In 2009 the Museu Picasso of Barcelona made known for the first time the collection of the erotic Japanese prints of Pablo Picasso in dialogue with the work of the artist from Malaga. The exhibition, Secrets Images. Picasso and erotic Japanese prints, served to present Picasso in the context of European Japonism, at the same time as opening the doors to a new field of study, which is the relation of Picasso with oriental art. The research which began then, and has continued to the present day, has allowed us to discover aspects of the work and the interests of the artist that still haven’t been worked on and that, therefore, turn out to be practically unpublished in the extensive biography of the artist. In this sense, and in terms of the conference, the presentation will offer a first synthetic vision, but also global, of the links of Picasso with the arts of Japan.
The presentation will be structured around successive periods. The first section, the briefest, will focus on the points of contact of the young Pablo Picasso with the phenomenon of Japonism around the year 1900, which had an initial impact on the artists copying and/or osmosis, in a superficial way. The second section, however, will show how between 1905 and 1907, Picasso began to be interested in Japanese art, an approach that has been documented and that therefore contradicts his public statements regarding his rejection of Oriental arts. It was then that the artist started to study specific aspects of Japanese art, the result of sincere personal interests. Finally, during the 1910s and 1920s Picasso started to enter in contact with Japanese artists, and from the 1930s onwards, he began a long stage, which was prolonged practically to the end of his life, in which he undertook multidirectional and periodical approaches in various forms of Japanese artistic expression, from illustrated books and ukiyo-e prints to the representations of nature, in calligraphy or the practice of sumi-e painting. He even ended up signing some of his works using the Japanese syllables of katakana. The study of the work of the artist, as well as his comments, his collection, the memories of friends and acquaintances and the textual and graphic documentation of the period, allows us to reveal some interests in Japanese art, still little known today, which played a specific role, on occasions well-defined, in the artistic identity of the works of Picasso.