A key event in Barcelona at the beginning of the 20th century was the funeral of Jacint Verdaguer in 1902. Many of the young artists and writers that then frequented Els Quatre Gats café venerated the poet priest because “they empathised with him” and they were profoundly upset by his death. One group –Jaume Sabartés, Àngel Fernández de Soto, Josep Rocarol and Pablo Picasso– went to the funeral to throw “woodland flowers” on the coffin, according to Rocarol. Picasso was also in the chapel in the city council's Saló de Cent that day.
Picasso's participation is an example of how integrated into Barcelona cultural life the young artist was. It is one of the episodes that the Picasso expert and former conservator of the museum in Barcelona dedicated to the painter, Eduard Vallès, describes in his study, Picasso i el món literari català, 1887-1904, which is the first of the two-volume work, Picasso. Obra catalana, just published by Enciclopèdia Catalana.
This limited edition (only 1,500 copies have been printed) brings together in the first volume an exhaustive anthology of Picasso's Catalan work, from his early academic years in 1917. As editor Francesc Boada says, “the work is like a bound exhibition on Picasso's relationship with Catalonia.”
Yet, it is an exhibition that will probably never happen “because with so many masterpieces together, it would cost too much money and most galleries never lend them out,” says Vallès. Since Palau i Fabre published the book, Picasso a Catalunya, in 1966, no other book has been published on this subject, despite it being fundamental to gaining an understanding of Picasso's work.
The author explains there are two main blocs to Picasso's Catalan years: “On the one hand, the formative years, including the academic works, which are considered minor but crucial to understanding Picasso's work...The second bloc, from 1904, focuses on Picasso's stays in Gósol, Horta de Sant Joan, Cadaqués and Ceret. These summer sojourns are very important because they are turning points.”