Pablo Picasso, ‘Le Repas Frugal’, 1904, David Tunick, Inc.

Aside from a small experimental etching executed in 1899, Le Repas Frugal represents Picasso’s first venture into the print medium. In 1904 Picasso returned from Barcelona to Paris, after leaving a year earlier due to a lack of money. Le Repas Frugal reflects his own impoverished state as well as that of other artists and poets who lived near him on the rue Ravignan in Montmartre. Such was his financial situation that Le Repas Frugal was etched on a piece of zinc previously used by another artist.

The subject derives from a late nineteenth century tradition of café scenes, but is given a modernist interpretation by Picasso. Works by Impressionists such as Degas’ Absinthe Drinkers portray bourgeois patrons drinking alone or in pairs in a more stylized setting. Picasso amplifies the figures’ detachment and forsakes the pretty middle-class café for the grittiness of the impoverished urban life that he himself was experiencing. Picasso created Le Repas Frugal in September 1904, when it first was published by Eugène Delâtre, but only 30 impressions were pulled, and the print did not meet with much commercial success. In 1913 Ambrose Vollard steel-faced and published Le Repas Frugal along with thirteen other prints Picasso created in 1904/05. Entitled Les Saltimbanques the series reflects Picasso’s increasing preoccupation with circus performers and harlequins.

An extraordinarily rich impression of Picasso’s most important print from the Blue Period.

Bloch 1; Baer 2 II b 2/c, before the cancellation of the plate, possibly an early proof between the 1904 and 1912 Vollard edition for the Saltimbanques suite; less likely, but possibly Baer II 2, from among the proofs before steelfacing sold by Sagot after the edition of 30

Private collection, U.S.A.;
And by descent (until 2013); to
Private collection, U.S.A.

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