Homme Façonnant un Arc Devant une Jeune Femme et un Flutiste precedes this phase by nearly a decade and was created in a brief period of respite between the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and the occupation of Paris by German forces. In addition to these political events, Picasso’s personal life had been overturned in 1935 with the dissolution of his marriage and the birth of his daughter by his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter. These events provoked his most agitated and complex imagery: The Minotaur; Guernica and the Weeping Women. When Picasso created this plate—which is a fine example of the playful sketch plates that he often generated for personal gratification in the studio—he had been steeped in highly emotional and dark subject matter for months, if not years. Understandably, it seems that he wished to engage in something of a more light-hearted nature. The date noted on the plate is February 19—a time of year when winter can become oppressive—and the open, breezy composition here recalls the lazy days of summer. In fact, later in life, Picasso reportedly said that his images in this vein were inspired by the summers he spent on the Riviera.i
This impression is one of a few trial proofs that were taken by Picasso’s trusted intaglio printer Roger Lacourière in 1942 before the edition of fifty-seven was printed. It has the characteristically rich burr of an early impression from a drypoint plate, before the press has worn it down. Lacourière expertly and sensitively inked the textured areas in the figures’ hair, the woman’s robe, the grass below, and the tree to the left to bring out Picasso’s masterful drypoint line. This early proof is dedicated to Jacques Frélaut, a printer in Lacourière’s studio who later became Picasso primary intaglio printer, presumably in appreciation of his professionalism and dedication to Picasso. The artist was notoriously demanding and exacting, but this did not bother Frélaut in the slightest. He and Picasso had a remarkable rapport. The noted scholar Pat Gilmour described Frélaut’s philosophy in relationship to Picasso thus:
Frélaut believed that to be a good printer, you need to grow up with a press so that you can work without tiring. He says the most dangerous thing for an artisan is skillfulness. A good collaborative printer needs an affinity for the artist, the facility that enables him to create the right atmosphere, and an ability to work “with joy.” Such a printer does not mind being manipulated: “The word manipulate, for me,” says Frélaut, “means almost an integration with the artist…I become him. He manipulates me.” From Frélaut’s point of view, Picasso was “simplicity, authenticity, and the opposite of convention” and his honesty in his work pervaded everything. Work was the only thing that was important to him, and in order to understand him, one only had to understand that. The artist always drew directly onto the copper, never from a prepared drawing, for engraving was a serious undertaking. He expected the printer to realize in the sheet what he had drawn in the plate, without tricks, but “frankly, with generosity and warmth.”ii
i Roland Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, third edition [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981], 151-2.
ii Frélaut as paraphrased by Pat Gilmour in “Picasso and His Printers,” The Print Collector’s Newsletter XVIII, no. 3 (July-August 1987): 85.
1939 (April 19, Paris)
Picasso had a difficult year in 1939. It began with the death of Picasso’s mother due to a fall on January 13. Barcelona, his childhood home, would soon be conquered by Franco, and tensions were building in other areas of Europe—WWII would break out in September, bringing anxiety of deportation and internment due to his status as a foreigner. He and Maar were both extremely distressed by these events. In the first few months of 1939, Picasso found solace in the reassuringly professional atmosphere of Lacourière’s studio. During this time, he created Femme au Tambourin—one of his undisputed masterworks in intaglio—and two versions of Femme au Fauteuil; the current etching is the second.
As has been noted by a number of scholars, a majority of Picasso’s depictions of Maar are not strictly portraits—rather, she seems to have been a mirror upon which he could reflect his own thoughts and emotions. She herself once said, “They’re all Picassos, not one is Dora Maar”.i The woman in this etching, seated in an armchair, seems utterly spent and lost in thought, with the weight of the world upon her. As noted by Brigitte Baer, the woman’s appearance is likely a combination of his mother and Maar—she is somewhat stocky and heavy, like Picasso’s mother, but has the younger woman’s features. Baer interprets this image to be an almost subconscious portrait of Picasso’s mother before her death. She was overseeing and protecting a full household against the Civil War, including a number of grandchildren, and frequently wrote to her son about the developments in Barcelona—describing starving children and burning churches. Further, she is thought to have died while seated in an armchair, and Picasso associated chairs with decline and mortality.ii
Picasso’s technique here also reflects and augments the agitation of the scene—it is heavily worked and covered with frenetic marks. He used a combination of several techniques, including line etching, aquatint, scraper and burin to render a sense of quiet chaos. The current impression is one of 59 of the second (final) state on Montval printed by Lacourière in 1942.
i As quoted by Deborah Wye in A Picasso Portfolio: Prints from the Museum of Modern Art [New York, 2010], 129
ii See Baer, “Where do they come from—Those Superb Paintings and Horrid Women of Picasso’s ‘War’?” in Stephen A. Nash, ed. Picasso and the War
Years, 1937-45 [ San Francisco: SF MoMA, 1998], 91-2
1939 (June 22, Paris)
Picasso’s images of Dora Maar tend to reflect his own anxieties and emotional distress. This drypoint was completed in June of 1939, shortly before World War II broke out. Political tensions were building, and artists were now becoming a target for Nazi zeal—an auction of work from the infamous “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibition was held that month in Lucerne, Switzerland, and it included four of Picasso’s works. As he watched the Nazis villainize his fellow German artists, Picasso became concerned for his safety and career should they invade France—his status as a foreigner would make it all the easier for them.
Such tensions and concerns are evident in Tête de Femme. He has given Maar a fractured appearance that reflects the duress felt throughout Europe in the early part of 1939—she seems literally about to shatter. The vortices that compose her face converge at a circle on her left cheek, as if to suggest the eye of a storm. Her expression remains composed, but pensive. As the year progressed and war was underway, his portraits of Maar became increasingly deranged and distorted.
The current impression is one of fifty seven printed on Montval by Roger Lacourière in 1942.
Buste de Femme au Fichu is a rare example of relatively straightforward portrait of Dora Maar. She is shown in profile with a scarf around her hair, a serene smile on her face. Maar’s temperament was changeable, and here Picasso depicts her in a moment of sweetness. As noted by Maar’s biographer, Mary Ann Caws, friends and acquaintances recall that her eyes could be either “compassionate and kind, or intense and burning” – her neighbor remembered that they had “extraordinary gentleness and depth”.i In this etching, Picasso reveals what they must have seen; the deep, endless eyes are framed by her famous lashes and dramatic brow.
At this point in his career, Picasso was fluent with the various approaches available to him in intaglio, and he makes full use of them here. Drypoint is combined with stop-out, sugar-lift, and scraper to achieve a wide range of subtle tonal changes and varied mark-making. This lends depth and interest to the image and—by extension—reflects the same qualities in Maar’s character.
i Picasso’s Weeping Woman: The Life and Art of Dora Maar [London: Thames and Hudson, 2000], 10.
1946 (June 14)
1949 (April 10)
Lithograph on Arches wove with Arches watermark
Printer's proof outside the edition of 50
Inscribed by the printer ”M109 bis definitif - Pour Eric - FM” in green ink, bottom right verso
Inscribed ”109 bis David et Bethsabée” in pencil, lower right verso
Inscribed ”109 bis” in pencil, lower left verso
Printed by Fernand Mourlot, 1949
Image: 25 5/8 x 18 3/4 inches
Sheet: 25 5/8 x 19 5/8 inches
Framed: 37 1/4 x 30 5/8 inches
(Bloch 442) (Mourlot 109)
Although the Old Masters had always been of great interest to him, it was not until his mature years that Picasso made his most explicit reference to them with a series of prints and paintings that constitute his own direct variations. In March 1947, Picasso began his own ambitiously enlarged version of Lucas Cranach’s small painting David and Bathsheba of 1526 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) in the format of a lithographic print. Nearly doubling the size of his original, Picasso mapped out his image using pen and wash on a large zinc plate, expanding the figures in Cranach’s composition and compressing the architecture to bring David into closer proximity with the object of his gaze – the lovely Bathsheba. Although the Biblical story figured in the Renaissance painting came to him readymade and treated in the style and costume of Cranach’s time, Picasso was doubtless interested in it because it pictured one of his own principal preoccupations – the power of looking and being seduced by what you see. Bathsheba’s myth is pregnant with intrigue: David sees her bathing and is instantly smitten; although she is married, he sends for her and seduces her, causing her to conceive. Then, full of guilt, he orders her husband Uriah to be killed in battle. She then marries him and bears him two sons; the first dies (as a punishment by God) but the second – Solomon – eventually succeeds David as king of the Jews, although he does this by murdering his father’s oldest son. Throughout these events, the figure of Bathsheba is utterly ambiguous – the Bible gives no clues as to whether she is a victim of royal seduction and manipulation or is plotting for her own advantage and power, and that of her blood line. She may well have appealed to Picasso at this time as his own young mistress – the beautiful François Gilot (born 1921) – was heavily pregnant with their first child. An accomplished painter in her own right, the strong-willed and independently-minded Gilot was not the passive and easy subject that Picasso’s earlier lovers had been. At the time he embarked on this print, Picasso had been making portraits of Gilot that responded – somewhat rivalrously – to a painting by his friend Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and it has been suggested that he may have looked to Cranach’s treatment of a religious subject as a result of ‘his surprise that Matisse as an atheist had decided to do decorations for a Dominican chapel’ (Charles Stuckey ‘The Face of Picasso’s Lithography’, in John Richardson with Françoise Gilot, Picasso and Françoise Gilot: Paris-Vallauris 1943-1953, Gagosian Gallery, New York 2012, p.180).
Whatever the case may be, the lithograph – like his young mistress – was to cause Picasso some difficulty. After taking it through five states, during which it was completely redrawn using the scraper in regular fine white line after being entirely covered in ink, he laid it aside in the corner of his studio for a year. He picked it up again at the end of March 1948 and worked on it again with the scraper, but as Mourlot recounts, zinc is very hard and Picasso had to scratch very deep to enable the printer to ink the plate without blocking the fine lines. As a result, the plate suffered – as did Picasso’s hand – and at his request a transfer to stone was made after the sixth state had been completed (Mourlot, Picasso Lithographe, André Sauret, Editions du Livre, Paris 1970, p.81). “This stone was transported to the artist’s Paris rue des Grands Augustins studio in November 1948 and installed on a big font-like pot; but Picasso hardly went near it. ‘It frightens me, I daren’t touch it’ he said when I asked him how it was going. In spite of this, the stone was attacked, worked, scraped; one day several touching-ups with a pen, the next day a long session of scrapings, then taking up of blacks, etc.” (Ibid, p.82.)
In the event Picasso worked on the stone sporadically until May 25 1949. Although he reworked the zinc plate at the same time, it was on the stone that he was able to achieve his greatest success with his complex linear composition. The final version (109bis) is a veritable maze of intricate detail that echoes the delicacy of Cranach’s original in an utterly twentieth-century manner. The architectural planes of the balcony from which David views his Bathsheba are deconstructed into a cubist fold-out of surfaces covered in cross-hatching and parallel lines in which the human figures alternately recede and emerge in the company of large decorated leaves whose form echoes that of the leg-of-mutton sleeves. The rich black background provides a dramatic relief out of which areas of more three-dimensional modeling on faces, hands and other exposed flesh shine bright. The most naturalistically rendered flesh is fittingly the object of David’s desiring and all-powerful gaze – Bathsheba’s right foot and ankle in the lower right corner of the print. At the top center, David’s sun-like face haloed by his flowing hair and royal crown evokes the artist’s own omnipotent eye.
After the stone was returned to Mourlot’s workshop that June, the usual edition of fifty was printed. This is one of the six proofs outside the edition and is inscribed “109 bis David et Bethsabée” at the lower right and “109 bis” at the lower left on the back in pencil. Mourlot added the dedication “M109bis definitif – pour Eric - FM” in green ink at the lower right on the back.
1947 (February 17, Golfe-Juan)
1948 (February 17, Golfe-Juan)
1948 (February 17, Golfe-Juan)
1948 (February 17, Golfe-Juan)
1949 (January 13)
1949 (January 13)
Picasso’s most intensive period of activity in the medium of lithography took place between November 1945 and spring 1949, when he worked on some one hundred and eighty-five stones and plates, producing numerous extended sequences that he developed through many progressive states. The sequence to which Femme au Fauteuil No.1 belongs is a particularly complex example of this. In 1947 the artist had abandoned the heavy stone traditional to the lithographic process and had begun drawing his designs on zinc plates, allowing him to double the size of his images. Much lighter than the limestone blocks, the zinc plates could easily be carried back and forth for proofing and correcting between his studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins and Fernand Mourlot’s workshop at rue du Chabrol. This meant that Picasso was able to work any time of day or night altering and developing images, allowing him to give free rein to his obsessively creative engagement with the medium. In November 1948, Picasso decided to produce a large colorful lithograph portrait of his lover Françoise Gilot (born 1921) wearing the embroidered coat he had bought her during his recent trip to Poland. According to Mourlot, he composed the five colors of La Femme au fauteuil – yellow, red, green, violet and black – using a brush on litho paper, before the designs were transferred to five lithographic plates, each zinc representing one color of the five-color printing process.i Two states of this colored print were proofed, but neither was deemed satisfactory for editioning by the artist; instead he separated out the five zinc plates for extensive transformation using black ink. Each zinc plate was developed into a sequence of new permutations by drawing with a brush, a crayon and a pen, scraping and incising with glass paper and a needle, and erasing by polishing and cleaning. With each distinct plate, Picasso pushed his subject to an end point, branching off along the way as the urge took him, resulting in no less than twenty-seven different images.
Picasso worked the red plate first, picking it up on December 10th and taking it through six states before abandoning the zinc and working from a transfer that he had created from the fifth state on December 20th. The transfer was developed through four states, of which this is the second, made on January 13th 1949. As was usual for Picasso’s lithographs after 1947, six proofs were pulled for each state – five for the artist and one for Mourlot – before the editioning was decided. In the event only the fourth (and final) state of the transfer sequence was editioned from the red plate.
La Femme au fauteuil marks Gilot’s reappearance in Picasso’s lithographs after a break of eighteen months, and was perhaps stimulated by a serious altercation between them that had taken place that autumn. Pregnant with their second child, Gilot felt abandoned by Picasso when the artist flew to Poland with the poet Paul Éluard at the end of August 1948 to attend the World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace. Guessing that his daily telegrams to her had been faked by his chauffeur Marcel, she was furious with him when he returned. The embroidered sheepskin coats that he brought as gifts for her and their son Claude were no appeasement and she apparently slapped the artist and shut herself away. Begun in late October, Picasso’s painting of Gilot wearing the coat – Femme assise dans un fauteuil 1948 (reproduced in Picasso and Francoise Gilot: Paris-Vallauris, 1943-1954, exhibition catalogue, Gagosian Gallery, New York 2012, p.181, fig.32) may well have begun as an attempt at a rapprochement, as Charles Stuckey has suggested.ii It was unusual for Picasso to use a garment like this as a prop in his images: it seems very likely too that it was inspired by a painting by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) that had been on display in his retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1945. La Blouse roumaine 1940 (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) was exhibited again in December that year at Galerie Maeght surrounded by eleven framed photographs documenting the stages of its evolution.iii Gilot’s intense admiration for Matisse and the older artist’s ambition to portray her, which had been openly expressed during a visit that Picasso and Gilot made to Matisse in 1946, may well have spurred Picasso’s desire to compete with his old friend in making first the painting and then the series of prints in which the embroidered coat features heavily, partially transfused through his homage to Lucas Cranach in his David and Bathsheba prints of earlier in the year (Mourlot 109). The swelling of the sleeves into the leg-of-mutton shape recalls the renaissance imagery developed in this lithographic sequence. It is also visible in a painting that Picasso made that autumn, Maternité (reproduced in John Richardson, Picasso: The Mediterranean Years 1945-62, exhibition catalogue, Gagosian Gallery, London 2010, p.65), showing Gilot holding Claude who is wrapped in the plaid that reappears on Gilot’s skirt in many states of the lithograph. The stylization of Gilot’s features in this state of the print, and their fusion with the strong primitivist patterning that also decorates the sleeves, recall some of the primitive linear motifs employed in Picasso’s images of the Weeping Woman created over a decade before. Gilot’s wide-eyed hypnotic gaze shows her usual unbreakable confidence, the angular lines of her features perhaps expressing some of the artist’s frustration with her independent will.
Printed on Arches wove paper, this is one of the six proofs reserved for the artist and the printer of the second state of transfer; it is initialed by Fernand Mourlot, and annotated with his reference 134 / 2° etat du report and numbered 6/6 on the verso.
i Fernand Mourlot, Picasso Lithographs, Boston 1970, p.101.
ii ‘The Face of Picasso’s Lithography’ in ibid, p.182.
iii ibid, p.176 fig.24.
1949 (January 3)
1949 (March 11)
1951 (November 27, Paris)
This image of two women lying on a bed, locked in each other’s arms, was created by Picasso on November 27, 1951 for Dons Des Féminines, a book of collages by Valentine Penrose. Twenty-six full page collages are paired with “automatic” texts in French and English and a preface by Picasso’s dear friend, Paul Eluard, a pivotal influence in Picasso’s decision to make an etching for the book. Dons Des Féminines is believed to be one of only two intaglios made by the artist that year.
1952 (June 18, Paris)
An integral part of Picasso’s life as a small child in Malaga, the corrida is one of his oldest themes. Picasso drew bulls, picadors and matadors from an early age, and when he created his first etching in 1899, it was the representation of a picador, albeit back-to-front. Not realizing that he needed to create his image in reverse for the printing process, he drew the lance in the picador’s wrong hand, resulting in the title El Zurdo (the left-handed one). These works were the prelude to countless drawings, prints and paintings made throughout the artist’s long life in which he explored every aspect of the bull, the bullfighter and the bullring. The years following the Second World War, when Picasso returned to the sunny Mediterranean after his war-time exile in Paris, led to a particularly rich period in the artist’s exploration of this theme. The grouping of the three figures in Le Picador—the picador, his horse and the bull—is one that Picasso repeated many times. All depict the picador on horseback on the left side of the image formally entangled with the bull on the right. Le Picador develops this with the two main protagonists confronting each other face-to-face, before the first stab of the picador’s lance into the bull’s shoulder that fatally joins the combatants in their struggle to the death. Presenting a moment in a ritualized drama that is almost mythic in its intensity, this unusual rendition emphasizes the picador’s humanity and the bull’s vital emotive force. To create this print, Picasso used sugar-lift aquatint, a technique that he had learned in Paris in 1933 from the master printer Roger Lacourière, with whom he had an extraordinarily productive collaboration during the 1930s. Utilizing a syrupy mixture of sugar and ink, Picasso painted on the copperplate directly before applying the acid by hand, resulting in an image that has an inky, painterly quality. At the same time as creating a smudged look with many of his brushstrokes, Picasso effectively conveys the expressive detail of the picador’s face viewed in profile, even showing his earring and the scarf that binds his hair underneath his traditional hat. Similarly the decorative rows of buttons trimming his jacket and breeches are described, as is the sensitivity of the horse’s ears and nose as the picador points its blind head towards the lethal horns of the angry bull. Behind the horse and picador, the crowd of onlookers is indicated with a mass of painterly daubs, from which a single man’s head emerges in the space between the horse and the bull, above the phallic tip of the picador’s lance. This bearded face arising from the arena wall is very similar to the one depicted in the etching Taureau et Picador (Baer 893) that Picasso made the day before Le Picador (on 18 June 1952). The artist often portrayed himself with a beard, so it is tempting to imagine him inserting himself into his corrida scenes, enthralled with the bloody spectacle.
Picasso’s biographer Roland Penrose has written that, apart from his enjoyment of the action, ‘the main involvement for Picasso was not so much with the parade and the skill of the participants but with the ancient ceremony of the precarious triumph of man over beast ... The man, his obedient ally the horse, and the bull were all victims of an inextricable cycle of life and death.’i During the late 1940s, Picasso created several lithographs and etchings depicting the bull’s huge physical presence and emphasizing its raw masculine power. Although, as its title indicates, Le Picador focuses on the picador rather than the bull, the head and neck of this powerful animal carry all the force of the rest of its body that is cropped by the edge of the page. The detail of the bull’s nose and glaring black eye are clearly visible from underneath a mass of black ink, demonstrating its life and vigor, while it’s sharply pointed horns, angled directly at the horse’s neck and shoulders, and at the picador’s saddled groin, are latent with physical aggression. Le Picador utilizes a painterly vocabulary, pared-down to the minimum of brush-strokes with virtuoso expressive style. The head and shoulders of the bull cropped by the edge of the page in Le Picador reappear as a mask worn by a man in later image, including Le jeu du taureau (1954, Bloch 751). In vital partnership with the bull, the picador stands as an emblem of man’s skill and cunning—faculties that must be employed in opposition to the artist’s other wilder self.
Le Picador was printed in Paris in the Atelier Lacourière in 1952; this impression is number 46 from an edition of 50 printed on Arches wove paper with the Arches watermark, and published by Galerie Louise Leiris in 1952. It is numbered and signed by the artist in pencil at the lower left and right respectively.
i Roland Penrose, ‘Beauty and the Monster’, in Roland Penrose and John Golding (eds.), Picasso 1881/1973, London 1973, p.170.
1952 (June 20)
Sugarlift aquatint printed on Arches vellum with Arches watermark
1 of 5 artist proofs outside the edition of 50
Printed by Lacourière
Image: 20 3/8 x 26 1/4 inches
Sheet: 22 1/4 x 30 1/4 inches
1952 (June 23, 25, Paris)
Aquatint, drypoint, and scraper printed on Arches wove paper with Arches watermark
From the edition of 50
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Numbered 27/50 in pencil, lower right
Various pencil inscriptions, verso: "1207 FPG," upper left; "14418," lower left; "26 x 34, " lower right
Printed by Lacourière, 1952
Published by Galerie Louise Leiris, 1952
Image: 20 1/8 x 26 1/8 inches
Sheet: 22 1/8 x 29 7/8 inches
Framed: 27 1/2 x 33 3/8 inches
(Bloch 694) (Baer 896.VI.B.b)
1952 (May 17, Paris)
The woman depicted is Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s lover from 1945 to 1953 and mother of their children Claude and Paloma. Picasso has tenderly portrayed his young lover as she gazes distractedly out of a window. The dark composition and her somber expression reflect Françoise’s general state of mind at the time (their relationship was quickly deteriorating—she would leave Picasso the following year). The abstracted hairstyle and face are emblematic of the disjointed, overlapping, geometric approach to depicting the figure that Picasso developed in the 1930s, refined in the 1940s, and reinvented in the 1950s.
Though Picasso favored lithography in the postwar years, he worked increasingly in intaglio in the early 1950s. Sugarlift aquatint, a difficult technique that he had mastered in the mid-1930s under the tutelage of Roger Lacourière, was his chosen approach. The process is quite delicate and is easily thwarted at any stage—perfection is achieved only through experience and utter sensitivity to the materials. Though challenging, mastery of sugarlift allows great fluidity of expression. Picasso created a number of masterworks in this technique in the 1950s and 1960s, some of which are highly ambitious in their scale, including La Femme a la Fenêtre and L’Égyptienne.
Picasso built the image in two states: in the first, he blocked out the composition and the plate was etched lightly to a medium gray with a course-grained rosin powder; and, in the second state, he refined the composition with details that were etched deeply to a darker black with a fine-grained powder.
1953 (January 4, Vallauris)
1953 (January 21, Paris)
An extraordinary example of Picasso’s experimental virtuosity, this print demonstrates the artist’s alchemical ability to adapt anything he found to his art. It was created during a period of emotional turbulence in Picasso’s life: his relationship with the beautiful young artist Françoise Gilot (born 1921) had been deteriorating for some months when he left her and their children Claude and Paloma in their home in Vallauris for a trip to Paris in mid January 1953. According to the account of Fernand Mourlot—the master printer whose lithography workshop Picasso had frequented intensively during the late 1940s—on visiting the printing works, the artist noticed some zinc plates lying in a corner waiting to be polished out. On examining them he found one that he particularly liked—a screened photolithography that had been used to print the poster for an exhibition at the Tuileries Orangery in November 1948. The imprimerie experts deemed it to be ‘unusable’ and, delighted by the challenge this posed, Picasso carried it off to his studio on rue des Grands Augustins. The following day, January 18th, he brought it back transformed into his own image and ready to be proofed.i
The picture that Picasso modified was a photographic reproduction of a painting by the Lyons artist Victor Orsel (1795-1850) that had been included in the exhibition La peinture lyonnaise. Portrait de jeune italienne (Vittoria Caldoni) c.1825-6 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons) shows the head and bust of a young Italian woman wearing a rustic costume that includes a tight, high bodice, a crisply folded piece of white linen covering her head and a string of red beads around her neck. Using a wide brush, Picasso outline her face and costume with heavy black line, redirecting the gaze of the original subject, who looks over the viewer’s right shoulder, to the intense full-frontal stare that characterizes all his portraits of Françoise. While the perfect oval of her face was very close to that of Picasso’s willful and independent young mistress, the artist considerably enlarged Caldoni’s eyes—particularly that on the right—to conform with Gilot’s wide-eyed gaze. In the black background above her head, he engraved a flautist on one side and a curly-haired male dancer wearing a laurel wreath and playing the castanets on the other. Below the flautist, Picasso scratched an area of white, inserting a naked young woman flanked by another female figure who is only partially in view. The young woman is shown standing with her arms folded modestly across her breasts and her face in profile, her long straight nose anticipating that of Jacqueline Roque (1927-86), a young woman Picasso had met in summer 1952 at the Madoura pottery workshops in Vallauris where he was working with ceramics, who was destined to become his next and last great muse. Picasso’s manner of appropriating and reworking this lithographic zinc has its parallel in his activities at Madoura, where he would often pick up a pot or a vase rejected by the potter and transform it into a sculpture of his own.
The first state of L’Italienne was not editioned, but three days later, on January 21st, Picasso reworked the zinc plate, enhancing some of his earlier brush strokes and engraving additional lines. In this second state the composition has been extended into the right margin of the paper, allowing the artist substantially to develop the male figure playing castanets, bringing him from the background right into the fore. The line of his body is extended down the page so that the central figure’s left arm doubles as his leg while his raised right arm moves forward over her headdress, the line of his torso following the side of her head and neck. If this character represents a younger version of the artist (as was often the case in Picasso’s prints), it is tempting to see him as stepping out in front of his current mistress in order perhaps to dance with a new contender for his hand—the young woman standing in the wings whose gaze meets his across the centre of the page, over the forward stare of its main protagonist. Playing the diaule or double-flute, the piper in the second state has become the horned and bearded satyr who features in much of Picasso’s ceramic work of this period; his gaze also has been redirected to the composition’s central point. Behind him, the head and upper chest of a second young man have appeared in the narrow margin of black—possibly representing another version of the artist as a young man, the male counter to the young woman standing below. The highly personal narrative being alluded to in this print perhaps made it too risky to release in an edition straight away and it was put on one side until 1955 when it was printed in an edition of fifty numbered and signed proofs. In the event, Françoise left the artist in autumn 1953, taking the children with her. Jacqueline’s features—especially her classical profile—began to appear regularly in Picasso’s drawings the following January; they began living together later that year, remaining together for the rest of his life.
This impression from the edition of fifty is numbered 13/50 at the lower left and signed at the lower right in pencil. It was printed on Arches and has an Arches watermark.
i Fernand Mourlot, Picasso Lithographs, Boston: Boston Book and Art Publisher, 1970, p.201.
1953 (May 11, Paris)
L'Égyptienne is among the most iconic of Picasso’s prints. The bold black-and-white composition is a stunning example of this phase of his career, characterized by an abstracted geometric approach to the figure; it is also a remarkable feat of technical brilliance. The sitter is shown in both frontal and profile positions simultaneously, lending a sense of conflict and drama to the portrait. While the subject is known to be Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s lover from 1943 to 1953, the work transcends its subject in its sheer graphic impact and compositional dynamism.
Picasso’s art and life are never entirely separable. This was one of the last portraits Picasso created of Françoise, at a time when their relationship was strained to a breaking point. Françoise had spent an extended period in Paris working on sets for a ballet. When Picasso etched this plate, she had recently returned to their home in Vallauris in the south of France. Her absence had infuriated Picasso; he poured his anger into this explosive image which is now known as L'Égyptienne. Françoise would leave him within a few months and would be the only woman to ever leave Picasso. With few exceptions, Picasso did not title his prints. L'Égyptienne was coined by Lacourière’s workshop in reference to the sitter’s hairstyle, which is reminiscent of Egyptian sarcophagi. Picasso was interested in Egyptian sculpture during its creation which, in addition to the aquatints lack of perspective and overt two-dimensionality most likely factored into the nickname as well.
In addition to its power as an image, L’Egyptienne is also remarkable from a technical standpoint. The print was created entirely with sugar-lift aquatint,* a technique that is among the most difficult to master in printmaking. The process is quite delicate and is easily thwarted at any stage—perfection is achieved only through experience and utter sensitivity to the materials. It is also quite challenging to achieve blacks as deep and even as they are here. Picasso had long been obsessed with the bottomless blacks of Rembrandt’s etching and had set a challenge for himself to equal them in his own work. As seen here, he had clearly achieved his goal. In addition, it is truly a marvel that he could do so on a plate of this size. The expansive and continuous areas of even black seen in this plate would elude event the most skillful printers—usually a flaw of some kind is inevitable.
The present impression is from the edition of fifty, inscribed by the hand of Marie Cuttoli on the reverse. Cuttoli was an important figure in the inner circles of the Parisian art scene; she was friends with Picasso and a number of other artists of the time, including Míro and Léger. A woman of great means who ran an influential boutique called Myrbor, she was instrumental in reviving the art of the hand-made textile, asking her artist friends to create designs that were executed by traditional weavers. These tapestries were produced to the highest standards in limited editions in Aubusson, France, and are now highly collectible.
*Sugar-lift aquatint: to create a sugar-lift, the artist paints on the copper plate with specially prepared sugar syrup that is allowed to dry. The plate is then coated with varnish or hard-ground and placed in a water bath. The sugar solution underneath dissolves and “lifts” the varnish or hard-ground, leaving the painted areas exposed. The plate is then put through the process of aquatint: it is dusted with rosin powder that is baked to the surface, and then etched to varying depths according to the desires of the artist; a full range of tones is possible.
1939 (between January and June, Paris)
1939 (April 20)
1947 (March 3, Paris)
An integral part of Picasso’s life as a small child in Malaga, the corrida is one of his oldest themes. Picasso drew bulls, picadors and matadors from an early age, and when he created his first etching in 1899, it was the representation of a picador, albeit back-to-front. Not realizing that he needed to create his image in reverse for the printing process, he drew the lance in the picador’s wrong hand, resulting in the title El Zurdo (the left-handed one). These works were the prelude to countless drawings, prints and paintings made throughout the artist’s long life in which he explored every aspect of the bull, the bullfighter and the bullring.
A recurring event is portrayed in Picador et Taureau. I—the dynamic moment when the picador thrusts his lance into the bull’s shoulder, striking the first of the series of blows that lead ultimately to the animal’s death. As the picador triumphs above him, he bows his powerful head in a short pause before his vigor is renewed and he may gore a hole in the horse, or retreat to charge. In this pose, the downwards curves of the bull and the man are balanced by the lines of the upwards-rearing horse behind them. The horse’s rear quarters are on an equal foreground plane with the bull, and mirror the rounded hump of the bull’s massive shoulder around the dynamic vertical axis formed by the man and the bull’s head. Turned back as though in annoyance, the bull appears to be looking at his rear quarters, where his hind legs have been skewed around in a comic Cubist twist. The rearing horse’s head, neck and forelegs have a flattened, art deco stylization, while the painterly qualities of the bull’s forequarters and belly evoke the schematic representations of animals painted by early Europeans on the walls of the caves at Lascaux in southwestern France, recently discovered in 1940 and opened to the public in 1948.
Having spent the war years in Paris painting dark still-lives and memento mori, in summer 1945 Picasso was at last able to return to the sunny Mediterranean, where he reignited his passion for the spectacle of the corrida. That year, geometrically simplified images of bulls began to appear in his new lithographic experiments, singly or in groups, sometimes accompanied by picadors on horseback. As he spent increasing amounts of time in the south, bulls began to appear in his etchings too; on 3 March 1947, he created this aquatint in the Paris atelier of his collaborator, the master printmaker Roger Lacourière. Through their joining repetition of curving line, the three protagonists that form the composition fuse into a single entity based on a muscular six-legged torso that simultaneously pulls up into the air while driving downwards into the ground.
Picasso worked Picador et Taureau. I through two states. This is an impression of the second (final) state, one of two or three artist’s proofs printed on Pur fil Marais wove paper.
1951 (May 17, Paris)
An integral part of Picasso’s life as a small child in Malaga, the corrida is one of his oldest themes: as an eleven-year old he sketched at the bullring; at the age of twelve he did a series of studies of bulls; at thirteen he drew caricatures of picadors and matadors. During a visit to Madrid when he was sixteen, he sent his father a detailed portrait copied from a nineteenth century print of the famous torero Pepe Illo; two years later when he created his first etching in 1899, it was the representation of a picador, El Zurdo. These works were the prelude to countless drawings, prints and paintings made throughout Picasso’s long life in which he explored every aspect of the bull, the bullfighter and the bullring.
In the years following the Second World War, when the war-time restrictions of movement were lifted and he was able to return to the sunny Mediterranean he loved so much, these themes became particularly significant in his work. After his permanent relocation from Paris to the Côte d’Azur in 1948, Picasso attended bullfights regularly, most frequently at his favorite venues in the Roman arenas of Nîmes and Arles. Corrida en Arles shows one such Sunday event: the circular enclosure in which the ritualized spectacle takes place, surrounded by the crowds of spectators below the ancient monuments of the city—a square tower and a series of ruined arches at the back of the arena. The drama of the spectacle is magnificently illuminated by the sun; visible only by its effects in the first two states, it appears as a large brilliant orb in the third state onwards, its powerful rays extending far across the sky. The many states that Picasso took this print through indicate the importance that its subject had for him; introducing color from the third state, he emphasized the vivid excitement of the event. In the first two states, even before the sun is introduced, a heightened sense of atmosphere is created by the black shadow that falls across the left side of the image, darkening the heads of the audience and a semi-circular area around the edge of the arena, and casting shadows below the central protagonists. The figures of the matadors, picadors, horses and the bull are indicated with lines that the artist scraped into the waxy layer on the copperplate using a penknife, before acid was applied. The energy of these rapidly-drawn lines conveys a strong sense of movement—in particular the diagonal downwards thrust of the picador’s lance into the bull’s shoulder, arresting the momentum of his charge towards the man on his horse. At the bull’s rear, a matador brandishes his cloak, its elegant swirls an essential part of the corrida’s ritualized dance.
Coinciding with the end of the war, Picasso began a new relationship with the beautiful young artist, Françoise Gilot. They met in 1943 and she moved into his Paris home at rue des Grands Augustins in April 1946, bearing him two children, Claude and Paloma in 1947 and 1949 respectively. At the same time, Picasso began an intense engagement with the medium of lithography, as a result of meeting the master lithographer Fernand Mourlot in 1945. Alongside portraits of Françoise—whose flowing locks transform her face into a beaming sun— images of bulls and the corrida constitute Picasso’s main subjects in his return to the lithographic medium in 1945. Possibly influenced by the schematic representations of animals painted by early Europeans on the walls of the caves at Lascaux in southwestern France, discovered in 1940 and opened to the public in 1948, many of Picasso’s prints showing corrida scenes, like Corrida in Arles, have a stylized and abbreviated quality that the artist employed to convey the drama of the spectacle rather than the detail of any individual protagonist.
All the different states of Corrida en Arles were printed by Jacques Frélaut in the Paris workshop of Roger Lacourière in 1951. This impression was printed on Montval laid paper with a Montval watermark. It is one of twelve impressions of the first state in which only black ink was used. Subsequent states involved the addition of first yellow, then red. In 1952 and 1955 further proofs were pulled with the addition of small amounts of blue and green.
The sixth and final state in a suite of etchings begun at the end of May 1949, the image is at its most elegant and sophisticated. Picasso has reversed the positions of the two figures portrayed in Cranach’s original (c.1530, Gemäldegalerie Berlin) that he copied from a postcard sent to him by his friend, the dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. In the first state, the figures are crudely delineated. Four rings that elongate the neck of Venus, her mask-like face and her long zig-zagging curls confer a primitivist appearance. Through the following five states, executed in 1951, Picasso developed the image, sharpening and refining it. By the sixth state, Venus and Cupid are exquisitely drawn; their delicate features, the detail of individual beads on the necklace and gently waving locks of hair, and the fine feathery lines modeling the contours of the bodies evoke the sensitivity of Renaissance painting and recall the realism of Picasso’s early compositions. Picasso etched the first plate during a sojourn in Paris for the birth of his daughter Paloma (on 19 April 1949), his second child with his attractive young mistress Françoise Gilot. The artist’s interest at this time in the theme of Venus and Cupid—symbolizing the great universal theme of romantic love—suggests that it was a happy period in his life. However, Baer notes that Geneviève Laporte, who began an affair with the artist in 1951, claims that it is her portrait. Although the first versions of Picasso’s variations predate this, it is possible that his later developments of the image were motivated by his affair. In these, Venus appears happy and serene, looked up to adoringly by Cupid who points his arrow playfully at her upper thigh. From his earliest training as an artist, Picasso had learned from the examples of the old masters, and even copied their works before going on to subject them to examination and analysis, reinterpreting such works as Ingres’ La Grande Odalisque (1814) in a Cubist study (1907). References and allusions to his artistic predecessors follow a current throughout his work, but an incident that took place in 1947 may well have had a catalytic effect. When the director of the Louvre offered to have some of Picasso’s paintings taken into the main galleries and placed alongside whichever works he chose, he was confronted with the terrifying question of how his paintings would hold up beside the great Spanish and French masters he thought of as his ancestors. But the test worked—it confirmed that Picasso was reinvigorating the great tradition of painting on a level equal with his predecessors. In March of that year, he turned to a painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), David and Bathsheba 1526, for his first formal set of variations, converting the Biblical story of the ageing King David and the beautiful young Bathsheba into an allegory of his own relationship with the youthful Françoise. Two years later, Picasso began his treatment of Venus et l’amour with a lithograph in three variations and two states (Bloch 183-4; Mourlot 182-4). Showing the couple in Cranach’s orientation, not reversed as in the etching suite that followed, they explore representational styles that begin with Cubism and end with cartoon.
Cranach the Elder was second only to Rembrandt of the Northern masters who inspired Picasso. The rich territory that he was to mine intensively in his ‘old master period’ follows Cranach with El Greco and Courbet in 1950, and continues with Cranach the Younger and Van Gogh as well as Goya, Poussin, David and Degas. In 1954 Picasso created fifteen paintings and numerous drawings related to Delacroix’s Women of Algiers in the space of two months; in 1957, forty-five variations in oil were inspired by Velàzquez’s Las Meninas; and Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe served as the basis for twenty-seven canvases, more than a hundred drawings and several prints and sculptures produced between 1959 and 1962. In all of these works Picasso is taking on the artists who for him were still alive, and who he said he felt were ‘all standing behind me watching me at work’.i At once reverential and competitive, Picasso’s relationships with his ‘collaborators’ became a means of appropriating and fusing the disparate elements of their great themes, in order to rewrite them in his own visual language. These homages affirm Picasso’s roots in the classical tradition in which imitation and originality are recognized as reciprocal parts of each other, and situate him firmly within the lineage of great artists.
i Quoted in Elizabeth Cowling, Picasso: Challenging the Past, exhibition catalogue, National Portrait Gallery, London 2009, p.13.
1951 (August 23)
This loving portrait is inspired by a summer holiday that Picasso spent with Geneviève Laporte, a young woman with whom he had recently begun having an affair. Picasso met Laporte in 1944, when she approached him for an interview for her school newspaper, of which she was the editor-in-chief. She was then seventeen and he sixty-three; during repeated visits that she made to the artist’s rue des Grands Augustins studio in the autumn and winter of that year a friendship developed between the artist and the teenager. In the seven years that followed, as Laporte completed her studies in the US, began working in public relations, and traveled widely in Europe, she continued to visit the artist’s studio from time to time. Their relationship was finally consummated in Picasso’s Paris apartment in May 1951 during a late afternoon storm when, according to Laporte, ‘a burning passion was born’.i At this time the artist was living with his beautiful young mistress Françoise Gilot in Vallauris in the south of France. Gilot had borne Picasso two children, Claude and Paloma, in 1947 and 1949 respectively, but their relationship was beginning to sour, and at the end of July 1951 Picasso took Laporte to St Tropez with him for a few days, leaving Françoise and the children behind. In St Tropez, still a charming little fishing harbor, the two lovers were the guests of the poet Paul Éluard and his wife Dominique. Laporte remembers it as a golden time, where she and Picasso spent ‘many ardent sessions in seclusion … walking and swimming, alternating with drawing on the beach with a pointed reed’.ii Inspired as always by a new love, Picasso made copious drawings of Geneviève in pencil and ink wash during their holiday.
After this short idyll, Picasso returned to Paris towards the end of August, where he created this print on the 23rd. As in his drawings of the previous month, his representational method combines realism with a flattening stylization. Here, perhaps for compositional reasons, Picasso has utilized a cubist rendering of his subject’s legs and lower torso, so that her buttocks and pubis are simultaneously visible, while her legs are compressed and reduced, leading to the title of the image, ‘assise en tailleur’, meaning sitting cross-legged. The image is dominated by Geneviève’s large head viewed in profile—its high brow, long-lashed eye and smiling lips denote its subject’s intelligence, while the broad swathe of hair that extends behind it is redolent with luxuriant sensuality. Excelling in his usual masterly linear simplification, Picasso emphasizes Geneviève’s youthful beauty by describing the curves of her high, pert breast, her long neck, and taut stomach with fluid lines.
This drypoint was created in two states: in the first the artist roughly sketched out his composition using the scraper; in the second—of which this is an impression—he refined it to its final appearance, scratching over his earlier lines to elongate his subject’s elegant chin, and more clearly to define the hand that rests on it. Picasso lightened Geneviève’s torso and the robe she is wearing, redefining her waist and her legs; and filled the background with lines that radiate outwards from her body, becoming cross-hatching on the left side of the image behind her profile, and darkening to black in the area between her neck, wrist and shoulder.
The strength of Picasso’s attraction to Laporte is borne out by two drawings of her that he created on the same day as this print that emphasize her thick, luxuriant locks, and her charming smile—La splendide chevelure and Le sourire.iii Two years later, shortly after Françoise left the artist in 1953, Picasso invited Geneviève to move in with him, but she declined. In 1954, still harboring affectionate feelings for the young woman, Picasso illustrated a book of her poems—Les cavaliers d’ombre, 1954—with drawings. By this time he was becoming involved with his future wife and muse Jacqueline Roque; Geneviève went on marry a former Resistance fighter in 1959.
Initially the few impressions of Femme assise en tailleur: Geneviève Laporte were limited to four proofs of the first state, and eight of the second, printed by Roger Lacourière between 1951 and 1953. However, in 1969 Picasso found a way to honor his memories of Laporte by contributing her portrait to a project of great personal importance to him. He had been invited to participate in the publication of a book in memory of Dr. Cinto Reventós—one of the artist’s best friends during his youth in Barcelona—who had died in March 1968, by his son Jacint Reventós i Conti. Picasso had not seen his old friend since February 1956, when the Doctor brought his family to visit the artist in Cannes, initiating their first meeting in fifty years. Related by marriage to the Reventós family, Gustavo Gili took charge of the printing of Picasso’s engraving and the publication of the book, which was entitled Recordant el Doctor Reventós. It has an introduction written by Jacint, and testimonials contributed by twenty-five colleagues and friends in honor of the man and the doctor, and is illustrated with reproductions of portraits as well as photographs taken during Cinto’s life. His friendship with Picasso is visible in a portrait drawn by the artist in Barcelona in 1900, and by a letter the painter sent to him from Paris in 1905.
This impression from the second (final) state of Femme assise en tailleur: Geneviève Laporte was printed on Japon nacré paper in an edition of 180, and published by Gustavo Gili as the frontispiece for Recordant el Doctor Reventos in 1969. It is signed at the lower right, and numbered 76/180 at the lower left, in pencil.
i Quoted in Ingrid Mössinger, Beate Ritter and Kerstin Drechsel, Picasso et les femmes, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz 2002, p.278.
iii Reproduced in John Richardson, Picasso: The Mediterranean Years 1945-1962, Gagosian Gallery 2010, p.355.
1939 (April 25-27, Paris)