Plutarch invented, at the end of the first century, a literary genre: the parallel lives in which he traced erudite and entertaining biographies of famous Greeks and Romans paired. If the historian lived, he could have drawn the biographies of Pablo Picasso and Francisco Picabia, two painters who coincided in time and who, in spite of appearing antagonistic in their way of understanding art, had points in common. He could also have been the curator of the exhibition Picasso / Picabia. The painting in question, which opens today at the Mapfre Foundation in Barcelona (until January 13), where, for the first time, it offers an approach to the cross-stories of these two artists and their attitude towards the same changing reality.
And it does so through 150 works including paintings, drawings, prints and documents that the Plutarch In turn, Aurélie Verdier, curator of the Center Georges Pompidou, in which the two artists dialogue and reveal their real and imagined links. Picasso was aware of his fame. He let himself be loved by other artists with whom he had a distant relationship. It happened to Dalí (who did not answer any of the postcards he sent him for years). There are no photos together, because they did not coincide beyond the visit made by the Catalan in Paris to the malagueño in 1926.
The same happens with Picabia. The two artists had the opportunity to coincide (it is known that they saw themselves in the bulls in Barcelona in 1917), they were neighbors on the south coast of France for years, but their relationship did not pass between them as cordial. They were not friends, their circles of acquaintances, saving creators such as Apollinaire, Braque and Max Jacob, were different. Picabia always admired Picasso, but Picasso did not go beyond the confusion that created his two surnames began the same and "was called Picabia when he had something to reproach," according to his biographer John Richardson.
Verdier, after highlighting the fact that the two "were very individualistic artists who fled from corporatism, which seems, from the outset to have nothing to say," has drawn, like Plutarch, a parallel line of his biographies with different stages that has illustrated with works of one and another in which coincidences are perceived "intermittently, but closer than you think".
This vital thread started in 1904 when Picasso, who has just settled in Paris, coincides with Picabia in a collective exhibition in a gallery in the city. At that time, the Spaniard is immersed in the cubism that he (and George Braque) invented, a movement to which Picabia arrived late, after shedding his influence inherited from Sisley and Pisarro of late Impressionism. The exhibition continues with the introduction of objects and cuts in assemblies and papiers collés that Picasso began in 1912, while Picabia follows a different path of giving objects as anthropomorphic lamps, influenced by the radical Dada that Picasso did not embrace. Works such as El árbol (Picasso, 1907) and Muchacha (Picabia, 1912) can be seen.
In Barcelona, it has already been written, they coincide in 1917, at a time when the French launched the magazine 391 and Picasso drifted towards classicism with Ingres portraits. They coincided, and much, in the subject of the Spanish, with comb and mantilla, some works that together cost to know who painted them. Also in his works of the bulls, Picasso more abstract and Picabia more realistic. Towards 1925 the malagueño returns to the classicism and the two share the call "epoch of the monsters", in a moment in which the two coincide "like neighbors" in the Costa Azul. Of this moment they are the enamored ones of Picasso and the kiss and the enamored ones after the rain of Picabia.
Plutarch concluded their lives with a brief text, or comparison, which highlighted what differentiated the two characters. The exhibition too. On the part of Picasso you can see half a dozen enormous portraits, "since he returns to the human figure until his death in 1973", while Picabia, "whose career stops twenty years before, eliminates any figurative reference and reduces the act of painting to subtle monochromes dotted with dots. " In any case, for Verdier, Picabia and Picasso share "in addition to his special relationship with Barcelona, the desire to challenge the pictorial conventions that the historiography of art has established and the two choose to assassinate painting to rejuvenate it". For the director of the culture area of the foundation, Pablo Jiménez with this exhibition, which has already been seen in the Granet Museum in Aix-en-Provence, you can see "a Picasso more hooligan and a Picabia a little more formal than the usual. "