy and Pablo Picasso met in Paris in 1910. In 1917 Reverdy published “Sur le cubisme”, in the first issue of the journal Nord-Sud. The artists’ friendship led them to do various projects together over the years. .
    In 1944, with the liberation of Paris, Reverdy began to write the first poems of Le Chant des morts [The Song of the Dead].

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    The publisher Tériade was behind the project. Reverdy wanted to do his poems in handwritten version, and Picasso was to illustrate them with a red lithographic crayon, just like with medieval manuscripts. Still, Picasso did not end up only adding ornamental features, but instead intervened on each of the pages, marking off verses, filling in voids, invading the spaces with signs that recall both musical notation and what would be his own handwritten alphabet.

    The forty-three poems in the Reverdy book, with the twenty-five Picasso lithographs, can be read as a single poetic work. The cadence of a single voice here becomes a lamentation, a funerary dirge to the human condition.
    Printing of Le Chant des morts was finished in Paris on 30 September 1948.

    Pierre Reverdy; Pablo Picasso
    Le Chant des morts
    París, Tériade, 1948, portada, pp. 1, 24, 92-93. Llibre il·lustrat amb 125 litografies de Pablo Picasso, estampades al taller de Mourlot Frères (París). 42,5 × 32,7 cm. Fundación Picasso. Museo Casa Natal – Ayuntamiento de Málaga. RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Hervé Lewandowski © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

    Pierre Reverdy; Pablo Picasso
    Le Chant des morts
    París, Tériade, 1948. Llibre il·lustrat amb 125 litografies de Pablo Picasso, estampades al taller de Mourlot Frères (París). 42,5 × 32,7 cm. Fundación Picasso. Museo Casa Natal – Ayuntamiento de Málaga. RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Hervé Lewandowski © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

  • Luis de Góngora y Argote, Pablo Picasso: Vingt poèmes, 1948

    In 1948 Vingt poèmes de Góngora [Twenty Poems by Góngora] was published in Paris, in the collection Les Grands Peintres modernes et le Livre, with 41 etchings and aquatints by Picasso; it was printed by Roger Lacourière. In this work he combines drawings with handwritten sonnets, decorated with incised scribbles. The series begins by copying the poet’s signature along with the portrait of the poet after the 1622 painting by a young Velázquez.

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    Picasso knew Góngora from his schoolbooks in La Coruña (1891–1895). Later, in 1927, on the 300th anniversary of his death, the poets later known as the Generation of 27 celebrated the event. The following year Christian Zervos published XX Sonnets de Góngora, which were translated into French by Zdislas Milner and illustrated by Ismael G. de la Serna. Picasso himself considered illustrating them for a collector`s edition for Ediciones La Cometa, of the Gustavo Gili publishing group, which in the end did not come to fruition.

    The aesthetics of Góngora’s verse, expressed through rhetorical figures like alliteration and hyperbaton, leave their mark on Picasso’s writing as well: “0 I say nothing you know what I am saying I say no more you know what I said. 1 you know what is known, what is known is known” (The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, 6 January 1957).

    Pablo Picasso
    Variación sobre el retrato de Góngora deVelázquez
    Francia, 27 de febrero de 1947. [VI], 2.º estado. 38 × 28 cm. MPB 70.759.3. Pablo Picasso; Luis de Góngora, Vingt poèmes. París, 30 de septiembre de 1948. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Donación Jaime Sabartés. MPB 70.759c. Museu Picasso, Barcelona © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019

  • Genesis and Youth

    The origins of Picasso’s poetry are in his childhood and youth. While doing his first artistic exercises with a pencil and quill, he also made his first attempts at writing, displaying a broad, suggestive and highly varied range of literary modes and resources. His schoolbooks provided him with his first readings, focusing on Spanish literature, both fiction and poetry: Cervantes, Alarcón, Góngora, Quevedo, Teresa de Ávila and Zorrilla. He would slowly come to known other writers as well. He was already a budding writer well before Picasso the poet raised his head in 1935.

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    At the age of just twelve, in La Coruña, he created a series of fictional newspapers to send to his family. He composed three papers in total with the names Azul y blanco [Blue and White], La Coruña and Torre de Hércules [The Tower of Hercules]. The publications are done in a journalistic style. In one of them he wrote: “When this newspaper was sent to press no telegram was received.”

    True to his interest in journalism and writing, in 1901 he found himself in Madrid, where he founded the magazine Arte Joven with Francesc d’Assís Soler. It was a weekly publication on literature and the art nouveau, modelled after the Barcelona journal Pèl & Ploma .

    Pablo Picasso
    La xerrameca
    Dibuix sobre paper. Barcelona, 1899-1900. Tinta negra a ploma sobre paper. 23,1 x 21,9 cm. Donació Picasso, Pablo, 1970. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. MPB110337R © Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2019


'This line is the present', by Emily Mast

Collaboration with the Fundació Joan Brossa.

Friday 8th November 2019, at 8.00 pm

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Continual reading of the poem "Liberté!" by Paul Eluard.

Saturday 16th November, from 12 noon to midnight

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Family workshop: “There are too many words!”

Family workshop

Saturday 30 November and 21, 28 December. Saturdays 4, 25 January and 15, 29 February 2020

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Symposium: Au rendez-vous des poètes a Catalunya

Thursday 28th November 2019

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Poetry reading: Love and Freedom

With Biel Mesquida, Enric Cassasses, Vicenç Altaió, Dolors Miquel, David Caño and Blanca Llum Vidal.

Thursday 23rd January 2020

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The restoration of "Guernica"

Talk given by Pilar Sedano, emeritus chief conservator of the department of Conservation and Restoration of the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia.

Thursday, 6th February 2020

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  • Alphabet. Picasso Poet

    «say one hundred times a and afterwards b and afterwards a b a a and afterwards a b a b and afterwards a b c d jump of the toad»..
    Picasso Pablo (22.01.1936)

    The structure of the alphabet perfectly matches the poetry of Picasso, who always felt a predilection for both letters and words, as well as for inventories, lists and repetitions.

    Writing was for him the inseparable complement of painting, because it expressed what the image could not express.

    Thus the desire to build a kind of abridged dictionary of terms and names that with its various definitions and forms of use illuminate the hidden meaning of the texts and weave a track of conductive threads.

    This alphabet not only gathers together the recurring themes of the writings, but also the diverse protagonists of Picasso's poetry: poets, writers, publishers, friends, women and children. It allows us to reach the heart of the Picasso universe by turning to the banal poetry of the scenes of everyday life, the ABC of things, love and eroticism, the violence of war or propitiatory rites, and, at the same time, providing a few keys to the artist's personality, psychic complexion and cosmic vision.

    The multiplicity and diversity of the entries corresponds to that of the authors, which allows access to a wide variety of points of view about the reading and interpretation of Picasso's complex poetry.

  • Authors: Androula Michael, Alicia Navarro, Carlos Ferrer Barrera, Cécile Godefroy, Christine Piot, Claustre Rafart i Planas, Emmanuel Guigon, Francesc Cortès, Fabienne Douls, Gilbert Lascault, Georges Sebbag, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Jèssica Jaques Pi, Johan Popelard, Jean-Paul Morel, Jeanne-Yvette Sudour, Laurence Bertrand-Dorléac, Lilie Fauriac, Margarida Cortadella, Mari Cruz Barón, Marc Guastavino, Marie-Laure Bernadac, Nanette Rißler-Pipka, Peter Read, Rafael Inglada, Serge Linarès, Victoria Combalía
    Year: 2019
    Pages: 336
    Languages: català, castellà, francès y anglès
    Format: 16 x 24 cm
    Editor: Fundació Museu Picasso de Barcelona
    Price: €39

  • ISBN
    Catalan 978-84-120462-2-9
    Spanish 978-84-120462-1-2
    French 978-84-120462-3-6
    English 978-84-120462-4-3

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