Gemma Avinyó

Barcelona, Irving Penn and Picasso. History of a report

Thursday April 27 – Session 01 @ COAC

In 1948, the American edition of the magazine Vogue commissioned the photographer Irving Penn(1917-2009) to do a report about the Barcelona in which Picasso lived.  Penn travelled to Catalonia during the summer of that same year, and stayed in the house in Vallcarca of the brothers Carles and Sebastià Junyer Vidal, recognised art collectors.

Joan Junyer -nephew of Sebastià, the oldest of the brothers-, avant-garde artist and renowned stage designer who was at that time enjoying a major success in New York, invited Penn to stay in the house of his relatives in Barcelona. Sebastià Junyer was more than a good host: the young man had kept up a close relation with Picasso.  Both had coincided in Els Quatre Gats, even though Sebastià Junyer was a more discreet member.

Penn, guided by Sebastià, photographed the streets and places of Barcelona that he associated, or pretended to associate, with Picasso.

The report was published in issue number 114 of the magazine (July 1st 1949), with a total of 8 pages and numerous photographs accompanied by a text written by Penn himself, entitled “Barcelona and Picasso. Eight pages about this Catalan city…With Picasso memorabilia…”.

It was a very subjective vision of Picasso and Barcelona; it was a very colourful vision of Barcelona, that provided us with a very particular point of view about the identity of Picasso focused on his years in Barcelona.

We could also consider this report to be a snapshot of Barcelona from the eyes of three characters: that of Picasso –the main one–, that of Sebastià Junyer and of Irving Penn –the photographer–. Picasso, however, didn’t take part in the work directly, although later, in 1957, Penn would use it as a model for the famous portrait Picasso at La Californie. We could also add another point of view, that of Dalí, who did all he could to also appear in this work.

This sociological approach allows us to not only take it as a reflection of the Barcelona of the years during which time Picasso lived there, but we should also analyse it as a conception about Picasso, and his identity, and about Barcelona at the end of the 1940s, from the eyes of an American and from a mass media as the magazine Vogue is.

As well as works of Picasso produced during his stay in Barcelona, images are included of a bullfight, a sardana dance, and even a bouillabaisse soup.  Some of these photographs, that have become icons, were once again published by Penn in his book Moments Preserved (1960).

This communication aims to show in this way the documentary research developed in the archives of the Irving Penn Foundation (New York) and the Irving Penn Archives in The Art Institute of Chicago, where they are conserved, as well as unpublished photographic material, notebooks with notes and correspondence referring to this reportage, which help to understand and contextualise it. Unpublished material will also be presented from the personal archive of Marià Manent, who acted as translator during the visit of Penn, and with whom she remained in contact through correspondence afterwards.

Gemma Avinyó

Associate Professor, Universitat de Lleida

Associate professor of the Department of Art History of the University of Lleida. Her field of research includes art collecting and the art market of Barcelona during the first half of the 20th century.  Her doctoral thesis deals with the Junyer Vidal brothers.  She has participated in congresses and seminars, such as the “4th Market of art, collecting and museums” (Sitges, 2015), and “Seminar on Collecting and Display. The Art Market, Collectors and Agents: Then and Now” (INHA, Paris, 2016). Among her publications, it is worth highlighting: “Antoni Clavé and the great Masters: beyond homage” (Events of the CIHPEM, 2016), “The Junyer Vidal brothers and the falsification of  Gothic painting” (UAB, 2016).

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Museu Picasso Barcelona
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