“Picasso, the writer” looks at a lesser-known side of the Spanish artist’s genius. Málaga-born Picasso - the artist who did so much to change the course of history of Western painting during the 20th century - was also a poet.

On 16th October, the Miguel de Cervantes Library in Shanghai, in collaboration with Museo Picasso Málaga, inaugurated a documentary exhibition that looks at the more poetic side of Pablo Ruiz Picasso. The exhibition was shown at the Instituto Cervantes in Beijing over the summer.

The exhibition, which will run until December, shows how the key figure of modern art was capable of using pencil and ink in an extremely original way to paint words and transform them into pictograms that tell us about his world and his memories. The exhibition of documents features facsimiles, photographs and publications relating to Picasso’s literary output, along with poems and a documentary specially produced for the occasion in which Spanish authors and intellectuals, including the director of the Instituto Cervantes, poet Luis García Montero, reflect upon Picasso and his written work.

In reference to the interest that Picasso’s work sparked in China, there will also be some previously unseen documentation on display: different drafts and the original of the manuscript that Chinese poet and scholar Guo Moruo wrote in 1961, congratulating Picasso on his 80th birthday on behalf of the government of the PRC. This document, shown courtesy of collector Li Zhiyuan, is accompanied by the drafts that were corrected by various members of the Chinese administration of the period, prior to sending the final version; it was proof of the recognition and respect felt for Picasso in China at the time. But the fascination between Picasso and China flowed both ways. The Andalusian painter was enthralled by the abstract, free lines and simple beauty of Chinese calligraphy, and by the poetic dialogue between ink and paper. They inspired his words to Claude Roy: “Had I been born Chinese, I would not be a painter, but a writer. I would write my paintings”. Picasso met the famous Chinese painter Zhang Ding in 1956. Ten years later he received Zhang Daqian in Nice. This controversial figure was able to reconcile his huge talent as an artist with that of a forger. To all of them, Picasso acknowledged his admiration for the fresh spontaneity of Chinese art. Four original engravings by the artist will be on display, courtesy of Chinese collector Jiang Xingdao, president of the Xu Yuan Foundation.

To coincide with the opening of the exhibition there will be a round table discussion followed by a conversation between the exhibition advisor and artistic director of Museo Picasso Málaga, José Lebrero, and the foreign literature researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and translator of Picasso’s poems from French to Chinese, Yu Zhongxian.