This exhibition consists of approximately forty works of gouaches by Max Jacob and etchings by Pablo Picasso dating from the 1920s and 1930s, a time when they were wont to frequent each other. Portraits of mutual friends and artists of the Parisian milieu, scenes of theatre, circuses, interiors of cafés, dubious characters and hangers-on, the remains of sumptuously decked tables and card-players. A world of contradictions, scandals, poetry, high-society occasions and intellectual friendships, the fleetingness of human life and the search for truth. The story of the friendship between Picasso and Max Jacob is one of human, artistic and intellectual brotherhood, arising in the bohemian Paris of the early twentieth century, and it was to continue throughout the whole lives of the three artists – indeed, beyond, in the memory that Picasso treasured of his two friends who predeceased him by several years. Max Jacob first met Picasso in 1901, on the occasion of the exhibition in which the Spanish artist was showing some paintings inspired by Toulouse Lautrec. Max Jacob, poet and painter, son of a modest Jewish tailor, who had arrived in Paris from Brittany, was twenty five at the time. Picasso, recently arrived in France, was twenty and he moved in to his friend’s house shortly afterwards. In 1907, it was Max Jacob who was to follow Picasso to Montmartre, where they lived together in Bateau-Lavoir. The previous year Amedeo Modigliani had fetched up from Italy. Jacob thus witnessed at first hand the birth of Cubism, which was to influence him – this is evident in his work of those years in the figures composed of geometric shapes. Indeed, according to some, the figure on the left in the Démoiselles d’Avignon, painted in 1907, is actually a portrait of the poet himself. Picasso’s dealer Kahnweiler was responsible for uniting the work of the two friends: in 1910 Jacob’s volume Saint Matorel, illustrated with Picasso’s etchings, was published. In 1916 Modigliani painted a famous portrait of his poet friend. This was the time when the focus of avant-garde art had shifted from Montmartre to Montparnasse, and in the same year the three friends took part in an exhibition “L’art moderne en France”: Modigliani with a portrait, Picasso with the Démoiselles d’Avignon, and Max Cyprien Jacob with two pastel landscapes. The previous year, Jacob, after years of mystical visions, had renounced his Jewish faith and converted to Catholicism, choosing the name of the Christian martyr “Cyprian”. Picasso was his godfather at the baptism. Modigliani was to die shortly afterwards, in 1920, racked by tuberculosis. Max Jacob, arrested in 1944 by the Nazis on account of his Jewish faith, died of pneumonia in the Drancy concentration camp, from which convoys left for Germany. But Jacob always remained in Picasso’s thoughts, and in 1953 he painted a portrait of his friend; and in 1958, in a caricature, he drew an arrow pointing to a figure with the inscription: “looks like Max Jacob”.
Max Jacob e Pablo Picasso
Via Senato, 24 – 20121 – Milano
From Tuesday to Saturday
from 10.00am to 1.00pm
and from 3.00pm to 7.00pm