Picasso: The Impassioned Image
June 16-August 20, 2006

One of the best-known artists of the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) left behind a staggering output of works in all media. A prolific and inventive printmaker, Picasso consistently stretched the boundaries of different print media, fueled by his intuitive and instinctive approach to drawing.

Featuring 50 prints and drawings drawn primarily from the SCMA collection with a few outstanding loans, Picasso: The Impassioned Image displays a range of works on paper from all of Picasso’s major periods and styles, highlighting the technical and pictorial innovations that both guided and drove his work.

Picasso was an immensely prolific artist with an intuitive and instinctual appetite for experimentation—two characteristics that made him a successful and fascinating printmaker.  The artist made nearly two thousand prints in his lifetime, with his graphic production spanning the breadth of his career, beginning in 1899 and lasting until his death.  The works that make up the Saltimbanques suite, shown in their entirety in the exhibition, are among Picasso’s earliest prints.  Two other collections included in this exhibition—Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu and selections from the Vollard Suite—represent one of the most productive and creative periods of Picasso’s career as a printmaker.
Picasso experimented with all major print media—etching, engraving, aquatint, drypoint, and woodcut—and later incorporated lithography and linocut into his graphic oeuvre.  He was technically and compositionally adventurous, often creating multiple states, or versions, of a single work to achieve desired results.  The artist would sometimes alter prints so dramatically between states that successive avatars appear completely unrelated.

A select group of master printers also worked with Picasso, introducing him to new techniques and media, channeling and directing his experimental energies, and helping him achieve innovative but often technically complex results.  For his intaglio prints (etchings, engravings, aquatints, and drypoints), he worked with the printers Eugène Delâtre, Louis Fort, and Rogier Lacourière.  Fernand Mourlot was responsible for his lithographic output, and maintained the definitive catalogue, or record, of all the lithographs the artist created in his lifetime.  In 1951, Picasso began to make linocuts (a relief technique using a linoleum block), employing the expertise of the printer Hidalgo Arnéra.

click #3 above
for a larger view


This masterful drawing of a woman’s head, Tête de femme (Head of a Woman), falls squarely into the artist ’s neoclassical period (1918-1925) which was informed by his renewed study of classical art. The drawing was executed during the summer of 1921, a very prolific period of time for Picasso, spent on vacation with his wife Olga and son Paulo in the village of Fontainbleau, southeast of Paris.

Like other images of women of this period, it is difficult to determine the identity of the sitter, although Olga has often been presumed to be the model for many of Picasso’s neoclassical works. The woman’s down turned eyes, and idealized facial features rendered with softly blended chalk, coupled with the rich treatment of her hair which is loosely arranged to tumble over her shoulders, result in a clear picture of the best of Picasso’s work as a draughtsman.