About Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso photo
Pablo Picasso

Today at the beginning of the 21st-century, few can doubt that the foremost artist of the preceding century was Pablo Picasso. His genius encompassed many different media, but his approach remained the same; choosing to work only in those techniques that held a fascination for him, he would master the basic rules governing the medium and then innovate, employing his own ideas. A superb draftsman, Picasso could convey with an economy of line more then many great artists could accomplish in a finished painting. This ability enabled him to work in the many styles with which we now associate him including those of his famous Blue, Rose, Cubist and Neo-Classical periods.

It should come as no surprise that the greatest painter of the 20th Century was also its finest printmaker, yet the length and breadth of Pablo Picasso's graphic oeuvre is startling indeed. He was especially attracted to etching as a vehicle for his imagery and turned to this technique frequently throughout his career. Following an extended trip to Italy in 1917, Picasso turned away from the austerity of Cubism and once again took up the representation of the human form. Gradually this developed into the style referred to as Neo-Classical, among the most famous examples of which are the one hundred compositions in etching that comprise La Suite Vollard. The imagery depicted in this important series relates to the artist's infatuation with mythology and the specific themes of the Embrace, Rembrandt, the Studio of the artist (sculptor) and the Minotaur (a symbol of the artist and his personal conflicts). These etchings, which range in technique from dry-point to aquatint, were created by Picasso at the renowned atelier of Lacouriere, Paris from 1930–36 and demonstrate a remarkable technical evolution and achievement on the part of the artist.

Picasso's color linocuts executed in the late 1950's–early 1960's, at the height of his prodigious career, are considered the crowning achievement of his graphic work as the reduction technique he invented was a major breakthrough in color printmaking. The process involves engraving (carving) an image on the block of linoleum, inking it and printing it through the edition (normally 50 and a few proofs). Then, with each successive color, Picasso carved deeper into the linoleum, effectively destroying the block while creating the print. Picasso, by layering the colors, took what had been a monochromatic medium and made it richly colored. Yet, he was not through innovating in this medium calculating that by painting a sheet of paper with a black ink wash then inking and printing the linocut in a light color the black ink wash would appear in the finished image where he had carved his line. Compositions created in this fashion came to be referred to as Rincées and were, by their very nature, one-of-a-kind impressions. This technique was especially appropriate for realistic, psychological portraits such as the magnificent portrayal of the artist's wife, Portrait De Jacqueline De Profil. This work is further distinguished by a two color ink wash, both the usual black and a special red, which, in combination with the creamy white inking of the linocut, create an opalescent effect. Picasso realized only about 200 different images in color linocut; they have now become rare icons of modern art. The key subjects he chose to portray in linocut were classic Picasso: female heads and figures, bacchanals, bullfights and still lifes.