What Makes Guernica Picasso’s Most Influential Painting
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE WEST COAST COLLECTOR
Signed in pencil, numbered 44/50, published by Galerie Louis Leiris, Paris, with full margins, the colors fresh, in very good condition, framed
Image: 20 7/8 x 25 ¼ in. (530 x 641 mm.)
Sheet: 24 ½ x 29 5/8 in. (622 x 752 mm.)
From the Catalogue: Whenever I have something to say, I have said it in a manner in which it ought to be said. Different motives require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress, but an adaptation of the idea one wants to express, and the means to express that idea. (Pablo Picasso, The Arts, New York, 1923)
A peculiar mixture of geographic necessity and artistic curiosity led Picasso, at the age of 78, to turn away from etching and lithography, hitherto his favorite means of graphic expression, and take up linocutting, a technique he had all but ignored. Although linocuts were to form a relatively small part of Picasso's output as a printmaker (approximately 150 images from a total exceeding 2000), he was to produce some of his most outstanding compositions by this method, in a short burst of activity from 1958 to 1963.
Together with Jacqueline Rocque, Picasso left Paris in 1958 and moved permanently to the South of France, dividing his time between 'La Californie' at Cannes, and the newly acquired Chteau de Vauvenargues, near Aix-en-Provence. In spite of the natural benefits of his new environment, a major practical drawback of this move was the delay in communicating with the ateliers in Paris. There plates could be proofed and returned within hours. Now it took days, and robbed Picasso of direct contact with his printers.
Up to this point, Picasso's involvement with linocutting had been rather casual. He produced a series of simple posters for the village of Vallauris above Cannes, starting with La Chèvre (Bloch 1257) in 1952. Six years later, he engaged with it more intensely. Working with a young printer from Vallauris named Arnénra, he attacked an interpretation of Lucas Cranach the Younger's Portrait of a Young Girl. The result was astonishing, given Picasso's relative inexperience, but he found the exercise deeply frustrating, because of difficulties in registering six different blocks precisely, one on top of the other.
The present work is a direct result of Picasso's attempts to overcome these frustrations, and embody his response to the possibilities the new medium displayed. In the process, Picasso re-invented the technique of linocutting. Rather than use separate blocks, he printed from just one; the so-called 'reduction' method. The uncarved block was printed in one flat color, and then cut and printed in each successive color, until in many cases there was little left of the original block. Whilst making the task of registration much simpler, it required tremendous foresight to know how each change in the block would affect the composition as a whole, and provided very little margin for error. After experimenting with five small Corridas (Baer 1219-1223), his first major excursion with this new technique was Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (Baer 1287), the largest and most elaborate of five treatments of Manet's masterpiece, followed shortly thereafter by the present work, Nature morte sous au Verre la Lampe (Baer 1312). In both compositions we see Picasso reveling in the new medium. He relished particularly the physical act of cutting and slicing the linoleum, a matrix which encourages fluid, dynamic strokes. Evident also is the enthusiasm with which he employed the broad areas of opaque color peculiar to this technique.
In 1964, the Crommelynck brothers settled in nearby Mougins, and established a fully equipped printmaking workshop. After compressing a lifetime's innovation into a few short years, Picasso returned to his etching press.
"Formerly it had been thought that lithography and etching were more noble than the linoleum cut. But just as he had expanded these processes he now enriched - no, created - a medium earlier considered a poor relation of graphic art." (Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, Sixty Years of Graphic Works, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1966). —Courtesy of Christie's
Bloch 1101; Baer 1312
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
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