Picasso

© 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pablo Picasso, Portrait d’Homme à la Fraise, Variation d’après El Greco
1962
Linoleum cut printed in colors on watermarked Arches paper
20.75” x 15.75”

Inscribed in pencil by the printer, Hidalgo Arnéra, ‘93’. ‘Epreuve d’essai’ (trial proof) of the definitive form from before the edition of 50. Baer records two to three such impressions. Published by Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris; Printed by Imprimerie Arnéra. Stamped in ink verso ‘Imprimerie Arnéra Archives/Non signé’.
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Linocut
Pablo Picasso relentlessly explored print media; he not only approached printmaking with wild enthusiasm, but also with technical and innovative rigor to perfect each medium. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the audience was fascinated by large sized prints, seduced by their strong and richly inked colors. Picasso, in his 80s at this time, delved into linocuts but was dissatisfied with the tedious and labor-intensive method which required cutting over six different blocks to register color for certain compositions. In 1959, Picasso invented an implied process which revolutionized the method. His later compositions were printed from not six different blocks but from only one with this reduction method. The block was printed in the lightest color, and then cut further as he printed successfully from lighter to darker colors. This intricate process required mental dexterity to foresee how each carving into the block would affect the composition as a whole. This creative liberation resulted in some of the most exceptional and luminous images in Picasso’s oeuvre.

Subject
The timeless impact of Spanish art continues to inspire the art and cultural productions, but its enduring influence is most evident in the works of modern masters such as Picasso, Dali and Miro. Artists would pay homage to the Spanish Masters through series of portraits, and appropriations of their subjects and images. It is well known that El Greco influenced Picasso during his blue period and well into his Cubist experiments. Picasso’s first trip to Madrid at the age of fourteen (1895) exposed him to the works of El Greco. He was particularly fascinated by the dramatic compositions and elongated, distorted figures in El Greco’s later religious paintings, which seemed expressionistic and rather modern for its time. Picasso expressed many direct references to El Greco in his works, including “Greco, Velásquez INSPIRE ME” from 1898, Portrait Head of a Man in El Greco Style from 1899, of a painter after El Greco from 1950. The most incredible formal and stylistic similarities between El Greco’s The Opening of the Fifth Seal and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon demonstrate the continuous influence of El Greco over Picasso’s form and composition. Art historian John Richardson asserts the link between the works, since Picasso might have seen El Greco’s painting in 1902 when he traveled to Madrid to see the El Greco exhibition that year, where he looked for inspiration as he was composing the painting that would shock the world for its stylistic breakthrough.

The present work is one of the most direct expressions of Picasso’s admirations of El Greco. One of the rare trial proofs before the edition of 50, it represents the first sparks of perfection before the edition was published. In his letter to friend Sabastian Junyer Vidal, Picasso reflects on a trip to a museum in Madrid in the winter of 1897, in which he wrote, “[translated] The Museum of paintings is beautiful. Velazquez first class; from El Greco some magnificent heads […].” Interestingly, Picasso depicts the magnificent head of El Greco himself in the linocut. Admiring the Spanish master, more than half a century later from his first glance at El Greco’s masterpieces.