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Pablo Picasso

Don Quixote

Creation date: © August 18–24, 1955.

From: ‘Les Lettres Francaises’, p. 12.

Pablo Picasso's insightful, sassy, ubiquitous, black on white drawing of Don Quixote has to be considered a minor masterpiece. It certainly is one of the most popular graphic representations known of Cervantes's wondrous character (the Cervantes Society has used it on its Newsletter). Seems that Picasso, whose sharp, roving eye constantly searched for likely subjects and was not hesitant to borrow from others, got the idea for his unique drawing of Don Quixote from this metal artifact. The reader can judge for himself or herself of the likelihood of this.

The drawing was made on August 10, 1955 for the August 18-24 issue (No. 581) of Les LETTRES francaises, a weekly French journal directed by Aragon, in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the publication of Don Quixote, Part I. The journal presented articles (p 1, 9-11) by Jose Bergamin, Jean Marcenac, Antoine Adam, Alice Ahrweiler, and Pierre Darmangeat, and in a small headline on its first page proudly announced ‘Un document exclusif: Don Quichotte vu par Picasso’. The drawing takes up an entire page (12), and at the bottom appears this announcement: ‘Un tirage special de ce dessin de Picasso sera mis en vente au stand des LETTRES francaises a la fete de l'Humanite le 4 septembre a Vincennes, ainsi qu'aux prochaines Six heures du livre du Comite National des Ecrivains.’ Proceeds probably went to help the Communist cause in France. Picasso had attended a corrida on August 7 at Vallauris (the notice appears in the same journal on page 8), and three days later (the drawing is dated), according to Timothy Hilton (Picasso, New York, Praeger Publishers, 1975, 64) sketched his Quixote for his friend, Pierre Daix, who ‘ran the magazine’. Either there in southern France where he lived and worked, or in Spain, I surmise Picasso saw (or had seen) and perhaps even purchased the striking statuette which he can have used as a model . . .

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