Picasso, the Prodigious Printmaker, Arrives at McClain Gallery in Houston

Sep 16, 2016 7:06PM

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) is among the rare artists whose fame transcends the art world. Upon hearing his name, you might think of such masterworks as his breakout Cubist painting of five fierce prostitutes, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), or Guernica (1937), his searing portrayal of the horrors of war (in this case, the Spanish Civil War). His name may also trigger thoughts of his well-documented womanizing, his fascination with African, Oceanic, and Iberian art, and his enormous influence on the course of 20th-century art, which continues to resonate today.

“Despite the frequent exposure and familiarity, Picasso’s oeuvre retains its power to startle and to seduce,” writes Gary Tinterow, a leading Picasso scholar and director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “[H]is inventiveness remains inexhaustible.”

Tinterow’s affirmation highlights the foreword to a catalog accompanying “Imagining Backwards: Seven Decades of Picasso Master Prints,” a new retrospective of the artist’s prints at McClain Gallery in Houston. Picasso was, after all, a prodigious draftsman and printmaker. The wide-ranging show features more than 50 of his prints from 1905 to 1970—aquatints, lithographs, linocuts, and drypoints on an impressive array of paper.

Picasso drew and printed for various reasons: as an end in itself, to work out ideas for his paintings and sculptures, and to work through his own demons. His prints often feature images of the women he loved, filtered through his memories and imagination.

Sculpture, Head of Marie Thérèse, a complex drypoint from 1933, blossoms with the head of his lover du jour, a young woman named Marie-Thérèse Walter. Picasso captured her face with sweeping circular shapes, transforming her visage into a semi-abstract vision of accumulated parts. Her lips—soft and delicate amid bold, overlapping forms—are the most naturalistically depicted element in this sculptural rendering.

Shortly after this drypoint, Picasso produced Sculptor and Kneeling Model (1933), an intimate, delicately rendered etching. The scene of repose is filled with eroticism, art, and the human form—the things that fueled Picasso throughout his long, prolific life.

—Karen Kedmey

Imagining Backwards: Seven Decades of Picasso Master Prints” is on view at McClain Gallery, Houston, Sept. 13–Oct. 29, 2016.

Follow McClain Gallery on Artsy.