The commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death has had and still has numerous tributes throughout the world. None, without a doubt, as original as that of the Hispanic Society of New York, which has organized an exhibition on Picasso without any paintings by Picasso.

“That’s a bit of a cruel statement to start the conversation with,” laughs Patrick Lenaghan, curator of this museum located in a palace northwest of Manhattan dedicated to Hispanic culture, which is also a library, which is relevant in this case.

Understandably, an exhibition without a single one of the canvases that brought so much fame to this universal artist, who has become one of the most important references of all that exist, whose works are coveted treasures that collectors compete for in international auctions.

“He is possibly the best engraver of the 20th century,” says Lenaghan. There are engravings in this exhibition, but also under a little explored and not common argument, in which drawing and words merge: the museum and the library. “Picasso was proud to be a poet. “He took literature very seriously, especially Spanish literature, which had a special resonance for him,” says the curator. She was one of his muses.

So this exhibition, rather intimate and pocket-sized due to its small magnitude compared to others, is titled ‘Picasso and the Spanish Classics’. The central argument in Hispanic is found in two leading figures of classical literature of the Golden Age, such as Luis de Góngora (1561-1627) and Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), and how the author of Guernica maintained a long relationship with his works.

From these peaks of writing, poems by Góngora and characters by Cervantes, and in a quite unknown aspect of his work, Picasso was inspired by these two authors to design engravings and even illustrate books.

This exhibition (open until February) organized within the framework of the commemoration of the governments of Spain and France, draws on the rich bibliographic and artistic fund of the institution founded by the magnate Archer Milton Hamilton, a passionate about everything Hispanic.

The starting point is made from one of the jewels of his library, a manuscript that includes the transcription of twenty sonnets by Góngora made by hand by the artist himself, with illustrations in the margins and with a portrait on the back of each one. pages.

The first of these portraits is dedicated to Góngora himself, in which Picasso makes a reinterpretation of the one made by the master Diego Velázquez in the 17th century. In the others, women appear, with a personal vision, among whom are some who remember the artist’s lovers, such as Marie-Thèrése Walter or François Gilot, dressed in 20th century fashion.

According to Lenaghan, these works demonstrate Picasso’s fantastic technique as an engraver and portrait painter. These drawings represent the polar opposite of the unstructured faces of his Cubist work, characters with two or three noses. To the surprise of many, “he did both types of art at the same time,” the curator emphasizes. “He found a way to translate the poems into his personal mythology,” he explains.

In the juxtaposed plan appears Don Quixote, whose literary importance is more than recognized globally, a character that everyone recognizes, his book of chivalric adventures considered the first modern novel, a work of genius. “Many are surprised by Picasso’s representation of Don Quixote and how rarely he addressed this character,” Lenaghan emphasizes.

In fact, he notes that he did not finish his engraving. “He found something that prevented him from continuing with that work,” he says. The creation of the knight-errant of him and his faithful Sancho Panza coincides with his time as director of the Prado Museum and his participation in the 1937 Universal Exhibition in Paris with Guernica.

However, it is not overwork that prevented him from finishing that engraving, according to Lenaghan, who has a theory. “Don Quixote is not part of Picasso’s personal mythology,” he says. For the painter, “Don Quixote is a failure, he does not change the world, he does not get his girl, Dulcinea, while Picasso’s mentality is that if you love Dulcinea you have to make her your lover and consummate the matter,” clarifies the expert.

“Don Quixote is the complete opposite of Picasso’s image of himself, a very sexually active artist who gets women. He was not comfortable with that character and also sees Don Quixote as a bad soldier to win the Civil War,” he insists.

Picasso, Lenaghan concludes, could not or did not know how to capture the transcendental side of Don Quixote than he did understand the imaginative side of Salvador Dalí.