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Picasso, painter and poet
2019-07-11 
The Cervantes Institute in Beijing and the Picasso Museum Malaga co-host the Picasso, Writer exhibition that runs until early September. [Photo by CHENG YUEZHU/CHINA DAILY]

A new exhibition in Beijing is shedding light on how the darling of the 20th-century art world was also an accomplished wordsmith in his own right, demonstrating his endless appetite for creativity in later life, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

A slightly surprising fact about Pablo Picasso, one of the world's most renowned artists, is that painting was not the only thing he liked to dabble with. There were also poetry and plays.

The recently opened exhibition Picasso, Writer taking place at the Cervantes Institute in Beijing is now presenting this unpublicized side of the Spanish artist.

Hosted in conjunction with the Picasso Museum Malaga, the exhibition includes facsimiles of Picasso's manuscripts, photos and publications, as well as four original engravings by the master. An accompanying documentary filmed especially for the exhibition offers an in-depth insight into Picasso's writing, painting and personal life.

Born in Malaga, Spain, in 1881, the artist was considered a prodigy early on in his life, but it wasn't until 1935, at the age of 54, that he began to write poetry.

The original draft of a telegram, written by Chinese author and historian Guo Moruo, to congratulate Picasso on his 80th birthday. [Photo by CHENG YUEZHU/CHINA DAILY]

According to Jose Lebrero Stals, artistic director of the Picasso Museum Malaga and curator of the current exhibition, Picasso continued to write, mainly in French or Spanish, until 1959. He left behind more than 350 poems, as well as three other literary works, including two plays.

As for the motivation behind Picasso's literary creations, Lebrero Stals says that writing may have offered him an alternative means of escape and self-expression other than just painting during the tumultuous times in 1930s Paris, the city Picasso had lived in since 1904.

In his poems, he often talks of his childhood, his family and his hometown, and Lebrero Stals believes these documents provide useful insight into both his personality and his Spanish cultural origins.

During a panel discussion ahead of the exhibition's launch, experts pointed out that, just as with his paintings, Picasso's poetry was not confined to any specific form: his scribbled handwriting usually lacked punctuation and was often heavily amended.

Picasso had a childlike heart and wanted to try his hand at everything, and he liked to experiment with different subjects and forms of poetry, says Yu Zhongxian, a writer who translated Picasso's poems from French into Chinese.

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