Pablo Picasso, ‘Ovide, Les Métamorphoses. Albert Skira, Lausanne, 1931’, Christie's

With title page, text in French, table of contents and justification, signed in pencil on the justification page, copy 92 of 95 on this paper (from the total edition of 145), loose (as issued), with original printed wrappers, slipcase and portfolio box. 13 x 10 in. (330 x 253 mm.)

From the Catalogue:
Among the etchings of 1930 is the suite he produced for Skira’s edition of the Métamorphoses of Ovid. From Françoise Gillot’s account it seems that Albert Skira, then a young moneyed Swiss with vague ambitions in the publishing line, asked Picasso to illustrate a book about someone – about Napoleon, for instance. Picasso had nothing whatsoever to say to Napoleon. During the summer Skira’s mother waylaid Picasso on the beach at Juan-les-Pins, pleaded her young man’s cause with gentle persistence, and gradually wore down Picasso’s resistance: he hated to see a disappointed face. To give pleasure he would give an amiable but insincere reply; and well-conducted importunity could then extort marvels from his unwilling hand. This time he said that her son should think of ‘a classical author – perhaps something mythological’. By great good luck Skira chanced upon Ovid, and the Metamorphoses Picasso had come by a nodding acquaintance with the poet in the remote La Coruna; he had recently designed a number of works actually called ‘Metamorphoses’; and at that moment he was living on the shore of the classical sea, in a landscape inhabited for him by fauns, satyrs, minotaurs, and even nymphs. He agreed. Back in Paris Picasso withdrew into this ageless retreat and turned out plate after plate with great zeal; and after each plate was done he would reach for a trumpet that he happened to possess, open the window, and blow a blast. Skira, who had taken an office next door, so that now Picasso had his dealer on one side and his publisher on the other, would come running. All these plates were neo-classical outline-drawings that kept closer to Ovid than even his earlier work did to Balzac, both in the letter and in the spirit; and they illustrated the death of Orpheus, the fall of Phaeton, and many other powerful myths with compositions that from a lesser hand would have been a welter of tight-packed limbs but that he imbued with a fine flowering harmony. They are exquisite, and when they were published the next year they were received with great applause’ (Patrick O’Brian , p.285-286).
—Courtesy of Christie's

Bloch 99-128; Baer 143-172; Cramer books 19

Werner Bokelberg Collection

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