Eduard Vallès

Josep Palau i Fabre. An analysis and validation of an integral approach to the life and works of Picasso

Saturday April 29 – Keynote speaker @ Hotel Colón

The approach of the expert Josep Palau i Fabre (1917-2008) towards the work of Picasso was focused to a great extent on the issue of identity, a topic that had impregnated his previous literary work.  The sequences of mimicry-alienation-disintegration of oneself, that had always interested Palau, found in the work of Picasso a top level field of work.  With these coordinates Palau establishes a personal relation with Picasso, which would occupy a total of 25 years with encounters on an occasional basis, from 1947 to 1972.  They were strictly professional encounters, in which Picasso became a primary source of research that would lead to a large number of books of all types of registers.  The first book was Vides de Picasso (Lives of Picasso), written in 1946, and the last Picasso 1926-1939: From Minotaur to Guernica, published posthumously in 2011.  Palau died in 2008, so they were sixty-two years of intensive dedication to the work of Picasso.   This last book is the fourth volume of his monumental biography of the artist, which turned him into one of the cataloguers of reference, together with the three previous volumes:   Picasso vivent (Living Picasso) Picasso. Cubisme (Picasso, Cubism) and Picasso. Dels Ballets al drama (Picasso. From ballets to drama).

At a more local level, Palau is notable for having re-dimensioned the links of Picasso with Catalonia, with various studies about his relation with Barcelona, Horta, Gósol and Cadaquès, until then either neglected or analysed in a very brief way.  Palau also carried out in-depth studies about specific works such as the series of Las Meninas or Guernica, two of the greatest tour de force ever carried out by Picasso. In the world of Picasso, Palau was a pioneer in two fields, for example, in the genre of diaries, with his book Dear Picasso, a collection of anecdotes about his meetings with the artist.  He would also be the author of the first book dedicated to Picasso’s self-portraits, Picasso by Picasso, in 1970. At another level, he was one of the most relevant poets and playwrights of the Catalan culture, and this would have an explicit correlation with his Picassian work.  In a singular case he would turn Picasso into literary material, in such a way that he appeared as the subject in plays, poetry and even tales.  Palau analysed and interpreted the work of Picasso, from the rigorous work of chronological order and the inventory of the four volumes, up until these literary approaches.  Palau used a sui generis method that transcended the servitudes of the classical art historiographies, in such a way that he neglected the method and boosted the implications of the work with reality, that is to say, its autobiographical aspect.  This approach fully corresponds to the pre-existing pre-Picasso interest of mimicry. In this sense it is worth highlighting various binomial texts such as Lorca-Picasso, Baudelaire-Picasso, Picasso-Don Joan or Faust-Picasso, where Palau evokes the multiple personality of Picasso based on very diverse references. The major problem faced by man in the 20th century, and also in the 19th century, was identity in its collective aspect, but above all in the individual. Palau recognises in the work of Picasso the same questions about identity that he was considering, and that he adopts in all its dimension and with all its consequences.

Eduard Vallès

Curator. Modern and Contemporary Art. PhD in History of Art. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

He is Conservator of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. He is doctor of Art History and postgraduate in Management of cultural institutions.  He has been conservator of the Museu Picasso of Barcelona and Director of the Palau Foundation. His doctoral thesis dealt with the influence of Catalan art on Picasso.  He is author of the books Picasso and Rusiñol. The crossroads of modernity, Picasso. Catalan work, Picasso and the Catalan literary world, and he has been scientific of the Guide of the Museu Picasso of Barcelona. He has been curator, amongst others, of the exhibitions Picasso. Catalan friends from youth, Picasso versus Rusiñol, I Picasso. Self-Portraits and Casagemas. The artist behind the myth. He has coordinated some university courses about Picasso, and he has written texts in many catalogues about the artist.  He has also been scientific adviser for various expositive Picassian projects and editorials.

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