Femme Nue Pechant des Truites à la Main

Nude Fishing for Trout by Hand

Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
April 22, 1962 and February 9, 1963
Medium: Linocut printed in taupe and black
Provenance: The Picasso estate; Marina Picasso Collection (bears her oval stamp on back)
Dimensions: Print 530 x 641 mm, 20 7/8 x 25 1/4″; sheet 622 x 756 mm (24 1/2 x 29 3/4″)
Signature: The entire edition is unsigned.
References: Baer 1327, First State (not in Bloch or Kramer)
Edition: An impression from the total edition of 68 unnumbered and unsigned proofs. Printed by Arnéra in 1963. The edition was not published but rather remained in Picasso’s estate. Despite its edition size, this linocut has rarely surfaced in the market in the last 20 years, leading one to surmise that most of the edition has not survived. (Only the first state was editioned. Three proofs were pulled of the second state and two of the third state. There was also a single impression of an earlier variant of the first state.)
Paper: Arches
Impression: Fine
Condition: Flawless apart from 2 small soft creases in top right corner at the edge of the margin
Price: Upon request

In the words of John Richardson, arguably Picasso’s premier biographer,

Before he died, Picasso endeavored to cannibalize as much as he could of European art. He sent for slides of old and not-so-old masters, and had Jacqueline project them on one of his studio walls. And they would all spend evenings dissecting Rembrandt’s Night Watch or van Gogh’s Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat. Rembrandt inspired a whole new cast of characters, cavaliers and musketeers. And van Gogh’s self-portrait inspired some of Picasso’s self-portraits. (J. Richardson, Picasso: Magic, Sex, Death, lectures on DVD, 2003, 2nd DVD)

In addition those artists’ paintings, Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on the Grass), is a specific painting that seemed to have taken up a lot of Picasso’s thought. In fact, Manet’s painting preoccupied him for 2 ½ years, between 1960 and 1962, with numerous resultant drawings (almost 200, as I recall), some paintings, several prints, and even a ceramic. One of these prints, Bloch 1027 (March 13, 1962) is very colorful and rather celebrated, having broken the six figure mark already in 1999, but, for once, I prefer some of the related linocuts in shades of brown. In fact, I’m not so fond of most of the results of this series in any medium. I would hold up three prints as exceptions to the rule, and of these I’m exceedingly fond. They are somewhat more loosely related to the theme than most, being portraits of just the bather in Manet’s  background. Whereas I find the full-blown depictions of the four picnickers to be rather tedious and lacking in compositional harmony, the portraits of the bather strike me as very charming. Though she’s not exactly bathing in most of Picasso’s takes. She may not even have been in Manet’s–it’s not entirely clear what he had her doing–but she certainly wasn’t pissing, as she is in some of Picasso’s drawings. Nor was she picking flowers, as in Femme Nue Cuiellant des Fleurs (Bloch 1092, April 20, 1962), which Brigitte Baer calls a variation of the Manet.  Though Baer does not mention that the next two prints in her catalogue are related to the Manet and therefore in this series, they are of course. These two include the Femme a la Source (Bather at the Spring, Bloch 1093, also dating from April 20), and this linocut, Femme Nue Pechant des Truites a la Main (two days later), which shows a woman pushing her luck trying to catch fish barehanded.

These three linocuts are beautiful and very accomplished works. They depict a female form, bending over in each case, in a wonderfully colossal fashion, looser yet reminiscent of his gargantuan women of the early ‘twenties. In the first, she’s picking flowers. Two days later she’s in a similar pose, but bathing at a spring (Bloch 1093). The trout cavorting at the base of the waterfall in this second print may have inspired the print at hand, Femme Nue Pechant a la Main (Ba 1327), in which she’s turned on the fish.

In this Femme Nue Pechant a la Main, Picasso used a curvaceous line in a charming, spare manner in bringing to life this chubby woman and the fish playing at her feet.  The sweep of her arms and legs and also her torso is a wondrous graphic gesture, yet another Picasso tour de force.   This wondrous style represents another novel iteration of the sweeping lines with which Picasso most famously depicted his muse Marie-Thérèse some 30 years earlier, and it is also related to the masterful brush and ink Femme se Coiffant of 1952 (see elsewhere in this catalog).

In addition to adoring Picasso’s many portrayals of animals and birds, I am also a great fan of Picasso’s depictions of fish.  As in this case, he occasionally managed to imbue them with an imbecilic, sometimes dazed countenance that I find especially charming, not so much in his many ceramics as in his canvases, and in but one other original print (Homards et Poissons, 1949, B582).  Here’s a personal favorite in oil in which the fish display this type of “expression”:

Nature Morte: Poissons et Poêle (1936)