Your Brother, Picasso

April 8, 2020
Max Jacob portrait
Portrait de Max Jacob, 1953, transfer lithograph, 9 1/2 x 7 1/8 inches

In the summer of 2014, the Quimper Museum of Fine Art put on display a never-before-seen note handwritten by Picasso in 1903, addressed to a friend: “to my dear Max.” Picasso’s thoughts are adorned by little drawings, reflective of his Blue period – “a woman comforting a seated man, an outstretched hand, a child kneeling next to a man, and a couple deep in conversation.” The scrawled letters and the doodles convey an easy intimacy, a long-standing and irrevocable trust between friends. The letter is signed, “your brother Picasso.”*

Picasso and the poet Max Jacob were roommates during the painter’s early years in Paris, around 1901. Together, they were rich with modern ideas and bohemian ideals, but between them had the income for just one bed. Jacob claimed it during the night while Picasso painted, and Picasso took it during the daytime.**

Even after Picasso moved up and out, the pair remained close friends. As critic L.C. Breunig re-tells, Picasso liked to take late-night-early-morning walks in the midst of his working hours, and if he passed by Max Jacob’s window in Montmartre, he would call up, “Hey, Max, what are you doing?" And Jacob, sitting up at his writing desk, would lean out and reply, "I am looking for a style!"

Picasso would walk on, shouting over his shoulder, "There is no style!"***



More on the letter:

“Intimate Picasso Letter Goes on Display in France” (September 16, 2014).
“Unseen Picasso letter to his friend the French poet Max Jacob -- with doodles -- on display in France” (n.d.).

** Richardson, John. A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel 1907-1916. Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. (pp. 148)
***Breunig, L.C. “Picasso’s Poets.” Yale French Studies, No. 21, Poetry Since the Liberation, 1959. (pp. 3-9)

Add a comment