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Conxita Boncompte: “I have reclassified ‘Les demoiselles d'Avignon’ as a ‘temple brothel’ in which sex and religion are indissolubly linked”

Conxita Boncompte during the award ceremony.

Conxita Boncompte during the award ceremony.



The painter and art historian Conxita Boncompte received the José Manuel Blecua Prize for her thesis Iconografía picassiana entre 1905-1907. Influencia de la pintura pompeyana, which, lately, gave birth to a paper published on the journal Goya. Her research offers a new interpretation of this Picasso’s period (traditionally subdivided into three colour stages: rose, ochre and black pigments), and provides a new look to the whole work of this international artist. Boncompte began painting in the sixties. At the beginning, she took as a model Picasso’s figure and work. In 1979 she got a degree in Law from the UB and in 1994 she obtained a degree in Geography and History. In 2009 she got a PhD from the UB; she graduated cum laude for her thesis, supervised by the professor of History of Art and vice-rector for Institutional Relations and Culture of the UB, Lourdes Cirlot.

She gave lessons about Picasso at the Ramon Llull University, worked at the Regional Ministry of Culture and at the former Agency of Sponsorship and Patronage of the Government of Catalonia, and she has collaborated in publications, studies and scientific articles about the history of art. As a painter, she has participated in a great number of exhibitions individually and collectively. Currently, she is a painter and she continues researching on Picasso’s work; she sometimes writes articles for the media.


Your relation with Picasso and his work is not limited to the research you develop; Picasso is also present on your first paintings. Anyway, why did you base your doctoral thesis on the figure of Picasso?

As a painter, I am interested in all the history of art, so it was difficult for me to focus my attention only on one period. I decided to base my thesis on Picasso because I was making a revision of past artists. I was giving some lessons about Picasso, Miró, etc. at the Ramon Llull University (2005-2006), and I realized that the works made by the artist in Gósol (1906) were influenced by the models and colours of Pompeian frescos. I began to write an article on this subject but it became so oversized that I considered it the main topic of my thesis.

It is no coincidence that my doctoral thesis was based on Picasso because he was part of my essence as a painter. When I was ten years old, I learnt how to oil paint using Picasso’s models (roof terraces, blue figures, rose period...), and my pottery productions were also quite influenced by Picasso’s work. There is not a better way to understand a painter than copying and imitating his or her work. That is what artists have always done, especially Picasso!

In what sense does your research make an interpretation of Picasso’s work, or at least take it as a departure point?

I make a new interpretation of his work from 1905 to 1907 taking into account the discoveries made, mainly the influence of Pompeian frescos. The new interpretative parameters used (Pompeian frescos, Roman art, Gosol ancient agricultural rites, Rosicrucian ideas...) have arisen elements unknown until now which provided an interpretation that connects the artist with Pompeian context, its values and mythical archetypes. By this way, I can affirm that Pompeian red and pink colours led to the transition from the blue period to the rose one, offering then a coherent interpretation of a period which was thought to be full of attempts. I have reclassified the brothel of Les demoiselles d'Avignon as a temple brothel in which sex and religion are indissolubly linked. Picasso said that this was his first work about exorcism.

As I proved, these new interpretative parameters are a key element to make a revision of Picasso’s whole work and a salutary lesson for Picasso’s studies.

How did you carried out your research? Did you do field work in Gósol?

My research is based on two fields: my knowledge of handicraft and creative process, inherent in the painter; and the methodology for develop an analysis of a characteristic work of the art historian.

The rigour of the analytical process led me to the interpretative process; and thanks to the strict methodology I designed for the study, I got answers to the questions I had posed to myself at the beginning, basically: in which manner did Pompeian frescos influence Picasso’s work? By this way, I was able to solve the enigma from Gósol to Les demoiselles.

I worked in libraries in Barcelona and Paris, and I consulted files at the Fine Arts School and the French National Library. I used bibliography about Picasso and a great number of publications from several fields of knowledge (art, dictionaries of symbols, literature, essays about the classical world, Pagan religions, ethnography and Gosol’s legends and, also, many bibliographic references about Pompeia, especially the book written by the painter Pierre Gusman, reedited in 1906). I also contacted with Administration Picasso (Paris), some experts on Picasso (Lydia Gasman, Victoria Beck-Newman), the archaeological centres of Naples and Pompeia, as well as some Italian and American museums.

The field work done in Gósol and its surroundings was later completed with some contributions made by Gósol inhabitants who attended some lectures I gave in La Seu, Puigcerdà and Andorra (2010).

Your education as well as your professional activity is quite diverse. Where do you place yourself as a university researcher?

While I was studying Law, I gave art lessons. I felt attracted for painting; therefore, since I was really young, I read compulsively about art. When I was sixteen years old, I learnt Italian travelling to Italy and reading everything I found about art. When I was twenty-three, I held a degree in Law, but I was not interested at all in it, and I wanted to be independent... I could not enrol myself in History of Art until I was thirty. I was insatiable, I was mad about the degree. I got the best marks, but, due to some familiar questions, I was not able to study for my PhD at that moment. Currently, I combine the activity I develop as a painter with the one I carry out as an independent researcher (research, articles, lectures and an exhibition project related to the thesis). I like to think that I am doing the same as the first art historians, the Renaissance painters.




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