Catalan Review

From Essay to Stage: Documenting Guernica in Palau i Fabre's Homenatge a Picasso

Catalan Review (2009), 23, (1), 229–242.

Abstract

In Homenatge a Picasso (1971) Josep Palau i Fabre brings to the stage the personal and artistic trajectory of the artist who was also his friend. Positioned centrally in this dramatization is the creation of Guernica (1937), the masterpiece and referent of a topic that continued to be taboo even in the final years of the Franco dictatorship. My analysis considers how the play is informed by interpretations presented in Doble assaig sobre Picasso (1964), in which the art critic views the emblematic mural painting as: 1) a culmination and synthesis of four decades of aesthetic experimentation; and 2) an apocalyptic vision of modern war, contextualized by the bombing of the Basque city but imbued with universal resonance. The 1971 spectacle begs to be analyzed through the parameters of Documentary Theater, a mode of playwriting focused on political and historical vindication defined by German Peter Weiss that was highly influential in the Catalan theater of the period. A reading of two later texts by Palau, the book El Guernika de Picasso (1979) and the lecture "Com mirar el Guernika"(1981), reveals how his critical interpretation evolves and is enriched upon being translated into the language of theater. Ultimately, the exercise of dramatic transformation contributes to the articulation of Palau's lucid intervention in the polemics surrounding the imminent arrival of Picasso's mural in Spain and the possible location of its installation created in the context of Catalonia.

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Asín, Elena