A Guide to Collecting Picasso's Prints
                         Copyright Kobi Ledor, MD, 2005.  All rights reserved.

 

Chapter 6: A Survey of Picasso’s Prints:
1930-1944, The Vollard Suite through Dora Maar


Figure 13. Sculpteur, Modèle, et
Sculpture Assise (Bloch 146)

 

The Vollard Suite was named for its publisher, the famous Parisian art dealer and critic, Ambroise Vollard. Vollard gave Picasso his first show and served as his art dealer early on.  In later years, he published two of Picasso’s illustrated books, and, emboldened by the success of those projects, commissioned Picasso in 1930 to create The Vollard Suite, a group of 100 prints which became Picasso’s most celebrated series. Picasso began creating these prints in 1933 and topped the series off in 1937 with three portraits of Vollard, who narcissistically insured that every one of his stable of artists created his portrait.  Picasso turned the completed copper plates over to his master printer Roger Lacourière, who printed them in 1939.  Vollard met an untimely death in a car accident that same year, and the print dealer Henri Petiet purchased the edition from Vollard’s estate.  Petiet acquired the entirety of the edition with the exception of the three portraits of Vollard, which may not have been delivered to Vollard at the same time as the rest, and, more accidently than otherwise, were not included in Petiet’s purchase.  (The only other prints that didn’t go to Petiet were the few trial proofs, which had been retained by Lacourière and not delivered to Vollard.) Petiet convinced Picasso to start signing The Suite in the 1950s, which Picasso did sporadically for many years, probably up until 1969, when he was overwhelmed with the task of signing of The 347 Series

Although The Vollard Suite is Picasso’s most famous print series, it is important for a collector to understand that Picasso created most of his prints as individual works of art rather than as parts of any series. Furthermore, acknowledging The Vollard Suite as his most famous series does not imply that the prints it comprises are his best prints. Some of his best prints are indeed found within The Suite, but a number of other Suite prints are, frankly, not all that accomplished. Other contemporaneously created prints are just as beautiful but, because they don’t bear the cachet of being a part of The Vollard Suite, sell for a fraction of the price. And that, even though they are in general around five times rarer than The Vollard Suite prints! A discerning collector should pick and choose carefully, but at the very least should think twice before limiting his collection, or even just his collection of prints of the ‘thirties, to The Vollard Suite.

Though the Suite in general was an expression of his neoclassical style, Picasso interestingly integrated a number of other styles into some of the Suite, typically with exceptional results. One of the more wonderful examples of this blend is the drypoint pictured below, Sculpteur, Modèle et Sculpture Assise, (Bloch 146, Fig. 13). The sculptor and the model are gazing upon his creation as if to ask, exactly what kind of humanoid is she? This prints seems to occasion this sort of reflection about the Frankenstein because, unlike the other sculptures in the Suite, this one seems almost as lifelike, and as life-size, as its admirers. In a way, the three figures seem engaged in a dialogue. The modestly folded arms of the creature almost seem to be saying, “What, who, me? Watcha starin’ at?” The other amusing pictorial element in this work is the model’s uncanny resemblance to Francoise Gilot, though this work precedes Picasso’s first encounter with that muse by a full decade. But it lends credence to what must be one of the best pick-up lines of all time, one which could only have been pulled off by a great portraitist such as Picasso, and which he tried on her shortly after their first meeting. He said something to the effect of (and I really need to find the exact reference), I’ve always had certain archetypes of women in my art and you’re one of them. I was painting you long before I met you. This line was on a par with his other classic one, by which he first invited Francoise to his apartment, ostensibly in order to see his etchings.

Table 8A. The Vollard Suite, 1930-37

Bloch #

136

139

143

146

148

149

150

152

154

155

Beauty

*

*

**

****

**

*

*

*

**

*

Significance

**

**

**

***

**

**

**

**

**

**

Rarity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Size

**

**

***

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

Visibility at a distance

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost*

*

**

**

***

**

**

**

**

**

**

Desirability to cost ratio

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signature

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

(Note: Cost estimates in The Vollard Suite are for signed impressions.)

Table 8B. The Vollard Suite, 1930-37

Bloch #

156

157

160

161

162

164

165

166

167

168

Beauty

**

**

*

*

***

*

*

*

*

*

Significance

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

Rarity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Size

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

Visibility at a distance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost*

*

**

*

*

**

**

**

**

**

**

Desirability to cost ratio

*

 

*

*

*

 

 

 

 

 

Signature

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N


Table 8C. The Vollard Suite, 1930-37

Bloch #

169

170

171

172

173

174

175

176

177

178

Beauty

**

****

***

**

*

**

*

**

**

****

Significance

**

***

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

***

Rarity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Size

**

**

**

**

**

**

***

***

***

***

Visibility at a distance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

*

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost*

*

**

**

**

**

**

*

**

***

***

Desirability to cost ratio

*

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signature

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y

Y

 


     
Figure 14. Modèle et Grande Tete Sculptée (Bloch 170)           Fig 15. Modèle et Sculpture Surréaliste (Bloch 187)


Of the hundred prints of The Vollard Suite, in my mind the most humorous ones are Sculpteur, Modèle et Sculpture Assise (Bloch 146, Fig. 13), Modèle et Grande Tete Sculptée (Fig. 14, Bloch 170), Modele et Sculpture Surréaliste (Bloch 187, Fig. 15), and Sculptures et Vase de Fleurs (Bloch 189, Fig. 15a). All of these are among the sculptor’s studio series, which, at forty-four prints or so, forms the plurality of the subject matter of The Vollard Suite. The last two of these more specifically belong in the subset of sixteen prints in which the sculptor has departed from the room, leaving his model and his creation to their own devices.

At first glance, perhaps there seems to be nothing unusual regarding the classical sculpture in the print, Modèle et Grande Tete Sculptée (Fig. 14, Bloch 170). Suddenly, however, you notice that you’re not the only one looking at the nude. Of all the Greco-Roman busts you’ve seen, haven’t they all been staring straight ahead with their fixed, featureless, stone-blind stare? Here, undeterred by the absence of iris and pupil to indicate the direction of the sculpture’s gaze, as is in keeping with the sightless classical sculptural canon, Picasso has nonetheless cleverly managed to turn the sculpture’s eyes to the side. The sculpted head doesn’t seem to mind, because now he can admire the nude’s attributes.

This second hilarious print (Fig. 15) depicts a sculpture of a woman whimsically assembled from household objects. Marie-Thérèse looks upon the sculpture, possibly not knowing what to make of it, a dry commentary on this culturally unsophisticated woman's lack of understanding of her lover's art.Although Picasso refused to call himself a surrealist, presumably to preserve his independence from that movement, his achievements in surrealist works of art are beyond comparison. One of the many reasons for the preeminence of his surrealist works is, in contradistinction to other artists' typically somber, if not macabre, fare, Picasso used surrealism in part as just another vehicle for his boundless humor. Although he created many surrealist paintings and drawings, he made very few surrealist prints, and only three prints in this particular style, of which only this one was published in an edition.


Fig 15a. Sculptures et Vase de Fleurs (Bloch 189)


Figure 15a is a recent addition to this page, because I just saw one in the flesh and it took my breath away.  It unfortunately photographs quite poorly, especially with regard to the face and, to a lesser extent, the body of the sculpture on the left.  Lisa Florman has provided the following interesting analysis of this beautiful work,

"This same sculpted male head appears in several other of the Vollard studio scenes from which the artist himself is absent…. [This image], if stylistically different, offers a variation on the same theme. There the living model has been replaced by a sculpted figure, but one that is still female, still nude, and still clearly the object of the male head’s scopic desire. The head, placed on the floor, eye-level to the center of his interest, would seem to be in a much better position than in plate 61 [Bloch 170, see above]. However, the sculpted nude, as if intentionally to block his voyeuristic gaze, clutches her knees tightly together. The dark hatching that enshrouds the left half of the room cuts her off even more from her would-be admirer. Similarly, the curtain drawn over the window falls exactly between the two figures, again emphasizing their separation and the occlusion of his vision.” (from Myth and Metamorphosis: Picasso’s Classical Prints of the 1930’s, page 118 and 122).  So now you see how a real art historian writes!

Table 8D. The Vollard Suite, 1930-37

Bloch #

180

181

182

183

184

185

186

187

188

189

190

Beauty

***

****

****

**

*

**

*

****

*

***

*

Significance

**

**

***

**

**

**

**

****

**

 

**

Rarity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Size

***

**

***

**

***

***

**

**

**

 

*

Visibility at a distance

*

**

**

**

 

 

*

 

 

*

 

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost*

*

*

**

*

*

**

**

**

**

*

**

Desirability to cost ratio

****

****

**

**

 

 

 

**

 

 ***

 

Signature

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

 

 


Fig 16. L'Etreinte (Bloch 182)

Of the five masterful Vollard Suite prints which have been variably termed as “L’Étreinte” (“The Embrace”) by Geiser and Baer, “Le Viol” (“The Rape”) by Bloch, and “The Battle of Love” by Bolliger, this large, striking drypoint (Fig. 16, Bloch 182, 1933) represents their pinnacle, though most of the others are also amazing.
Lisa Florman, in her wonderful book, Myth and Metamorphosis: Picasso’s Classical Prints of the 1930’s, provides many insights about the interconnectedness of the various plates of the Vollard Suite, which she likens to “the intricate mesh of a spider’s web”. Regarding this subgroup of prints, she writes:

"At first glance, those plates [of the “Battle of Love”] would seem to have nothing in common with the “Sculptor’s Studio.” Each of the five “Battle” images depicts a couple in the throes of sexual passion: bodies entangled, mouths open—in all, a far cry from the visible quiescence of the “Studio” scenes. But this difference between the two series is not merely difference; it is direct opposition, and it operates on a number of levels. Whereas figures in the “Sculptor’s Studio” are characterized by a certain air of detachment, those in the “Battle of Love” seem anything but detached. By the same token, where vision dominates relations within the “Studio”, the “Lovers” are pressed too close for sight; they shut their eyes tightly or stare without seeing. Although these features are plainly there in the prints, they are brought to the fore only through a comparison of the two series. Those series are, in effect, polar complements, mutually defining each other in their opposition. Confirmation is to be had from plate 28…[Le Viol sous la Fenetre, Bloch 183], the earliest of the Suite’s five “Battle” scenes. In the upper left-hand corner of that image, a windowsill and vase of flowers—much as appear throughout the “Studio” series...—are clearly visible. Their inclusion in this plate links the “Battle” with the sculptor’s studio, and thus its frenzied lovers with the studio’s own, more subdued occupants."

As Florman suggests, it is unlikely that Picasso intended to portray the model as an unwilling accomplice to the embrace. For Picasso, the natural progression of sculptor and model from the studio to the bedroom seems much closer to what he must have had in mind.

As a further strand in the interrelationships of the “Battle” and “Studio” prints, the male lover in this image casts his sightless eyes skyward, resembling the stony gaze of the neoclassical sculpted head in “Modele et Grande Tete Sculptée”, Bloch 170, or even the three images of the blind minotaur elsewhere in the Suite.
Presumably because of the bad rap that the unfortunate term “Le Viol” has conferred on this set of prints, they are significantly undervalued. Quite a number of other lovemaking (or rape) scenes which Picasso created much later in his career do not suffer from this verbal judgment and from its resultant depression of their prices. Yet they do not come close to rivaling the beauty of these Vollard images.


Fig. 16a. Le Viol sous la Fenêtre
(Bloch 183)

Picasso completed most of the prints of the Vollard Suite in a single state. He labored over the copper of the present etching and drypoint, however, through fourteen states, more than any other in the Suite. The second runner-up, at nine states, is Couple Faisant l'Amour (Bloch 202, next in this catalogue at the time of this writing). Clearly, something about these rape or lovemaking scenes must have been very important to him.

Despite its grisly title, the action in this image is subject to the viewer’s interpretation. Just as in all the four other plates in the Suite that Bolliger named the “Battle of Love” series, the man may be violating the woman, or, as I prefer to think, the couple is engaged in passionate lovemaking.
Though Picasso’s alleged misogyny has been sensationalized for years, starting with the initial, scathing reviews of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. But, as I see it, Picasso loved women. Sure, the occasional femme fatale brought him down—a wife here, a lover there—but how uncommon is that? And, yes, he unflinchingly depicted the unvarnished truth of the human condition as he saw it. So though it is entirely possible that he would not have shrunk from portraying rape, I can’t quite imagine why he would have been motivated to do so, apart from riffs on historical works such as the rape of the Sabine women.

Picasso rarely titled or, for that matter, even discussed, his works of art. Though the job of naming them fell upon his long-time dealer, Kahnweiler, Picasso approved the titles. Georges Bloch used the “approved” titles in his thumbnail catalogue raisonné of the printed works. On the other hand, Brigitte Baer, his preeminent print chronicler, named his prints herself, using longer, more descriptive, and more flowery titles, but these are not titles that Picasso is known to have approved. Perhaps they amused him, if he even bothered with them. Yet Le Viol sous la Fenêtre (The Rape through the Window) is a title that appears in Bloch. But of course Vollard published The Vollard Suite, not Kahnweiler, and Bernhard Geiser, rather than Baer, initially edited the first two volumes of the Baer/Geiser catalogue. So who knows what the interchange may have been like between the artist and Vollard or Geiser regarding the naming of these works? Picasso was goofing on his interviewers, tongue-in-cheek, long before Bob Dylan—who later turned this sport into an equally high art—was born. So perhaps Picasso simply didn’t challenge Vollard or Geiser when one or the other came up with the various unfortunate titles in this group of prints.

One should note that in this case, as usual, Picasso deliberately failed to provide enough anecdotal detail to force the viewer into a particular understanding of his piece. His goal, according to Elizabeth Cowling, in stripping his work of its storyline was to enable his art to achieve a certain timelessness and universality. This is a pattern that he adopted beginning with the Blue Period, yet it got him into the most hot water with Les Demoiselles. Speaking about that painting, Cowling states,

“The lack of definition in the imagery left the moral tone of the picture in limbo. Had he, for example, made the women unequivocally prostitutes it might have seemed that he was presenting a moralistic vision of sexual turpitude. By not defining his subject, Picasso opened himself to the accusation of pure misogyny: all women, not just ‘sinful’ women, are implicated. And many writers have seen Les Demoiselles as an expression of revulsion at women and linked this with a permanent trait in Picasso’s nature. Rubin, for example, describes the ‘contrast between the horrid squatting demoiselle and the comparatively elegant Iberian maidens in the centre’ as an expression of ‘a very particular component of Picasso’s psychology: his deep-seated fear and loathing of the female body, which existed side by side with his craving for and ecstatic idealization of it.’

“There may be truth in this. But it is important to recognize the deliberate violation of artistic convention which is at the heart of Picasso’s enterprise: women are given this scandalous treatment because, for better or worse, during the course of the nineteenth century woman had supplanted man as the primary vehicle for expressing abstract ideas and moral themes, just as the female model had supplanted the male model in the life room. Woman had, in short, become virtually synonymous with Art. The attack on artistic convention had therefore to be conducted through imagery of the female nude….

“Picasso may have been giving vent, consciously or unconsciously, to private obsessions, but his revolutionary purpose was to claim the right to regenerate contemporary art through harshness, brutality, fearsomeness, disharmony. Beauty, especially the beauty of the eroticized female nude, had become too much of a ‘sham’—to use the word he used in 1935 when railing against the academic stereotype; it was time to give ugliness its due.” (E. Cowling, Picasso: Style and Meaning, Phaidon 2002, p. 178-9)

The good news is that the market undervalues these prints because of their titles. Now I don’t know about you, but I see that as a buying opportunity.

 


Fig 17. Minotaure, Buveur, et Femmes (Bloch 200)


Behold the Minotaure, Buveur, et Femmes, Minotaur, Drinker, and Women (Fig. 17, Bloch 200, 1933). This large-format image from the Vollard series depicts an unusual twist on Picasso's portrayals of the Minotaur in which this mythological chimera is represented as a mask held in the hand of a young actor. Yet this young man also sports the Minotaur's tail, which is suspended by a belt around his waist. Although Picasso's meaning is impossible to plumb in its entirety, it is at least interesting to note that the first state of this print unambiguously depicts a Minotaur in his entirety. By the second state, a metamorphosis has occurred which renders the actor bearing the Minotaur's mask. Is Picasso the artist saying that the sex drive of Picasso the man is only a mask and as such an interchangeable feature of his personality? Brigitte Baer is more impressed by the feminine qualities of the face of the young actor, and suggests that they indicate the feminine side of the Minotaur.

Elsewhere in the composition, Marie-Thérèse is represented in duplicate as both seated and reclining figures. A bearded man holds aloft a wine glass, a toast in celebration of life. Despite the presumed frivolity of the bacchanalian setting, a pensive, removed look is beautifully depicted in each of the faces. Is Picasso thereby also taking a step back from the immediacy of the celebration and considering the deeper meaning of his life?

Of the 100 works that comprise The Vollard Suite, there were but 17 prints of this size (including one larger). Of these large works, it is one of the most valuable and easily one of my favorites, especially because of the complex but tight composition, and the graphically masterful and tender depictions of the five visages therein. The thick black lines and the subtle gray tonality of this print as well as its comparatively large scale render it quite striking from across the room. I’ve had nearly transcendental experiences first viewing this print from afar, then at mid-range, and finally, from way up close, examining the drypoint's textured, thick black line. To my eye, there is no more appealing line in The Vollard Suite than this.


Table 8E. The Vollard Suite, 1930-37

Bloch #

191

192

193

196

197

198

199

200

201

202

Beauty

**

**

***

***

*

**

***

*****

****

**

Significance

**

***

***

***

**

**

**

****

****

**

Rarity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Size

***

***

**

**

**

**

**

***

***

**

Visibility at a distance

 

 

 

 *

 

 

 

**

**

**

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost*

**

***

**

*

*

**

**

***

****

*

Desirability to cost ratio

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

**

 

*

Signature

Y

Y

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y

Y/N

 


Fig. 18. Quatre Femmes Nues avec Tete Sculptée, Four Nudes and a Sculpted Head (Bloch 219)

Beholding the intricate work of art above is not a passive experience. Rather, this etching sweeps the viewer into itself. More than just a two-dimensional picture, it forcibly transports the viewer into an extraordinary space. The thick, dark, humid atmosphere is palpable, more akin to a harem than to a sculptor’s studio. The five figures are depicted with great care, finesse, and beauty as well as with an interesting juxtaposition of the artist’s neoclassical and sculptural-surrealist styles in the various renderings of the heads. This image is one of the four most prized of The Vollard Suite in the marketplace (the others are Bloch 201, 225, and 230).

Table 8F. The Vollard Suite, 1930-37

Bloch #

205

210

214

215

217

218

219

220

222

223

224

Beauty

*

*

*

*

*

***

*****

*****

****

**

*

Significance

**

**

**

**

**

***

*****

****

***

***

***

Rarity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Size

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

***

**

**

Visibility at a distance

*

 

 

 

 

 

***

*

**

  **

**

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost*

*

*

*

*

**

**

***

**

*

**

**

Desirability to cost ratio

*

 

 

 

 

*

 

*

****

 

 

Signature

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

 


Fig. 19. Minotaure Aveugle Guide par une Fillette, III, Blind Minotaur Guided by a Young Girl, III (B225)

Picasso once said that art should not be afraid to tell a story. This print clearly tells a story, a rather complex one even by Picasso's standards, but the question is: a story about what? Picasso certainly didn't say. As usual, he provides the props and invites the viewer to write the script. This fantastical scene portrays a blinded Minotaur led through the night by a girl, whose features clearly represent his young mistress at that time, Marie-Thérèse. Although mythologically the Minotaur was a rapacious monster, Picasso, using poetic license, had toned him down the year before in a number of etchings and other works into a virile man-beast with an eye for feminine beauty, an allegorical stand-in for the artist himself. The final three etchings however depicted a wounded Minotaur. Picasso, still haunted by this imagery, returned to it a year later. Now the Minotaur is again shown in decline. Though still well-muscled, he is blind, leans on a cane, and requires the guidance of a young girl. His glazed eyes gaze heavenward, as if imploring the gods. The dove perhaps attests to the peace he has attained in his dotage, despite his infirmity and injuries.

Kirk Varnedoe, the former Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, shed light on Picasso's Minotaur series as follows: "At this point in his life, if not well before, he had come to think of himself as a "monster" in a complex way - not simply as a beast of marauding instincts but as a freak of nature in a higher sense. He gave friends to understand that he lacked complete comprehension of his own special creative powers; he said he felt commanded by, rather than only in possession of, his gifts. It is this imagining of himself simultaneously as a sacré monster [holy monster] and a monstre sacré [monstrous holy man], set apart by his special powers and isolated by inner forces fated to drive him according to their demands, which finds form in the part-man, part-animal who is both blessed and cursed by his transcendence of the conventions of human society." (K. Varnedoe, "Picasso's Self-Portraits", pp. 110-79, W. Rubin, ed., Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation, London, 1996, pp. 153-55)

There is no precedent in Greek mythology for this sightless Minotaur, though mythologically the Minotaur did meet a violent death. One wonders whether Picasso, whose own sex drive has reached mythical proportions, at least in conventional wisdom, considered his unbridled sexuality a beast in need of taming, or a beast which fate would first maim—and then slay—over time. Picasso was famously afraid of death. Now at age 53, he may have been thinking about the future of his own sexual prowess. Perhaps Picasso was saying that the Minotaur—just as the artist—was driven by blind lust, and that lust may lead to unfortunate consequences. The blind Minotaur's dependence on Marie-Thérèse is laden with other implications, notably Picasso's reliance, despite his great intellect, upon this simple, earthy, uneducated, unsophisticated and very young girl (seventeen when they first met, to his approximately forty-six). Marie-Thérèse, despite her tender years, served the role of earth-mother, providing for him the intimate and uncomplicated connection with nature that was lacking in his marriage to Olga.

Interestingly, the sailor hoisting the sail is also rooted in the Greek myth: "To avenge the death of his son, Minos waged war and won. He then demanded that seven Athenian youths and seven maidens be sent every ninth year (some accounts say every year) to be devoured by the Minotaur. When the third sacrifice came round, Theseus volunteered to go to slay the monster. He promised to his father, Aegeus, that he would put up a white sail on his journey back home if he was successful." (Wikipedia)

Picasso created five preparatory drawings and three etchings before this print. The Blind Minotaur Guided by a Young Girl, III (Fig. 19) is their epitome, as well as the pinnacle of The Vollard Suite. It is also one of Picasso's most famous prints and widely regarded as one of his ten best. (Please see the related discussion at "Picasso's Greatest Print?")

To pick up an earlier thread, perhaps Picasso uttered his statement about art and story-telling at a time when modern art was given to abstraction, especially in America, and Picasso’s fame was consequently temporarily declining. Frankly, I’ve never really thought that narrative art was contentious, until recently a client got me thinking about it. In trying to refine my understanding of his preferences (the better to ply him with Picasso choices he couldn’t refuse), I learned that he deplores “narrative pictures”. He listed the artist and his model as an example of narrative pictures that he disliked. Yet he happens to live happily with an impression of this very print! On the opposite extreme, another client fell in love with a linocut and concocted a whole cock-and-bull story to go with it (Trois Femmes, Bloch 926: life passages, i.e. the innocence of the young woman on the right, her middle-aged ennui in the middle, and the contemplative wisdom of her old age on the left—frankly I started liking this print more in light of her exegesis, but not enough that I didn’t try to steer her in favor of more beautiful Picassos). Which goes to show that, ultimately, I only understand the mind of one collector—mine—and even then only fleetingly.

Table 8G. The Vollard Suite, 1930-37

Bloch #

225

226

228

229

230

231

232

233

Beauty

*****

*

**

 

*****

 

 

*

Significance

*****

***

**

***

****

*

*

*

Rarity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Size

***

**

**

***

****

***

***

***

Visibility at a distance

****

 

 

 

****

*

*

 

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost*

****

***

**

***

****

*

*

*

Desirability to cost ratio

*

 

 

 

  *

 

 

 

Signature

Y

Y/N

Y/N

Y/N

Y

Y

Y

Y

(Note: Cost estimates in The Vollard Suite are for signed impressions.)

For better or for worse, all other prints of the early ‘thirties (Tables 9-12) must be compared to the 100 which were included in the contemporaneous Vollard Suite. To a large extent, the Suite is the touchstone for price determination. Yet a number of other prints from the same period are at least as nice as the Vollard prints and are often less expensive, despite much smaller edition sizes. The Picasso print world suffers from herd mentality, and the herd prizes The Vollard Suite. As you will have guessed, that leaves some relative bargains for the more discerning, individualistic collector.

Table 9. Other gems from 1931-32 (mostly The Saving of the Drowned Woman series)

Bloch #

234

235

241

242

243

244

245

246

247

249

Beauty

**

*

*

*

*

*

**

*

***

**

Significance

*

 

*

*

*

*

**

*

***

**

Rarity

**

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

Size

***

**

*

**

*

*

*

**

*

*

Visibility at a distance

 

 

 

 

 

*

*

*

*

*

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Desirability to cost ratio

*

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

**

 

Signature

Y

Y

Y

ES

ES

ES

Y

ES

ES

N

 

     
Fig. 20. Tete (Bloch 256)


Only Picasso could manage to so utterly lay bare the soul of his muse, despite such extensive anatomical distortion, or perhaps because of it.  For all her altered features, Marie-Thérèse still manages a demure, introspective look with her stony, sightless, inwardly directed eye and her sensitive lips.  At the same time, she compellingly engages the viewer, seemingly asking, "Yeah, right--you say there's a what on top of my head?

This head of a woman represents one of Picasso's many stylistic forays into surrealism, the cutting-edge movement in art of the period. Though Picasso refused to ally himself with this movement, he was clearly its inspiration and its vanguard. As André Breton, who is best known as the principal founder of surrealism, conceded, “Surrealism, if it tends to define a line of action, simply has to go where Picasso has gone, and where he will return” (quoted in C. Piot et al, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 232). Sir Roland Penrose described the radicalism of Picasso's surrealism in the context of his previous work as follows, “These excursions into realms formerly forbidden by a canonical respect for beauty were more profoundly disturbing than the attacks made by Cubism on academic conceptions of painting. They upset man’s vision of himself which had sprung from classical tradition. But we were to discover, thanks to Picasso, that the image of man did not reside only in an ideal conception, but that in its nature it should be organic and alive” (Picasso: Life and Work, Berkeley, 1981, pp. 255-256).

This magnificent print has been included in every general book on Picasso prints, or at least all of those in our library. It is significant on several levels. In 1931 and -32, Picasso developed a wondrous unique style, one more in a chain of innumerable unique styles, in which Marie-Thérèse ’s facial features were modeled in plaster with exaggerated, thick, rounded forms, which have been likened to ropes or sausages by various writers. The results in plaster and later in bronze were magnificent and compelling (an example of one of these bronzes, Buste de Femme, PP.31:029, is included in Figure 20 above). About twelve months later, in February and March, 1933, Picasso made several etchings of Marie-Thérèse’s head including this one that look very sculptural and are modeled in the same style as the recent plasters. Three of these, Bloch numbers 250, 255, and this one, 256, are simply amazing works. That Picasso could create such shapes out of plaster was amazing enough, but that he could imbue their two-dimensional representations on paper with such sculptural volume was in and of itself incredible.

Right afterwards, Picasso began incorporating similarly modeled heads onto full-length figures of models in the sculptor’s studio, or into the form of sculptures within the studio. All of these prints were later grouped into The Vollard Suite, and, because of its much larger edition size as well perhaps as its cache, are better known. (See, for example, Quatre Femme Nues et Tete Sculpté, Bloch 219, in this catalogue. Even better examples include Bloch numbers 146, 148-158, 176 and 218.) As far as these strangely modeled heads goes, the smaller series of portraits to which thisTete de Femme belongs is most impressive because of the larger scale of these portraits and because the viewer’s attention is not distracted from these sculptural portraits by the presence of other pictorial elements.

This Tete de Femme is also unusual because it is perhaps the only Picasso print, in addition maybe to his lithographic fingerpainting (Paloma et Claude, Bloch 664, see Chapter 7) in which the technique is not only innovative—typical fare for Picasso—but in which the very technique itself is charming! In creating this portrait, Picasso used his mistress’ nail polish as a sort of resist with which he drew directly onto the raw copper plate. Then, a prolonged dip in acid lowered the surface level of the copper plate everywhere except where the nail polish had been applied, yielding a “negative engraving” in which the image, rather than engraved into the plate itself, is presented in relief, such that everything other than the image would get the printer’s ink. Baer refers to the medium of this print as an etching, but that is likely because the actual technique, unique in this application yet somewhat akin to aquatint, has yet to be named.

Table 10. 1933. Marie-Thérèse portrayed in surrealist, voluminous sculptural styles

Bloch #

250

251

252

253

254

255

256

257

258

Beauty

*****

*

**

*

*

***

*****

**

**

Significance

*****

**

**

**

**

***

*****

*

**

Rarity

**

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

Size

**

**

*

*

**

**

*

**

**

Visibility at a distance

***

*

 

 

*

*

****

 

 

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

***

*

*

*

*

*

**

*

**

Desirability to cost ratio

 

 

*

 

 

**

***

 

 

Signature

N/ES

ES

ES

ES

ES

N

Y

N

Y

 


Fig. 21. Minotaure Contemplant une Dormeuse (Bloch 261)


Picasso created four intaglio prints on June 18, 1933, all of which dealt with the theme of the Minotaur. Apart from the first one, Minotaure, Buveur et Femmes (Bloch 200; see above), the remaining three which followed that day tell a story. According to Brigitte Baer, who, unlike Picasso, numbered the order of their creation, the three prints were created in the order corresponding to the progression of the story. (This is not the only time during this period of the artist’s work in which she made such annotations, but it is the only series of prints of which I’m aware which, taken together with the benefit of her dating and numbering, tell a consecutive story.) As usual, Baer’s titles are more descriptive and informative than those of Georges Bloch. The first “frame” of this story is this drypoint, which she named Minotaure Contemplant Amoureusement une Dormeuse, in which the Minotaur Amorously Contemplates a Sleeping Woman through on open window. The Minotaur has entered the bedroom by the next frame, which Baer titles Minotaure Caressant du Mufle la Main d’Une Dormeuse, Minotaur Nuzzles the Hand of the Sleeping Woman (Bloch 201, Baer 369) and thereby explains the action which, at least to this viewer, is not completely clear in the print itself, and which Bloch’s simpler title didn’t elucidate. The final frame, Minotaure et Femme Faisant l’Amour (Bloch 262, Baer 372) shows the couple making love. (Bloch, as he often does, titles the scene as a rape, but Baer’s lighter touch is probably also more accurate.)

Apart from the fourth and final print, which was not very well realized, the other three prints Picasso created that day are all masterpieces. In my opinion, the print at hand, Bloch 261, is lovelier than Bloch 201 and is also ten times as rare, yet it sells for a tenth to a fifth of the latter’s price. Such are the vagaries of the marketplace, in this case partly explained by the imprimatur of the Vollard Suite which the latter bears, as well as by the market’s craze for Picasso’s autograph. Go know….

Table 11. Other mostly neoclassical gems, 1933-1934

Bloch #

259

260

261

263

264

265

269

275

276

278

Beauty

*

*

***

**

**

*

*

**

**

***

Significance

 

 

**

***

*

 

 

*

**

***

Rarity

***

***

****

***

****

****

 

***

**

***

Size

***

**

***

**

**

**

**

**

 

**

Visibility at a distance

*

 

*

**

*

*

 

 

**

*

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

**

*

Desirability to cost ratio

*

 

**

*

*

 

 

*

 

***

Signature

N

N

ES

N

Y

N

N

N

N/ES

N

 


Fig. 22. Bloch 280. Femme Torero, IV (Bloch 280)


Picasso created five prints which Bloch names Femme Torero over a ten-day period. Including the closely related La Grande Corrida (Bloch 1330), all of them depict a bull and Marie-Thérèse as a female bullfighter who has fallen off her gored horse. This series of prints presages Guernica both stylistically and thematically. Most of them, including this print, are highly successful works, beautiful to behold and laden with symbolism. In my estimation, they lyrically and artistically lead the pack of Picasso's many takes on the corrida, although I also favor a couple of the linocuts in this theme.

The bullfighter in all six prints is apparently enraptured despite her tumble. As if to leave no doubt, in the earliest print, Femme Torero I (Bloch 1329), the woman and bull seem about to kiss on the lips. This liaison could also be interpreted as the kiss of death, given the ambiguity of the series as to whether the torera is still alive. As Marilyn McCully has pointed out in Picasso Érotique, this interpretation could be supported by, and symbolic of, the fact that Picasso's passion for Marie-Thérèse was drawing to an end.

It is widely thought that Picasso identified with the bull, symbolic of maleness and virility. Much has also been written about the bullfight as a stylized sexual encounter. It is perhaps less well know that there was a famous female bullfighter with whom Picasso was acquainted. I am uncertain if he knew her and if she were active at this time, or only later as recounted by Francoise Gilot.

Femme Torero IV brilliantly captures the horse's anguish, the best such depiction in all of Picasso’s prints. The bull, by contradistinction, is depicted almost as if in repose, with a bemused, “Who, me?” expression. Marie-Thérèse is sketchily portrayed in a sculptural style which merges forehead and nose reminiscent of Picasso's famous stylizations of her in sculptures, prints, and other media the year before. The intermingling of legs in the foreground adds a level of interest to the piece. This artwork is a great example of Picasso’s economy of line as an asset in conveying poignant emotion.

What is the appeal of a bullfight scene to those who care nothing for the sport? As I see it, its appeal has very little to do with bullfighting itself and everything to do with Picasso's unique take on it. In Picasso's various approaches to violence, parody is often not far beneath the surface. There are typically one or more underlying commentaries on the absurdity of conflict or the dumb luck that has thrust the combatants into the conflict in the first place. Here, there is the interplay of love and death. Elsewhere, one can see gladiators absurdly chasing each other in a circle (Le Combat, Bloch 301, 1937, see below), or knights in ridiculously elaborate armor more akin to a male bird's showy plumage or a costume out of a masquerade ball than actually protective wear, as in the several charming lithographs of a knight and his horse and page (Bloch 684-686, 1951, see Chapter 7). For a completely different take on the bullfight, one notes the dance of death motif of a number of the bullfight linocuts, in which the bull's and horse's legs are playfully curved and rounded into a sprightly pas de deux.

Picasso's political commentary was rarely straightforward. Even the famous Guernica, The Charnel House, and Massacre in Korea paintings are unrepresentative of modern warfare. Each of them could have taken place hundreds of years earlier, for all the information Picasso provides. Anguished mothers and animals; prisoners' hands tied together; half-naked soldiers pointing their muskets at their marks are timeless images, so unlike our own headline news. Picasso is also remembered just as much for his symbols of peace as for his symbols of war, by his many lithographs and other works of pigeons and doves, in which he carried on a fine family tradition. Though his father, an academic painter, remarkably made the pigeon his life's work, it was left to the son to celebrate the dove as the icon of peace of the modern world. Even in so doing Picasso must have been chuckling, since he himself raised pigeons and doves and had been known to comment on how very "unpeaceful" those creatures actually are.

Table 12A. 1934-36

Bloch #

279

280

286

288

289

290

291

292

293

294

Beauty

**

*****

***

*****

*

*

*

***

*

***

Significance

*

***

**

*****

*

 

 

*

*

***

Rarity

**

***

*

***

*****

***

**

**

***

***

Size

**

**

**

*****

****

***

***

***

*

*

Visibility at a distance

 

 

**

****

*

 

*

*

*

*

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

*

*

**

*****

***

?

*

*

?

?

Desirability to cost ratio

 

*****

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

Signature

ES

ES

N/ES

Y/N

P

N

ES

ES

N

N

Table 12B. 1934-36 and 1939, Late Bloch numbers

Bloch #

1328

1329

1330

1333

1335

1336

1337

1338

1339

1340

Beauty

***

*****

***

*****

****

***

*

*

*****

*

Significance

***

***

***

*****

****

****

***

***

*****

***

Rarity

***

***

***

*****

***

**

**

**

**

**

Size

**

*****

*****

*****

**

**

**

**

**

**

Visibility at a distance

*

 

 

***

*****

***

*****

****

*****

*****

Color

 

 

 

 

*****

**

*****

**

**

**

Fading

 

 

 

 

***

**

***

**

*

**

Cost

*

**

**

*****

****

**

***

**

?

***

Desirability to cost ratio

*

**

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signature

ES

N

N

Y

N

N

N

N

N

N


Table 12C. More late Bloch numbers, 1939

Bloch #

 2019

 2020

 2021

Beauty

 *

*

****

Significance

 

 

 ***

Rarity

 ***

 ***

 ***

Size

 *

*

**

Visibility at a distance

 **

** 

 ****

Color

 

 

 *****

Fading

 

 

 ****

Cost

 *

*

***

Desirability to cost ratio

 

 

 *

Signature

 N

N

N

 


Fig. 23. Le Combat dans L'Arene (Bloch 301)


Although Picasso created the world he inhabited, and which he bequeathed to us, he was still to some degree the product of his times. The bullfight, that quintessentially Spanish pastime, served as the springboard for his imagination and, coupled with his passion for Greco-Roman antiquity, may have given rise to this print, a fanciful amalgam of mythology and combat in an arena. The bullfight was the idiom of his culture and the poetry of his youth. It amused and enthralled him throughout his life and served as a metaphor for much of his commentary on the human condition.

On the surface, Combat in the Arena (Fig. 23) depicts gladiators in an ancient Roman arena, a fitting nod to antiquity and perhaps to the precedents of the modern bullfight. The horned combatant, a faun, leads his horse by its mane in pursuit of a fallen gladiator; the faun in turn is pursued by a second gladiator. At a somewhat deeper level, we can’t help being struck by the circularity of motion, perhaps suggesting the circularity of conflict, the senselessness of each person attacking the next in a circle. The choreography of conflict, the dance of death, first depicted in his Femme Torero etchings of a few years earlier (see Bloch 280 above), some of which were included in The Vollard Suite, is echoed here, and a quarter of a century later in his bullfight lithographs and linoleum cuts. In this battle scene we find a smile on the face of the horse and even on that of one of the combatants.

Picasso finished Guernica in June of 1937. Combat in the Arena was created several months later on October 10, just 16 days before the great Weeping Woman in the Tate Modern. Nonetheless, this lighthearted view of conflict clearly lacks the rage of Guernica. Picasso seemingly is as moved to laughter at the senselessness of conflict as angered by the anguish it wreaks. With certain notable exceptions such as Guernica, which he painted but a few months earlier the same year as he created this print, Picasso generally chose to refer only obliquely to the violence of his times. As he explained to an American war correspondent who sought him out at this studio in Paris just days after its liberation, "I have not painted the war because I am not the kind of painter who goes out like a photographer for something to depict. But I have no doubt that the war is in these paintings I have done." (S.A. Nash, Picasso and the War Years, 1937-1945, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1998, p. 13). Nash comments as follows: "Aside from his great Guernica of 1937 and The Charnel House of 1945-1946, Picasso's work from the war-torn years of 1937 to 1945 essentially ignores specific world events. Yet no other artist of the twentieth century left so sustained a moving visual record of the corrosive effect of war on the human spirit and its toll on human life. His achievement was to create a modern alternative to history painting. Through his treatment … he captured a portrait of an era that rises above the strictly personal to comment memorably on life in the shadow of war and the spiritual negativism that resulted, when traditional religion was futile and the ancient furies, all too alive for Picasso, wreaked havoc on humanity. The more narrowly autobiographical or hermetic focus of much of Picasso’s art at this point expands into a give-and-take with history and an interaction with momentous world events." (ibid., pp. 13-14).

Picasso created but sixteen prints in 1937 (only a few of which are shown in Bloch), but they comprise some of the most artistically significant and the most politically inclined in his career. Other notable examples include Sueno y Mentira de Franco and La Femme qui Pleure, I, (Bloch 1333, one of his two most expensive prints), as well as the other magnificent prints of the Femme qui Pleure series.

Stylistically, Combat in the Arena represents a further departure from the more realistic neoclassical rendering of at least the majority of The Vollard Suite images, at least insofar as its male portraiture is concerned. The women underwent various forms of delightful facial disfigurement and even one total corporeal dissolution and reassembly out of spare household parts (see Bloch 187 above). In Combat in the Arena, all three combatants are depicted with both eyes to one side of the face and both nostrils to one side of the nose in a style typical of many of Picasso paintings but not of any of his prior prints.

To me, Combat in the Arena and the Minotauromachie, both large prints, much larger than any of the Vollards, represent the pinnacle of the Vollard Suite, though they’re not included within it, along with proper Suite pieces such as Minotaure Aveugle Guidée pars une Fillette dans la Nuit (you may have one or two other favorites, such as Minotaure Caressant une Dormeuse and Faun Dévoilant une Femme--I also favor Minotaure, Buveur et Femmes, but that's just me). Not all share this opinion. For example, if you’ve come this far in this text, my guess is that you’re sporting a Y chromosome. Le Combat is a hard sell. The prices it commands are not at all commensurate with its beauty or its significance. My wife won’t even let me hang it, except in my home office (which, by the by, is just fine with me). Yet one dealer I know won’t part with his impression of this print unless someone were to pry his cold, dead fingers off of it, and I feel just about the same. Why am I posting this print then, you ask? For the opportunity to rant, I suppose, and perhaps also because, as I assemble lists of clients’ desiderata, I would have justification to snap up a second impression of an unpopular print if it crosses my path at a reasonable price….  Completing this paragraph one year later, I am pleased to report that I have now purchased a second impression of this glorious but difficult print.  My wife of course is less pleased.  I, however, am comfortably certain with the knowledge that it is truly one of Picasso's masterpieces--in any medium.  I know two other art dealer who have actually sold impressions of this print before (though one doesn't count, since he sold it to yours truly), but at least there's one known historical precedent unrelated to my personal Picasso obsession!

It is noteworthy that Combat is printed on a double sheet of the same paper that was used for The Vollard Suite-these sheets of paper were divided in half for The Suite.  Not so for Combat, which therefore sports the Vollard watermark on one side of the sheet and the Picasso watermark on the other.

I could wax eloquent—well, wax, anyway—about Picasso’s shockingly beautiful depictions of these men and beast (their sensitive eyes, their sensual lips, for example), but to what avail? Those of you--precious few, I’ve gathered--to whom the beauty is immediately apparent, wouldn’t need convincing. The rest of you, I have learned, are well beyond my admittedly limited powers of persuasion. And that goes equally for my friends, my wife, and my two-year-old, all of whom I regularly poll, as well as our clients. So I guess I can safely spare you all. In any event, that’s what makes those proverbial, if not Roman, horse races, isn’t it?



Fig. 24. Trois Femmes (Bloch 303)

Ask anybody which is their favorite decade of Picasso’s work and the answer you’re likely to receive is the 'thirties. (That is, unless you’re interrogating a Picasso hater, who, like my Mom, would undoubtedly say the Blue Period.) Yet, unless you’d like to plunk down several tens of millions, it’s hard to come by an affordable work of art from this period featuring some combination of those bulging, tubular eyeballs and those wing-nut ears, with the eyes and nostrils on the same side of the face, which characterized one of the more amazing styles of that decade. There are also precious few prints in this archetypal 'thirties style, no more than a dozen by my count. Bloch 301 (see elsewhere in this catalogue), Bloch 317, and this print are wonderful examples. Following on the heels of several other nice prints on the theme of three women (or the Three Graces) which Picasso visited sporadically starting in the early 'twenties, this print is the epitome of the lot. Its predecessors are charming in their neoclassical style or in the transitional style of Bloch 176, an amalgam of the neoclassical and the sculptural 1931-32 styles, but this 1938 print wins the contest hands down.

Table13. 1936 -1938

Bloch #

295

295A

296

297

298

299

300

301

302

303

Beauty

*

***

****

 

*

*

**

*****

*

*****

Significance

*

****

***

****

****

 

*

****

***

****

Rarity

***

*****

****

 

 

***

***

***

***

**

Size

*

**

*

***

***

***

****

****

***

**

Visibility at a distance

*

*

 

 

 

*

**

*

***

**

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

?

****

***

*

*

?

*

***

*

**

Desirability to cost ratio

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

*****

*

*****

Signature

N

Y

N

ES

ES

N

ES

Y

ES

Y/N

 

 


Fig. 25. Faun a la Diaule et Danseuse (Bloch 306)



Fig. 26. Deux Figures (Bloch 309)

 

Let’s give a name to the artistic style of this wonderful etching, Deux Figures (Fig. 26, Bloch 309): how about Geometric? Since the time of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, in which Picasso carved space as if with a knife, with a result more akin to a misshapen geode than any habitable room we’ve ever entered, numerous novel iterations of this signature style formed the substrate of many of his best works. Though the term Cubist is often applied to these styles, I rather think it is misapplied. In my opinion, the term Cubism is best left to the work that followed hot on the heels of Les Demoiselles and ended with Synthetic Cubism in the ‘teens. The fragmentation of design in that oeuvre is quite different than the many new styles that followed it, though it certainly could be said that the later styles borrowed from it and built upon it.

In the summer and fall of 1938, Picasso explored this form of stylizing space in a number of fine drawings as well as in this single print. The figures included in these works were stylized in the same manner as the background, thereby forcing the viewer to work a little in order to distinguish the figures from their surroundings. In this print, the space is thrust to the fore, and becomes as important to the design as the figures within it.

In a number of his subsequent prints, which tend to be among my favorites, Picasso used variations of the Geometric style for modeling the face and body of his figures, but only rarely for depicting space. Among the wonderful figural representations are one of his Balzac lithographs, the three lithographs of Paloma, and even a ceramic plate, Tete de Chevre au Profil (Bloch 722 and 726-8; Ramie 151—see below).

Table 14. 1938 - 1939

Bloch #

304

305

306

307

308

309

310

316

317

318

Beauty

**

*

*****

****

*****

****

*****

*

****

*

Significance

*

*

****

***

****

****

*****

 

****

 

Rarity

***

***

***

****

*****

***

****

***

**

***

Size

***

**

***

*

*

**

*****

**

*

**

Visibility at a distance

*

*

*

 

***

 

*****

 

 

**

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

*

*

*

***

***

**

*****

*

**

*

Desirability to cost ratio

*

 

*****

 

**

**

 

 

 

 

Signature

N

N

N

Y

N

ES

Y

N

Y

ES


Table 15. 1939-1945

Bloch #

320

321

322

323

324

325

359

362

366

370

374

Beauty

*

***

**

*

*

****

*****

*****

*

*

*

Significance

*

*

**

*

 

****

****

****

 

 

*

Rarity

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

*

*

**

 

Size

**

***

**

**

**

**

***

*

***

*

*

Visibility at a distance

*

*

*

**

**

*****

***

 

*

 

 

Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost

*

?

?

*

*

*

**

*

*

*

*

Desirability to cost ratio

 

 

 

 

 

****

***

*****

 

 

 

Signature

ES

N

N

ES

ES

P

N

P

N

N

N

 


Fig. 27. Contrée (Bloch 362)


Judging by the paintings and drawings of this period, the remarkable print above represents Dora Maar. Of Picasso's three mistresses at the time, Dora was on the wane. In this portrait, Picasso seems to have conflated her visage with his beloved dog's snout. Goeppert and Cramer write that this print likely represents an embracing couple. It however is clear to me that, apart from the possible snout, a single woman is depicted from the front and back simultaneously in yet another novel iteration of Picasso's cubist-surrealist style. This figure is afforded sculptural volume by the many fine linear flourishes with which he endowed her unique anatomy.

This masterwork served as the frontispiece of book of poems written by his friend, Robert Desnos. The year of publication was wartime, and the poetry was a call to arms. The final poem included the prophetic statement, "Vivants, ne craignez rien de moi, car je suis mort (Have no fear of me, living onces, for I am dead)", for the Gestapo arrested Desnos for his involvement in the French Resistance, just before the publication of the book. He died 15 months later in captivity at the Nazi concentration camp Terezin. Timothy Adès, who has translated the poems (see http://www.bcla.org/tc2002/ades.htm ), has provided the following comments:

"Contrée (in print from May 31, 1944) appeared a month after Desnos had left the Royallieu camp at Compiègne [for Auschwitz; from there he was marched to Buchenwald, Flossenburg, and Flöha, where he worked as a slave labourer making aircraft parts; he died at Terezin]; so the poet never saw the collection in print. Contrée was published … at a time when Desnos often talked to Picasso, and was writing about him…. The title Contrée denotes both the various places visited in each poem (because it can mean something like Back Country) and the effect of 'countering', more or less by stealth, an enemy whose defeat is proclaimed: 'I have wished your death and there is nothing that can delay it.' The allusions multiply. Here is denunciation: 'on a yellow poster the word in black letters, plague;' the voice declaring 'the beautiful season is near;' and the poet's anticipatory epitaph, his refusal to give in: 'I lived intact, but I was prey.' Classic in form, and drawing on mythology, the poems were able to pass the censor; and their philosophy of human destiny puts into a wider context various topical allusions which those in the know could understand."




Previous Chapter   |   Table of Contents   |   Next Chapter



Home | Catalogue | Collecting Picassos | Print Registry | About Us | Contact Us


Ledor Fine Art
Berkeley, CA; USA
Phone: (510) 845-3121 FAX: (510) 898-0900
kobi@ledorfineart.com