Lola, ‘the guardian of the treasure’ who pinched the knee of the child Picasso

  • The Museu Picasso de Barcelona honors the Malaga artist’s sister and first muse with an exhibition that brings together portraits, photos, letters and family documents, some unpublished

Two photos from 1888, in Malaga: pose a little Picasso about seven years with his Sister Lola, three years younger. In one, they look at the camera, she with hand on knee of the; in the other, she looks at him admiringly, smiling and mischievous after pinching him. A detail that reveals already being children a complicity and a loving relationship between the two that lasted a lifetime. It is explained by one of Lola’s grandchildren, Xavier Vilató, before counting another revealing anecdote about his grandmother: in the family home on Passeig de Gràcia, Lola kept until his death in 1958, almost a thousand works that the artist had left in Barcelona when he left for Paris and that in 1970 the painter would donate through his nephews to the Picasso Museum from the Catalan capital. Such was his dedication to that role of ‘guardian of the treasure’ that once, upon hearing the firefighters’ bell very close, he began to shout: “Look out, the pictures, the pictures!”, to which one of the sons, slyly, blurted out: “And what about us!” . Details like these unfold in the exposition that the Montcada street museum dedicates until February 27 to Lola ruiz picasso, curated by its director, Emmanuel Guigon, and by Malen Gual.

Lola had the life of a woman from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, married to Dr. Juan Bautista Vilató, and with children, says the commissioner. “But above all, Lola was Picasso’s first model, who already in her youthful years portrayed those she loved the most, her sister and her parents. “The exhibition exposes 37 of the 66 he made to Lola, the first in 1894: cutting a cake, reading, standing with her hands crossed, embroidering, dozing, sitting looking at him, holding her forehead … or in her first communion, in a large-format painting that would hang in the house on Passeig de Gràcia.

It was the muse of the first oil of the malagueño. He portrayed her on canvas and in sketchbooks, in pastel, pen, or watercolor. “Sometimes it is a realistic and spontaneous portrait of the sister – Gual adds – but other times it turns the model into the archetype of what she wanted to reflect, in her case, of a fashionable young woman”. Hence, in some works, when the one who is still a girl looks older and in others he paints her with a doll.

The exhibition also offers 10 drawings made by Lola between 1896 and 1900: colorful vases and female figures with unfinished faces. “With a father and brother painters it is logical that she did her first steps, even if she left him when she married. From the reverse side we can conjecture that she was reusing papers that she had to find at home”. He had gone to school in Malaga, but when the family left for A Coruña it is believed that he only studied music theory. In 1895, her little sister, Conchita, died of diphtheria at the age of eight, and they settled in Barcelona.

New warehouse at the Picasso

The sample also brings together photos, documents and letters, some unpublished, which feed Picasso’s good and constant relationship with his parents and with the entire Vilató Ruiz family. Xavier Vilató, on behalf of his cousins, has advanced that “there is much more correspondence with Lola’s family and press clippings” that they are gathering and that with this material they will soon announce a new warehouse for the Picasso Museum, “for him to study, preserve and disseminate”.

The grandchildren thus follow in the footsteps of their parents, the Vilató Ruiz brothers, who watched over to fulfill the wishes of Picasso and Lola by taking care of the artist’s works at home in times of economic difficulties such as the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship, when they remember that the important thing was the paintings and while, “mother resisted, father resisted and our stomachs resisted”.

The letters on display discover, for example, how the Picasso arrived in Paris in 1901 told them how much money the fabrics and paints cost him, how busy he was painting and how he drew self-portraits on them saying: “I’m wearing shorts and thick English socks (& mldr;) What do you think / I’m fine?”. In another letter, from 1915, Lola asked him for more of those portraits of hers, to see “how well you are, because I believe that even if there is war you will be as handsome as ever.”

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In parallel, the Museu Picasso complements the tribute with the exhibition ‘Vilató. Phone Drawings ”, a hundred sketches and lines that Lola Javier Vilató’s son, also an artist, painted while having telephone conversations.

‘Lola Ruiz Picasso’

Picasso Museum

Commissioners: Malén Gual and Emmanuel Guigon

Until February 27, 2022

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