The 16th-century poet Luis de Gongora y Argote was a man of contradictions. He was a gambler and a great admirer of women as well as a member of the clergy; he was heavily invested in scholarship and in the classics, and yet his own writing is credited with moving Spanish verse away from rigid poetic conventions and vocabulary. Federico Garcia Lorca once called him the father of modern Spanish verse, but Gongora’s poems seem highly decorous, even hyperbolic, to the modern ear.
It’s somehow fitting that Pablo Picasso, a man of similar personal and artistic contradiction and complication, would respond to the early 20th century’s resurgent interest in Gongora by producing an illustrated edition of Gongora’s work. George Braziller’s bilingual edition of this rare 1948 work gives the reader access to Gongora’s intensely metaphoric verse alongside plates of Picasso’s illustrated transcriptions of the poems. This is Picasso as ekphrastic painter, and the whimsical sketches tell us as much about Picasso’s own sensibilities as they do about how the painter interpreted the work of the poet.