In the 21st Century, just about everyone knows the name Pablo Picasso because he was one of the most influential artists of the last century but the success of Picasso and the longevity of his name can also be traced to the hard work of his personal secretary and close friend Jaime Sabartes.
Without Sabartes, Picasso wouldn’t be a household name in 2019 and beyond because when Picasso was painting and living his life, Sabartes was the one who was organizing exhibitions and doing all of the legwork necessary for Picasso to ultimately become one of history’s great artists.
Who Was Jaime Sabartes?
Born in Barcelona in 1881, Jaime Sabartes a cousin of Juan Miro, was also a notable painter, sculptor and writer in his own right who studied fine art at the Escola de la Llotja.
During his college years, Sabartes met Picasso and he became part of the group of artists, writers, and intellectuals that surrounded the artist for his entire life.
Because of his presence in his life, Picasso painted Sabartes frequently and there are many portraits of Sabartes during those early years when Picasso was working through his Blue Period before he moved on to cubism.
One can only imagine what their lives must have been like in the early 20th Century living in Barcelona and Paris among other great writers, poets, and artists of the time.
While Picasso was getting started in his art career, Sabartes was establishing himself as a poet and it was during this time that Picasso also did a portrait of Sabartes which he called the “decadent poet”.
The Man Behind Picasso’s Career
After college, he spent much of his time in Guatemala where he married and started a family while organizing art exhibitions that featured Picasso’s work.
By the 1930s Sabartes had spent much of his life behind the scenes in the art world serving as a juror on several major art exhibitions, teaching at art colleges and working as a journalist in Guatemala and New York when Picasso asked him to come back to Paris to become his personal secretary.
During the years that Sabartes served as Picasso’s secretary, Sabartes was the “backbone” of Picasso’s career that also helped to ensure his legacy in the art world. While Sabartes was still in charge of coordinating Picasso’s involvement in art shows and exhibitions he was also organizing the artist’s personal papers which would leave behind a treasure trove of information about Picasso after his death.
It’s impossible to truly understand what Sabartes may have gone through emotionally during his close association with Picasso since the artist is so well-known for his mistreatment of the associates in his life.
Picasso personally asked Sabartes to come back to Paris to become his secretary because following his successes in the art world the artist must have sensed that it was time to preserve his legacy and Sabartes was the only many who had the skills to do the job properly.
Sabartes must have been a man of great patience to stay associated with the artist as they both grew older. His investment of time and energy into Picasso’s career ultimately paid off because he also amassed a large collection of the artist’s works which he ultimately donated to the Museu Picasso in Barcelona. Those paintings became known as the “Sabartes Collection”. The city of Barcelona also named a square after Sabartes as well.
Regardless of history’s impression of Picasso, it’s fascinating to think about Sabartes association with the artist and everything he did behind the scenes to ensure his legacy especially once World War II ended because this was when Picasso started becoming a household name thanks to having his picture on the cover of various magazines that were in millions of homes across the United States.
As he grew older, Picasso continued to do portraits of Sabartes at times including caricatures that were often less than kind to him but in spite of it all he continued his association with Picasso and as they became old men Sabartes became an even more important part of Picasso’s life since he was a connection to the time that they spent together in Barcelona and Montmartre during the early 20th Century.
Jaime Sabartes died in 1968, and Picasso would die 5 years later, but their names will forever be intertwined thanks to the hard work of Sabartes and his efforts to establish Picasso as an artist that people would still be interested in long after the artists death.
To learn more about Jaime Sabartes click here or visit the Museu Picasso to view the collection of artwork that he left to the museum.
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