Picasso and the Spanish Classics | Picasso y los clasicos espanoles
Throughout his life, Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) affirmed his Spanish heritage, and he frequently found inspiration in literary masterworks from his homeland. Drawing on the Hispanic Society Museum & Library’s exemplary holdings, this exhibition focuses on the artist’s engagement with two literary giants of the seventeenth century, or Spain’s Siglo de Oro: Luis de Góngora y Argote (1561–1627) and Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616).
In 1948, Picasso issued a set of etchings to accompany twenty sonnets by Góngora in which he recast his vision of Velázquez and the ideal of female beauty in terms of the lyric poetry of that celebrated author. Picasso not only created individual prints, but he also wrote out the poems by hand in Spanish which he then embellished with marginalia. By juxtaposing this set with seventeenth-century works of Góngora, viewers can appreciate Picasso’s artistry in a broader context as they compare his response with the contemporary texts. In effect, as we read the poems today and look at the art, we can see both common ground and differences.
Picasso also turned to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the emblematic heroes of Cervantes’s novel, Don Quixote, portraying them at various points in his career. Although many will recognize the artist’s later image, the Hispanic Society holds a rare proof Picasso made ca. 1937 at a moment when he was exploring different styles and techniques. Because he never completed the project, it survives in only a dozen proofs. Nonetheless it offers an intriguing insight into his understanding of the subject particularly when set next to comparable images from the eighteenth century.