Picasso Linoleum Cut Collection (1962): Women, Bulls & Bullfighters

Over the last 11 years, I have on multiple occasions been fortunate to locate, acquire, and view the original Picasso linocuts as they were so stunningly produced in 1962. Between 1958 and 1961 Picasso made many linocuts, a process that he found hugely stimulating. Picasso invented the ‘reduction’ method, progressively cutting the same linoblock for each new colour, making it impossible to take any further prints from the original plates. In 1962, in collaboration with Picasso and Galerie Louise Leiris, new linoleum plates were made at 42% of the original size, and it was from these that the prints I'm speaking of, that we recently acquired, were produced. 

It has been suggested that Picasso began drawing bullfighters and bullfights as early as his pre-teen years. Back in 2008 when we acquired a special collection of lithographs produced from Picasso's most famous painting, Guernica, you could see similar illustration styles work their way into other themes of his work. At that time, rather than depict the horrors of war in detail, he mythologized them in his painting, often by referring significantly to the elements of the bullfight. In his later years, he was often the guest of honor at the weekly bullfight in Vallauris.

But it was not until he delved into the linocut medium that he developed the highly stylized form that characterizes the bullfight series of 1959. In so doing, Picasso took the ritualized combat between man and beast that is the bullfight a step further and immortalized it in this series of linocuts as the "dance of death". The series is comprised of several wonderful artworks in black and shades of brown, but this one is the most beautiful because of its striking coloration. For its creation, Picasso took the linoleum plate which he had printed in three colors (black, brown and caramel), possibly earlier that same summer's day, and pulled it again, this time using these brilliant red and yellow.

The following paragraphs come from the introduction by Wilhelm Boeck to the production and gathering of this collection (which includes the one 1958 linocut, and all of those from 1959, as produced in 1962). And, if you are interested in collecting fine works from Picasso, these are some of the most richly produced, color-accurate productions in existence of his linocuts. Again, the following paragraphs are from Boeck, mostly written in the present tense:

"The resurgence of bullfighting in Arles and Nîmes, after the war, brought back to Picasso's mind early yet astonishingly accurate memories, and these became the main theme of the linoleum cuts produced in the fall of 1959. For many years Picasso had not seen bullfights in Spain, since he scrupulously adheres to his vow not to visit that country [as long as the fascists remain in power]. The subject matter of thecorrida began again to exert its influence on the artist in the late 1940s, when he made lithographs and painted ceramics reflecting this theme. In 1954, after the town of Vallauris, France, permitted bullfights under a revised set of rules that do not allow the actual killing of the animal, the dramatic events in the arena acquired greater importance in his work. Jacqueline Roque, who entered his life at this time and became his favorite model and friend (she became Madame Picasso in 1961), was as passionate as he about bullfights; the subject became a creative obsession with Picasso. His devotion to bullfighting was further deepened in 1957 when he was commissioned to illustrate the classic work on the subject, the Tauromaquia by Pepe Illo. The world of the plaza de toros, to which the artist had gained access in his youth in exchange for drawings, was to assert itself for many years. The India ink drawings of bullfight scenes done in 1959 and 1960 bring us to the linoleum cuts, particularly since brown appears as a second color in some of the drawings, foreshadowing its later importance.

In his later years, Picasso's thoughts have dwelt more and more on his native country. His intense fondness for Spain was not reflected solely in his growing predilection for bullfights and in his occasional, somewhat playful assumption of disguises in Spanish costume; it was also a guiding force in his purchase of the Vauvenargues castle in September 1958. The austerity of the castle's historic architecture and the solitude of its wooded surroundings contributed indeed to the reawakening of youthful memories and the strengthening of the Spanish flavor of the works Picasso produced there. This character is apparent in their typical color schemes and strong contrasts....

A group of bullfight scenes...leads to renewed attempts to give aesthetic vitality to plain, unmodeled surfaces. The scene depicted is always the same: a mounted picador attacking the bull with his lance.... The formal contrasts between the figures and the background against which they stand, should be compared with the following red and yellow bullfight scene, Plate 5. The power of the latter print is generated by the balanced interplay of figures and background, in a positive-negative way. Neither figures nor background have spatial dominance; they carry their own complementary, abstract value. The highly imaginative distortions of bull, horse, and picador, permitting a clear vision of the fighting man with the cape, have been subjected to a balanced surface movement of opposing colors."

— Wilhelm Boeck

I consider us fortunate to have acquired two of these collections after a nearly seven-year absence from our collections since selling out back in 2008. Most recently these linocuts were also made available by the Goldmark Gallery in the UK where a traveling exhibition of these works took place in late 2014 where visitor's could acquire the works with the lowest priced images starting at £350 each. 

Available for pre-order from December 11th to December 17th here. All orders will ship on December 18th, 2015. 

Troy Ylitalo, CEO & President, Period Paper  

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