Picasso and Printmaking

Picasso Print Breaks the $5 Million Barrier

  I guess it paid off to stick it in their evening sale.  Yes, folks, last night’s La femme qui pleure, I at Christie’s NY went for $5,122,500, thereby setting the world’s record for a print by any artist.  It also more than doubled the previous record for a Picasso print at auction, an unsigned impression of La Minotauromachie at just under $2M last year in London.  Wait just a minute—I have to stop and catch my breath….


As we know, Picasso was the most prolific artist of all time, and also the artist with by far and away the largest number of styles. But an observation that has not been widely addressed is that he also portrayed a truly vast number of different themes. More often than not, the themes he portrayed tended toward the mundane, and, in so doing it he turned the quotidian into the sublime. It’s amusing to reflect that the most high-brow artist of our times reveled in low-brow scenes. Sure, there was the occasional series of musketeers and nobility. But most subjects tended toward the everyday and everyman. Picasso is definitely by, of, and for the masses. A review of his oeuvre reminds …


Picasso’s Illustrated Books Exhibition

For any of you Picasso illustrated book fans, if you ever plan on visiting the Bay Area, the next several months might be a good time to do so. You could see the small but wonderful show of some of Picasso’s illustrated books currently on view at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco, through September 3rd. It features some of his best, rarest, and priciest illustrated books. Short on quantity but couldn’t be longer on quality. Just fantastic! While you’re there, you wouldn’t want to miss the magnificent still life oil and a plaster sculpture in the permanent collection upstairs. And if you still have time to spare, you could always take in the Monet show…. Also, the …

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Ceramics Hound

I very much appreciate your website, and blogs. I am interested in how much of your personal interest falls to Picasso’s ceramics, Edition or original, as opposed to his other works. I collect Edition Ceramics, exclusively at this point. -William G.

Mouse Stew

I’ve got a bad habit of going way out on a limb in advising my current and prospective clients what art to buy and what to avoid. It’s a time-consuming process, yet I only occasionally succeed in my efforts to alter anyone’s tastes or collecting proclivities. And lately I’ve begun questioning whether or not I should even bother, given the low likelihood of success and the high likelihood of (unintentionally) offending. The following is a classic example of how such a line of reasoning crashed and burned. It regards a discussion I fell into about a couple of prints a collector had purchased years ago from Picasso’s illustrated book La Tauromaquia (1959, Bloch 950-976). I have a strong distaste for …

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Artist’s Proofs

Question: Can you tell me something about the fact that [the print in which I’m interested] is one of the artist’s proofs? Does that mean that because it isn’t numbered it is of less value than the rest of the edition? -Judith C. Response: Most of Picasso’s prints were released in editions of 50, with a small number (usually 5 to 20) artist’s proofs. An edition of 50 would be numbered 1/50 to 50/50 by a hand other than Picasso’s. Whereas the artist’s proofs bore no numbers, they were usually inscribed with the words “epreuve d’artiste”, also by another hand. There are certainly no hard and fast rules about the relative value of artist’s proofs. Some dealers will accord a …

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The Determinants of the Relative Value of Prints

Question: Maybe you can help me understand why one print could be $95k and another could be $2k—is it all rarity? —Luke P. Response: Supply certainly influences demand, but it is not the only factor. A print’s price is also determined by the demand for that particular print, the richness of the impression (of the inked plate, block, or stone on the paper), the condition of the print, the size of the print, its colorfulness, and the presence of a signature. The demand for a given print is largely determined by the quality of the design, but is also subject to other prevailing preferences in the marketplace. For example, in Picasso prints, female portraiture generally commands a higher price than …

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Just like every significant museum with an interest in modern European art, even a collector as richly endowed as Norton Simon hoarded Picasso prints (and Rembrandts and Goyas) like they were going out of style. He acquired 710 Picasso prints but only five Picasso paintings. (Print dealers such as ourselves can only admire that ratio!) Presumably, he didn’t do it because, unlike many print collectors, prints were the only Picassos he could afford, but rather because the print medium, especially in the hands of Picasso, the greatest print innovator of all time, gave rise to unique and breathtakingly beautiful artistic expressions. The interesting essay on Mr. Simon’s approach to print collecting by Gloria Williams in Picasso, Graphic Magician: Prints from …


Investment-Grade Picasso Prints

Question [paraphrased from a phone conversation]: Could you recommend those works in your catalogue which in particular would have the maximal future appreciation? -Daniella R. Response: I readily agree with your comment on the phone that not all Picassos are “created equal”, shall we say. Though many Picasso prints are truly masterworks, some clearly are not. The point is that, just like the stock market, the Picasso market already takes such factors into consideration when arriving at a valuation of each of his works. Furthermore, all of his works seem to appreciate in parallel. Provided that the price is right to begin with, appreciation is to be expected across the board. The nice thing about this is that a collector …

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A Reader’s Thoughts on Picasso’s Prints

Some of my thoughts on Picasso and his early printmaking (1907-1966). It is obvious that he could draw exceptionally well, so all his distortions must be deliberate, willful, and with a specific purpose. As with all great artists he looked back to the origins of the European tradition of art, namely the Greeks. These were discovered during the 14th century Renaissance and lead to an explosion of art in the depiction of the human form as nature dictated, Giotto, DaVinci, Michelangelo, Rubens, and later the Northern Renaissance, Durer, Rembrandt, etc.). But Picasso wanted to go into another direction! As a draftsman he was influence by his father and the Spanish tradition. He was acquainted with El Greco, Velasquez, Goya, etc. …

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