Vingt Pöemes de Góngora

Góngora y Argote, Luis de and Picasso, Pablo.
Vingt Pöemes de Góngora.
Paris: R. Lacourière, 1948. (12120)

Number 6 of 10 copies on “Góngora” watermarked paper, from an edition of 275 copies.

This copy of Picasso’s Góngora is jointly owned by Bridwell Library Special Collections and Meadows Museum of Art. The custodianship represents one instance among many in which the two institutions have been able to collaborate, and never with such frequency as during the administration of Mark A. Roglán,  Director of the Meadows Museum from 2006 until his death in October, 2021.  His scholarship, insight, and generous spirit are remembered and celebrated in the display of this seminal work.

The release of Vingt Pöemes de Góngora in 1948 had an immediate impact, partly due to the war and the lack of quality materials, and as a representative of a bygone time. Each of Luis de Góngora y Argote’s twenty poems is illustrated with portraits, hand-drawn text, and drawings by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). Picasso used the lift ground process which allowed the artist to draw directly onto the plates. The copper plates are printed by Roger Lacourière.

Coincidentally, at the same time that Picasso was illustrating Gongora, Henri Matisse (1869–1954) was adding text and drawings to the poetry of Charles d’Orléans. Matisse copied all the poems himself and covered pages with drawings that were part-ornament and part-illustrative. Similar to Matisse, Picasso began to work in a way that word and image were one. As he copied the poems, each became a dynamic graphic image with the underlining, erasures, accents, punctuations, and capital letters with differing thickness of line, and a crossed out line in the wrong place being allowed to remain.

Picasso created some of his most successful graphic art for books. Embellishments of every kind are strewn everywhere on the page with almost an infinite variety. Examples are a woman’s foot and/or leg, faces, abstract forms, a horse, fresh fruits and bouquets, and in the shown opening, a line of lightly drawn in text from the poem that appears to have been added later. Each poem is preceded by an elegant portrait of a woman, and the introduction includes a portrait of Luis de Góngora (1561–1627) based on a 1622 portrait by Velázquez. The portraits appear not to have a connection with the poems, such as the lady admiring herself in the mirror before the exhibited poem.

The title of the exhibited poem is, “To the Count of Villamediana, a connoisseur of precious stones, horses, and paintings.” The poem reads:

Stones that to others Orient refuses,
rude rivals of the brightest star,
she offers you clean-cut, enchased in lead
or in that metal that outshines it far.

How many splendid brushstrokes – native, foreign –
prize treasures of your treasure room,
feign eloquence, although they have no speech,
feign silence, though their colors cry aloud.

No sooner does his teeming mother
endow with limbs the purest gust of wind,
and Iris, Baetis’ pride, lend him her colors,

Than, breaking fire he, his mother smoke,
they champ at gold in straining at your bit,
oh generous cynosure of gentlemen.

© 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Vingt Pöemes de Góngora