Pablo Picasso, ‘Frontispiece, from: El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz’, 1939, Christie's

Without watermark, signed in pencil twice, inscribed Bon à tirer and y para Gustavo Gili, dated le 3.10.69., a rare signed proof before the unsigned edition of 263 published by Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 1969, printed after the steel-facing of the plate, the full sheet, with deckle edges at left and right, in very good condition, framed.
Plate 348 x 245 mm., Sheet 461 x 360 mm.

"Estampas de la Cometa: Prints from the archive of Editorial Gustavo Gili

The fine art print is discussed almost exclusively in terms of the artist’s creative process, perhaps with a fleeting reference to the master printer. But the publisher’s central role, not only as financer and facilitator, but as creative catalyst, is often overlooked. The Gili family have been involved in the publishing of fine art prints and livres d’artiste for generations, and a study of the works from their archive together with a selection of rarely seen letters and photographs on loan for the pre-sale exhibition, provides a fascinating insight into the intellectual and creative stimulus of their collaborations with the artists they have worked with, which in some cases lasted for decades.

Established in Barcelona in 1902 by the consummate entrepreneur and bibliophile Gustau Gili Roig (1868-1945), Editorial Gustavo Gili first specialised in Spanish translations of French, German and Italian scientific and technical manuals. These early publications reveal an astute sense of the market, indispensable for any successful publisher, and exceptional production values, with elegant typography and exquisitely designed covers. Over the course of the following decades the publisher became increasingly associated with the literary and visual arts, first under the imprint Ediciones de la Cometa, which was later called Estampas de la Cometa. These publishing endeavours were continued and consolidated by two successive generations of the Gili family and, under the auspices of Gustau Gili Esteve (1906-1992), Editorial Gustavo Gili would collaborate with the great artists of the day, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, to produce some of its most highly sought-after livres d’artiste.

The genre of the livre d’artiste, or artist’s book, had emerged in the late 19th century amongst a new generation of bibliophiles and publishers who sought to re-imagine text and image in a radical way: by commissioning artists, not illustrators, to visually respond to the text, not defer to it. This approach was enthusiastically taken up by the 20th century avant-garde, and the role of the publisher was crucial in connecting artists with like-minded writers or existing texts. The correspondence between Joan Miró and Gustau Gili Esteve, which continued for over a decade and culminated in the publication of Càntic del Sol (1975), reveals this dynamic exchange. In a missal dated 13/IX/60 Miro thanks Gili for sending him books on the 13th century Franciscan scholar Ramón Llull. Although Miró responded with enthusiasm, the texts do not seem to have inspired him. Then in a letter dated 23/I/1963 Miró refers to a translation into Catalan of Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun by the poet Josep Carner (1884-1970), which Gili had introduced him to. Miró was electrified and went on to describe his conception for a book which would parallel the architecture of a cathedral, ‘with typography, both elegant and austere… like the columns that support the nave…, contrasting with the richness of Saint Francis’s vision, and the illumination from the **stained-glass windows that I envisage for my illustrations’. After production of the Cantic del Sol had begun in earnest in 1969, Miró wrote to Gili again to commend him on the early proofs, ‘The book has begun well, with a perfect understanding of technique and composition’, before detailing the changes which he wished to be made.

The rapport and trust revealed in these letters took many years to nurture and often a great deal of persistence and determination. In many cases these professional relationships matured into friendships. This was certainly the case with Picasso over the work on La Tauromaquia which was first commissioned by Gustau Gili Roig in 1926 before being interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. In 1956 the project was revived by his son Gustau Gili Esteve, who, three decades later, persuaded Picasso to revisit the idea. Their friendship gave rise not only to one of the artist’s best known livre d’artistes but also preserved the artist’s links with the city of Barcelona, an important factor in the establishment of the Picasso Museum in the city in 1963. Under the leadership of Esteve’s son Gustau Gili Torra (1935-2008), the focus of the publishing house shifted away in the 1960’s and 70’s from livre d’artiste towards the production of print series, a change signified by the renaming of the company to Estampas de la Cometa. These print collaborations, firstly with Joan Miró and then with a new generation of artists, were mostly made in intaglio, a medium able to encompass the gestural, textured surfaces of works by artists such as Antoni Tàpies, Hans Hartung and Antonio Saura, as well as the baroque delicacy of Lucio Fontana, and the austere formalism of Eduardo Chillida. But there was versatility too, as can be seen in the embracing of the conceptual collective Equipo Crónica. Adopting the language of Pop Art, these darkly humorous screenprints and multiples turned revered Spanish cultural icons into the day-glow parlance of popular culture; a satirical quip against the repressive nationalism of the Franco regime.

Gili Torra’s interest in reaching a wider audience outside of the literary and artistic elites, was reflected in the publishing of a series of small format monographs under the title Colección Nueva Órbita (1965-1973), a publication specifically aimed at a new and younger readership. Highlighting developments in contemporary art, each edition focused on a single artist, and included informative essays, photographs and an original print. Although intended for a mass market, the same attention to production values were applied, with Lucio Fontana writing in February 1966 ‘The cover for my book is very pretty, well done’. The letters from this period express the same collegiate warmth between the artists and Gili Torra which had characterised earlier generations of the firm.

Including almost all the prints published by Editorial Gustavo Gili during its heyday as a fine art publisher from 1959 to 1977, mostly in bon à tirer impressions and rare proofs, this sale offers a unique insight into a highpoint of fine art publishing in Spain in the 20th century."

From the Catalogue:
don’t get dressed up in gold or sequins if you’re cold put on the garb of nakedness
with grape leaves and begin to dance because today is Sunday.
(Picasso, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, translation by Jerome Rothenberg, 2004)

…at six began the dance of all the old retainers of the houses castles railroad stations taverns bakeries and tailor shops and priests and barbers serving girls for fancy ladies nursemaids road gangs – all the girls from two weeks old to forty something years decked out with roses and carnations…
(Picasso, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, translation by Jerome Rothenberg, 2004)

Picasso’s poem El Entierro de Conde de Orgaz (The Burial of the Count of Orgaz) was written over a period of two years from 1957 to 1959 at a time of renewed interest in his Spanish past. Taking the title from El Greco’s painting in the church of San Tomé, Toledo, the poem is written in Spanish in an unpunctuated, Joycian style, that draws upon the sights and sounds of Picasso’s Andalusian childhood. Ten years later, when Picasso suggested to Gustavo Gili that he publish the poem, Picasso chose one engraving from 1939, and fifteen etchings made between 1966-67 to accompany the text. In Picasso’s etchings, El Greco’s ecstatic vision of saints and angels is transformed into a ribald procession of fleshy nudes and hoary voyeurs, of circus performers, and the artist and model.

Only a deluxe suite of twelve copies, comprising twelve plates without text, were signed by the artist. The book edition of 263 was signed on the justification alone. This set of signed bon à tirer impressions aside from the suite of twelve, include all sixteen plates, with the three additional aquatints (lots 92-94) and one engraving (lot 74) excluded from the deluxe edition.
—Courtesy of Christie's

Christie's Special Notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Bloch 1465; Baer 667B; see Cramer Books 146

Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona.

About Pablo Picasso

A prolific and tireless innovator of art forms, Pablo Picasso impacted the course of 20th-century art with unparalleled magnitude. Inspired by African and Iberian art and developments in the world around him, Picasso contributed significantly to a number of artistic movements, notably Cubism, Surrealism, Neoclassicism, and Expressionism. Along with Georges Braque, Picasso is best known for pioneering Cubism in an attempt to reconcile three-dimensional space with the two-dimensional picture plane, once asking, “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” Responding to the Spanish Civil War, he painted his most famous work, Guernica (1937), whose violent images of anguished figures rendered in grisaille made it a definitive work of anti-war art. “Painting is not made to decorate apartments,” he said. “It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Picasso’s sizable oeuvre includes over 20,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, theater sets, and costume designs.

Spanish, 1881-1973, Malaga, Spain, based in Paris and Mougins, France