It was hunchbacked and stood a little more than four feet off the ground. Above her deformed body was a beautiful head. Her hands were, also, the most beautiful hands I had ever seen,” Diego Rivera wrote about María Blanchard (Santander, 1881-Paris, 1932), the great lady of Cubism, with whom the big Mexican artist shared thirteen years of friendship and study in Paris in the 1920s. Blanchard reached the top without ceasing to be herself, a brave, free and intelligent woman who became “the best cubist painter and the most important Spanish artist of the first half of the 20th century,” in the words of historian José Lebrero. Stalls.

He exhibited on numerous occasions and enjoyed great consideration among his male colleagues (Juan Gris, Picasso, Jacques Lipchitz, Diego Rivera…), but his status as an outsider artist took its toll, which, like his body, escaped the norm. Life did not show her its kindest side either (in addition to the debilitating pain caused by kyphoscoliosis, she had to endure the taunts of the Spanish children who followed her down the street and the superstitious people who rubbed lottery tickets on her hump). And, once she died, art history did not behave much better, ignoring her work and hiding her presence for the simple fact that she was born a woman, Spanish, and disabled.

Almost one hundred years after her disappearance, the Picasso Museum in Malaga dedicates an extensive retrospective to her, María Blanchard. Painter despite cubism (until September 29), who returns her figure to the epicenter of the avant-garde, reclaiming her last figurative stage as well as her contribution to cubism as a front-line militant, on a par with Juan Gris, another of her great friends, to whom they attributed some of their paintings because their firm was valued more (they shared the same dealer, Léonce Rosenberg). “Poor María, you think that a career is built only on the basis of talent,” Picasso had warned her, who showed her his admiration in life and went to say goodbye to her at the Bagneux cemetery, “a very sad funeral where everything was the best of Paris,” as Vicente Huidobro tells his mother in a recently discovered letter.

Picasso and Blanchard were born the same year and, in 1916, both were selected by André Salmon to participate in the exhibition L’Art Moderne en France where the man from Malaga showed The Young Ladies of Avignon for the first time. It had been only a few months since Blanchard had returned to France – this time never to return –, alone and humiliated by the fierce ridicule that critics had directed at her in the group exhibition organized in Madrid by Ramón Gómez de la Serna, The Integrity Painters in which Cubism was shown for the first time in Spain. The exhibition had to be closed by the police ten days after its inauguration due to public scandal.

The retrospective sponsored by the Unicaja Foundation, curated by José Lebrero, who was director of Picasso Málaga between 2009 and 2023, has 85 works that cover all his creative stages, from his first works in Spain to his cubist contribution and his period figurative, in which he took refuge from the post-war years, when the return to order occurred, until the end of his life.

“She was neither a model, nor a muse, nor a lover, the categories with which male artists dismissed women with artistic ambitions in Paris at that time,” says the curator. The exhibition has important loans from public and private collections, such as The Spanish Woman, The Comulgante, The Lady with the Fan or The Letter Caster, some of which can be read as symbolic self-portraits, their faces emaciated and their cheeks streaked in blood red, perhaps a note of her own vision of what is different from her situation as a disabled and foreign woman in France. A look that is an expression of her experiences appears again and again in her portraits of mothers, children or domestic workers, to whom she dedicated her last years.