Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

23
THE BIRTH OF MAYA
1935-1936

Maya wrote to me at the end of 1979 to tell me that contrary to generally accepted belief, she was born on 5 September 1935, not 5 October. This makes her a Virgo but reduces by a month Picasso's anxious, solitary wait, pacing his room on the rue la Boétie like a caged beast. The child was named Maria de la Concepción in memory of Pablo's little sister, who died of diphtheria in La Coruña. This choice of name after forty years indicates, I think, the traumatic importance that death had for Pablo. He was delighted to be the father of a girl.

He drew Marie-Thérèse nursing Maya; Maya at three months; Maya at her first Christmas. The oil paintings which came later are well known, but this record of discovery was not revealed until 1981 in Geneva by Maya herself. The drawings are masterpieces of delicacy, of tenderness without sentimentality. They join portraits of Marie-Thérèse at home, which, like the portrait of 1929, were also unknown until 1981. It is therefore not true that Picasso did no painting or drawing between June 1935 and March 1936. Rather, the drawings he did then, like the canvases of March-May 1936, belonged to the secret part of his life. 1

What was public knowledge disturbed his contemporaries much more: Picasso was writing poems. He always had jotted down—in his notebooks, on scraps of paper—whatever images or thoughts came into his head. But at this juncture it was clearly the Surrealists and their automatic writing who had given him the idea, especially as they had been using mixed media, as, for example, in their collages. In fact Picasso did not believe in spontaneous poetry—or painting. His attitude was that of a professional: someone who had put written fragments into his paintings and could certainly paint poems as well. The graphism of his letters and the way they were placed on a page were also a deliberate, visual creation. As for the texts, they were directly a product of Picasso's pleasure in their associations of words and a tendency to rather affected preciosity—as much Spanish (often in Catalan or Andalusian dialect) as French. The arrival of Sabartès on 12 November gave Picasso an audience of pure gold: someone capable of understanding the most subtle of his allusions, and a master craftsman himself in manipulating snippets of Spanish.

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