These three original linocuts are printer’s proofs for “Jacqueline au Chapeau à Fleurs I (Bloch 1076).” Created in 1962, these prints depict Picasso’s new bride Jacqueline Roque wearing a flowered hat. Jacqueline and Picasso were married in 1961. Picasso was 79, and Jacqueline was 34.
These linocuts show Picasso’s process as he experiments with color and composition. The first linocut of black and caramel is in the print’s first state. It is dated “23.2.62” and annotated recto at the bottom by Picasso’s printmaker Hidalgo Arnéra. It is signed verso “Linogravure Originale de Picasso H. Arnéra.” It is a printer’s proof aside from the edition of fifty. The second print of caramel and white is also from the print’s first state. There is no edition of caramel and white - only one or two proofs. It is also signed verso “Linogravure Originale de Picasso H. Arnéra.” The third linocut of brown, beige and caramel is from the print’s second state. Again, there is no edition of brown, beige and caramel. All three linocuts are from the collection of Hidalgo Arnéra.
Linocuts form a relatively small part of Picasso’s oeuvre as a printmaker, however some of his most outstanding compositions were produced using this method in a short burst of activity between 1958 and 1963. It was a combination of geographic necessity and artistic curiosity which led the artist, at the age of 78, to turn away from etching and lithography – hitherto his favourite means of graphic expression – and take up the linocut technique.
Picasso had left Paris with Jacqueline Roque in 1958, dividing his time between Villa La Californie at Cannes and his newly acquired property Château de Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence. A major practical drawback of this move was the delayed communications with the printing studios in Paris. There plates could be proofed and returned within a matter of hours; now it took days.
Picasso’s first involvement with linocut printing had been rather casual. In 1952 he had produced a series of simple posters for the potters of Vallauris, a village in the hills above Cannes. Six years later he engaged with the technique more intensively when, working with the young printer Hidalgo Arnéra, he re-imagined Lucas Cranach the Elder’s sober Portrait of a Young Girl. The resulting print is astonishing, but Picasso found the process too labor-intensive and complicated, as it required the cutting and registering of six different color blocks to be printed precisely one on top of the other.
When Picasso returned to linocut printing a few years later he had come up with an extraordinary solution to this technical problem: rather than use separate blocks for each color, he printed the whole image from just one block in the so-called ‘reduction’ method. The block was printed in the lightest color, then cut further and printed successively from the lighter to the darker colors. While making the task of registration much simpler, it required a tremendous power of imagination to foresee how each change in the block would impact on the composition as a whole. It was precisely the kind of artistic experiment which Picasso enjoyed and he embraced the challenge wholeheartedly and playfully.
The Arnera Collection, Vallauris