Jusep Torres Campalans is a character invented by writer Max Aub (Paris, 1903 - Mexico City, 1972). Despite not having existed beyond fiction, Aub invents a full biography for Campalans and creates more than thirty books and several drawings by him, which have even be exhibited twice in the Excelsior gallery in Mexico in 1958 and at the Bodley Gallery in New York in 1962. Aub conceives Campalans to be a cubist painter, a son of peasants who migrate to Paris. In this city he contacts and befriends avant-garde artists such as Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani and Piet Mondrian. After the outbreak of the Great War, Campalans moves to Mexico to finish his days in a remote region in Chiapas.
For students of Aub, this heteronym is a pretext created by the writer to reflect on the avant-garde. The origin of the character is written in the detailed biography entitled Jusep Torres Campalans where Aub describes by way of artistic monograph how he discovered Campalans in Chiapas and how he started researching him. In this same book, Aub tells the story of the painter, provides reflections and comments made by Campalans, found in the "green notebook" and adds alleged conversations between them during their only meeting in San Cristobal de las Casas. In the epilogue of the book there is a catalogue of all the works attributed to Campalans, which are commented on by the invented H. R. Tows, an Irish critic, from the supposed exhibition on the artist at the Tate Gallery. An exhibition that, so they say, would frustrate the outbreak of World War II.
Aub’s colleagues join in the work of fiction and contribute to Campalans reality. Jean Cassou, the then chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art in the City of Paris, would write the text that was to be used in the catalogue of the Bodley Gallery in New York exhibition. The Spanish writer Camilo José Cela would attach messages to Campalans in his correspondence with Aub. Xavier de Salas, also a friend of Aub and at that time deputy director of the Prado Museum would participate in the fiction to the point of colluding with the writer to include one of Campalans’ works in the Museum's collection.
This exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is meant to be the entrance to the "pintura-ficción" in a museum, as well as the deserved tribute to Aub’s humorous ingenuity and talented narrative. For this occasion more than thirty books and several drawings attributed to Campalans and dated between 1907 and 1964 have been collected. Some of the works on display in this exhibition have not been exhibited since the aforementioned exhibitions in Mexico and New York. There is also a collection of works by artists who share Campalans’ aesthetic ideas such as: Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Juan Gris and Amedeo Modigliani.
The exhibition is completed by a collection of documents that testify to the truth which deception acquired, like the catalogues of exhibitions held and newspaper clippings quoting the cubist painter. Along with these are some first editions of works by writers such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cassou and Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler who testify to Campalans’ interest, and thus Aub’s interest, of the avant-garde.