51.
Portrait de jeune fille, d’après Cranach le jeune. I

(Baer 1052 B)

The unpublished first version of the subject

Linoleum cut printed in brown and black, 1958, one of only two impressions, printed in black over mauve-brown (more strongly inked than the other known impression, which is illustrated by Baer);

with

Buste de femme d’après Cranach le jeune [Portrait de jeune fille, d’après Cranach le jeune. II]

(Bloch 859; Baer 1053 and addendum)

Sixteen linoleum cuts, printed in colors, 1958, including an exceptional signed proof of the final state, the most complete existing sequence of progressive proofs, with unique proofs of the yellow, red, blue and black blocks, as well as unique proofs of several of Baer’s superpositions. (The final, signed state is hand-printed, before the edition and without the accidental horizontal black lines which mark all the impressions run on the press for the published edition.)
Picasso first became interested in making linoleum cuts, following his meeting with the young printer, Hildago Arnèra, because the technique appeared to him well suited to the execution of graphic posters.

The artist’s first linoleum cuts were, for this reason, bold but simple images. Once he began to visualize significant multicolor compositions in linoleum cut, the medium became more central to his expression, succeeding in printmaking his work in lithography, which had reached a peak of virtuosity in his 1958–59 portraits of Jacqueline, but which had become frustrating for him to work on by long-distance correspondence with his lithographic printer in Paris, Mourlot.

In his linoleum cuts, as in other mediums, what appealed to Picasso was the exploration and extension of the limits of the technique, and the pleasure of retaining, in visual form, the evolution of a work of art as it developed through the stimulating interplay between concept and means of realization.

This exhibition draws special attention to the vitality and virtuosity of Picasso’s creative process in linoleum cut by showing, for the first time, the most complete sequences of states and variant proofs of the artist’s principal works in the medium, from his first glittering masterwork, Portrait de jeune fille, d’après Cranach le Jeune (checklist no. 51), (which was produced in a multi-block and multi-state process of immense complexity), and including his two major still lifes, of which the first to be completed, Nature morte à la suspension (checklist no. 55), required two blocks and over eight states in many combinations, while the Nature morte au verre sous la lampe (checklist no. 54), building on this experience, was brought to perfect completion in only five states of one block.

Finally, Jacqueline au chapeau à fleurs (checklist no. 56) shows the artist picking up again a work that was already an elegant gem as a two-tone composition and transforming it, by progressive cutting of the same block, into one of his most brilliant multicolor portraits.

This exhibition has been prompted by the confluence of works (proofs and unique sets of states) from two private collections which go back to the time of Picasso’s daily collaboration with his printer, Arnèra, and a selection of prints from the published editions which comes from one of the most important collections of modern prints formed in this century. All of these works are in virtually pristine condition, having been carefully stored since the day of their execution.

Picasso produced linoleum cuts over a period of more than a decade (1952–64), but it is in the years covered by this catalogue that his passion for the medium became most intense. It is our hope that the exhibition will be visually exciting and will illuminate the process and means by which Picasso conquered and transformed this previously humble medium, capitalizing on its potential to distill images of dazzling color and dancing arabesque.

Marc Rosen and Susan Pinsky
September 1998
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