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Real Goya

Month: July 2013

Goya, Picasso and France (I)

Among the many concomitance, likeness and similarities that, with no doubt, can be found between these two geniuses of world art, one of them and perhaps the most important is its status as Spaniards. Besides, Spaniards who lived in France exiled or, more or less, for extended stays and different reasons. But that never gave up on their status as Spaniards, as known.

autorretrato goya

Autorretrato con gorrilla • Self-portrait with cap


Picasso lived there a long and fruitful life and, nevertheless, Goya did for a period of nearly four years and at the end of his life (from 30th May 1824 until his death on 16th April 1828), with two short stays in Madrid in 1826 (when gets retirement) and in the summer of 1827 to arrange personal affairs. The reasons of its, better call them expatriations, were by their condition of Spaniards and in essence for their advanced ideas about the prevailing of the respective authorities of their country, especially in the case of Goya, and because Paris is the main point of attraction and the centre of European and universal art at the time in which Picasso decide to leave Barcelona, and start a career with more international presence.

There are not known written or verbal manifestations of Francisco de Goya in which declared their intention to become French citizen. Rather, against this, he always felt deeply close to Spain and thus expressed preferably frequenting circles of Spanish artists and intellectuals, both in Bordeaux and in the few months he visited Paris. On the other hand, Goya never spoke French, very understandable question by his advanced age and his vulnerable condition of almost absolute deaf person. And he frequented almost exclusively Spanish environments, except for a few exceptions related to artists or lithographers.

Very different case is that of Picasso, since he did live almost all his life in France. He joined completely in that country although he never renounced his Spanish condition, nor forgot his birth from Malaga and the very important stage of his life in Barcelona. It can be said without fear of mistake that there is a French Picasso, very French, not avoiding to be Spanish and very Spanish. Something that does not fit in the qualification of Goya.



Autorretrato de Picasso a los 20 años • Picasso’s self-portrait at age 20


As well, always have thought that Picasso never wanted to become naturalized French, but the truth is that he did wanted to do it at a given time: can read it in the paper entitled “Dans les secrets de la Police (Les Trésors inédits des archives de la préfecture de Police)” edited by L’Iconoclaste in 2008 and I get thanks to my good friend and colleague in the MGA, Jean-Baptiste Bourrat, Secretary-General of Editions Les Arenes.

In this book (pp. 230-231) Pascal Bonafoux reproduces the requests for ID cards made by Pablo Picasso and Olga Khokhlova, his first wife, both Spaniards according to the receipt of the respective request. Olga’s Spanish nationality is, naturally, by marriage.

But one thing is to ask a mandatory identity card for foreigners and other to ask for the nationality itself. The demand for French nationality by Picasso is a whole dossier that is part of a set of files seized by the Germans in 1940, then transferred to the USSR in 1945 and returned to the French State in 2001. The discovery of such a document, in 2004, was a great surprise: the painter never spoke of that application with none of their relatives or friends.

Pascal Bonafoux tells this in the following way: “In this month of April 1940, what does the police officer who reads and rereads parts of the dossier ‘Picasso’ knows about him, Spanish painter born on 25th October 1881 in Malaga. The artist has just asked for his French naturalization letter. Since the beginning of the year, lively, Picasso does not know what to do. War declared on 3rd September 1939 drives him crazy. Entrusted to his secretary Sabartés: “If they make war to spite me, they have taken things too far, don’t you think?”



Solicitud de nacionalidad francesa, firmada por Picasso • Application of French nationality, signed by Picasso


He is helpless. Repeatedly, just coming and going between Paris and Royan, where, since the beginning of the year, rents the second floor of the villa of the Voiliers. The owner has seen nobody there but himself and his faithful Sabartés. The painter feels there on neutral ground, so far from Dora Maar as from Marie-Thérèse.


Anarchist or Communist?

The police officer ignores without a doubt that Picasso has given command of packing his canvases from La Boetie Street and Des Grands-Augustins in dozens of boxes, an endeavor so difficult “as dismantling the Louvre”. On the contrary, knows that this painter is famous… How to ignore that? “Guernica”, at the Spanish Pavilion of the International Exhibition, has shocked. If, in the eyes of the critic of art Jean Cassou, “expresses our more intimate tragedy”, in revenge certain leaders of the Spanish Republic have condemned a painting “antisocial, ridiculous and totally inadequate”.

What to be admired by if, convicted by the communists, this painter would not be anarchist, as described in an old report of 1901. But the friendship that links him with Èluard would make comprehensive that he was a communist? France at war, no doubt wondered this official, does need to give such individual the nationality? When even, according to Cocteau, gets “a life of homeless under a golden bridge” The Administration will leave this request without response.



Cajas, procedentes de Moscú, conservadas por la Policía francesa. • Boxes, from Moscow, preserved by the French police.


The truth is that Picasso, coinciding with the invasion of Denmark and Norway by the troops of Hitler, officially requested French nationality and makes it to the entitled authority on 3rd April 1940. This juicy and interesting information is widely advanced by Armand Israël in the book written together with Pierre Dax and with the title “Pablo Picasso. Dossiers of the préfecture de police 1901 – 1940” was published by Éditions Acatos in 2003.

On 23rd April the French Ministry of Justice requested to the Préfecture of police the opening of an inquiry that allows forming an opinion on the request. For this purpose, on 26th April police station of la Madeleine invites Picasso to 7th May and ask for a documentation which, in summary, corresponds to an affidavit of not having ever convicted in France nor Spain, or in any other country; his income tax for 1939; copy of his lease on the property of the 23 rue de la Boétie; a domicile certificate, signed by the housekeeper, who effectively certifies that Picasso lived there since 1918 and it also adds the visa of the police inspector of the district.

Regarding this request the French administration issued two reports, one by mentioned police station of the 8th Arrondissement, which has a formal character of police of proximity; this 9 page report is favourable and consists of statements, documents and reports on marital and family status of the person concerned, address, his conduct, morality and his loyalty to France and his military situation, his will in assimilation, his social utility and his health; also on his economic situation in which, by the way, represents that Picasso had paid 700,000 francs of taxes in year 1939; his clean criminal records are added and it is concluded, on 30th April 1940 with: “Good reports, favourable opinion”.

End of Part I

Eleanor Axson Sayre and Zaragoza

In an excellent article written by César Pérez Gracia, published in Heraldo de Aragón last February, honoured the Lady Eleanor Sayre (1916-2001), granddaughter of US President Woodrow Wilson, died at age 85 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In that article was set out in detail the interest of certain personalities of high American culture by the art of Goya and the culture from the 50’s of last century, after the wake of the Harvard medievalists who discovered the Romanesque Monastery of Iguacel in 1928, in the valley of the river Aragon, near Jaca.

And that Eleanor Sayre visited Zaragoza in 1954 as Assistant Curator at the Boston Museum, consulting and copying letters of Zapater to Goya. Although then she knew nothing of Spanish she felt an immense voracity for learning the language of Goya. Multilingual and caught by Goya’s enigma, she got her Museum acquired about thirty of his drawings and made Boston’s a world reference in the knowledge of Goya.


“Loco pr. errar” Album G, 44. Lápiz negro. 191 x 146 mm. Boston. Museum of Fine Arts


On May 17th 2001 the New York Times reported that Eleanor Axson Sayre, who passed away the previous Saturday, May 12th, was an authority on the engravings of Goya and one of the first female curators in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Born in Philadelphia in 1916, after her studies in Art History at Bryn Mawr College in 1938, completed with two years degree at Harvard, her first job at the Yale University Art Gallery followed in the Lyman Allen Museum of New London, Connecticut, and at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Arete, Providence.

She joined the staff of the Boston Museum in 1945 as Assistant Curator of drawings and engravings, and finally as curator in 1967. She retired in 1984 and was proclaimed Emeritus curator of the Department of Images, Drawings and Photographs of the Museum and continued working in her office in a manuscript about the ‘Caprichos’ of Goya, until her health let did so.

Real Goya

“El Gigante”. Hacia 1818 (?). Aguatinta. 285 x 210 mm. Biblioteca Nacional. Madrid

Already in 1984, Eleanor A. Sayre initiated and organized the preparatory work for the shows in spirit of exemplary cooperation, and already in 1988 co-directed with Professor Pérez Sánchez, who was then Director of the Prado Museum, the magnificent exhibition ‘Goya and the spirit of the Illustration’, a reference exhibition and catalogue, which took place at the Prado Museum, Madrid (October-December), at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (January-March 1989) and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (May-July 1989).

Mrs. Sayre had contributed, in a capital way, to the proper conservation of Goya’s drawings in the Prado Museum and also maintained always a very close and fruitful relationship with the aforementioned Museum. The Spanish government, in a strict act of justice, awarded her with the Gold Medal of the Arts in year 1991.

But that visit to Zaragoza in 1954 was not the only one. There was at least one more. I am a personal witness of which Mrs. Eleanor Sayre made to Zaragoza during the exhibition ‘Academy Drawings (property of Aragonese Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country, RSEAAP)’ held from October 17th to December 10th 1983, in the Centre of Exhibitions and Congresses of the Caja de Ahorros y Monte de Piedad de Zaragoza, Aragón y Rioja placed in San Ignacio de Loyola Street.

Since 1976, I was responsible for exhibitions of the Caja de Ahorros (Saving Bank) and on that occasion, throughout the preparatory work and sample documentation, – in winter, spring and summer of 1983 – we requested the collaboration of specialist in Goya at the Prado Museum, Mrs. Manuela Mena. In the fantastic collection of the Economic Society we had catalogued some drawings that, in our opinion, were likely to be original works by Goya, as the possible nude self-portrait, among others.



“Laocoonte (copia del yeso)”. Dibujo. 482 x 344 mm. ¿Francisco de Goya? RSEAAP


Mrs. Manuela Mena gladly accepted the invitation of the Caja de Ahorros and came to Zaragoza to know personally the originals. After her visit and study she confirmed us the authorship of Goya in the case of two drawings (the aforementioned possible naked self-portrait and a drawing, copy of an original of Batoni also in the collection of the Economic Society). She also said that in her opinion there were some more drawings than perhaps could also be attributed to Goya, as we did so recorded in the catalogue of the exhibition in relation to the Laocoonte, or the listed with number 16, of unknown author.

Well, the exhibition was opened on October 17th with huge host public assistance and began its way with remarkable success.

One day I do not remember exactly, phoned me Mrs. Manuela Mena to tell me that the engravings curator of the Boston Museum was in Madrid and she wanted to come to Zaragoza to know the exhibition of Goya drawings. Indeed, the agreed day, Mrs. Eleanor Sayre arrive straightly from the train station and showed her the drawings. She was delighted to see them, to check their excellent conservation and about the undeniable quality of them. In an impeccable Spanish, she made many and very interesting comments. She enjoyed a lot along within the few hours of her study and told us she was in Madrid, sponsored by the Kodak House, for live testing a new camera that could take pictures up to a meter in length.

I had the opportunity to share a coffee with Mrs. Eleanor, in a café opposite the building.  During the conversation I could appreciate the great wisdom of that Lady, her personal category, her elegance and careful education. A lady full of simplicity, lordship and sympathy. She talked me about her work in Boston, her very good relationship with the Prado and her enormous admiration for Goya. She invited me to ask for her if I was going by the Boston Museum, in which she would welcome me delighted and would show me the Goyas in it and was, in summary, a delight and a great honour to share that morning with her.

Before saying bye, suggested me directly that if we brought her those drawings to Madrid, she would make this large-format photographs and offered them free of charge the same for the Caja de Ahorros and the Economic Society. Unfortunately Mrs. Eleanor was leaving back to Boston in a week and it was not possible to carry out such operation because the drawings were exposed to the public. It doesn’t have to be a pity not to have any material testimony of that visit.

Serve these lines as endearing memories, personal gratitude and excited tribute to whom so loved Goya and all that so vital he represents.

Gonzalo de Diego

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