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FINE ARTS EXHIBITION: Hommage à Picasso
Spanish painter, printmaker and sculptor, Pablo Picasso, is the most famous artist of the 20th century.
The exhibition, »Hommage à Picasso«, displays 42 of his original prints (etchings, aquatints, lithographies, woodcuts and linocuts) and 71 original prints from other 20th century, world-renowned artists (Joan Miró, Andy Warhol, Victor Vasarely, Frank Stella, Antoni Tápies, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Joseph Beuys, Henry Moore, Hans Hartung, Robert Rauschenberg …). At the initiative of the Austrian art historian and critic, Dr. Wieland Schmied, the artists created the works between 1972 and 1975 for the 90th anniversary of the giants of fine arts.
The exhibition in the Lendava Castle offers an exceptional opportunity to appreciate Picasso’s various phases, as well as those of other fine artists of the 20th century.
Dear art lovers!
The Gallery-Musem Lendava and the municipality of Lendava
kindly invites you and your friends to the opening of the fine arts exhibition with the title
Hommage à Picasso,
which will be held on Friday, 17 April 2015, at 18 h/6 pm at the Lendava Castle.
Welcome speech by Beata Lazar, director of the Gallery–Museum Lendava.
Additional opening speeches: mag. Anton Balažek, Mayor of the Municipality of Lendava and Judita Krivec Dragan, Secretary of the Directorate of Fine Arts at the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.
The exhibition will be opened mag. Breda Škrjanec, an art historian.
The exhibition will be on view until 30 September 2015.
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Hommage to a Legend
In the eyes of the public, Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881 – 1973) is the personification of a modern art genius. The artist is idolized to such an extent that he embodies the entire artistic life of his time and therefore remains forever in humankind’s gallery of memories. He stands there together with titans of the past such as Shakespeare and Beckett, Michelangelo and Rembrandt, Caesar and Napoleon, Galileo and Einstein, etc.
In fact, Picasso was the most famous living artist of his time. Today, forty years after his death, his charisma hasn’t lost its power. His work and personality still fascinate us. The reason for Picasso’s global appeal, because of which crowds of people rush to his exhibitions and buy books about him and his wide-ranging influence, are the remarkable diversity and vitality of his works. He was distinguished mostly as a painter, print maker and sculptor; he mastered a number of creative crafts and was an excellent scenographer. The enormous legacy of his work has not yet been fully cataloged, analyzed, described and presented to the public.
In this context, we are interested in Picasso mainly as a print maker. His graphic work was subdued and conservative compared to the other media he used, so his attitude towards printmaking was very important for the future of graphic images, as Riva Castleman1 has written.
By the end of the 1920s, Picasso’s creativity in printmaking was sporadic. Classical motifs dominated his prints from that era, which is evident in two so-called livre de paintre, that he furnished with etchings, namely from Balzac’s novel, The Unknown Masterpiece, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses2. His first etching was ordered by his agent, Ambroise Vollard, and his second was designed for the publisher, Albert Skira. Classical subjects afforded Picasso freedom in his motifs, which ranged from marvelous nudes to raging horses and bulls.
Let me say a few words about Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece. The 24 prints in the Lendava exhibition, completed in 1931, are from the livre de paintre. Vollard’s original edition contained 13 etchings without texts, 67 woodcuts executed from Picasso’s drawings by George Aubert and 16 pages of reproductions of other intaglio drawings.
Balzac’s novel, The Unknown Masterpiece, developed a narrative about an aged painter, respected and renowned in painting circles, who had been trying for decades to create a masterpiece in his studio, the
image of beauty, which was to be more than just the image of a woman. He wanted to capture her spirit on canvas. This idea obsessed him to such an extent that he began to scorn his other extraordinary works, which were admired by the entire art community. Whenever his colleague, Porbus, and a young painter named Poussin listened to the old man’s passionate and heroic tale about his ultimate work of art, they always heard him say it was still far from complete. When Poussin and Porbus finally saw the artist’s mysterious masterpiece, they were appalled. It seemed to them nothing more than a vague mess of lines, colors and shapes. They made fun of the older painter because they thought their famous friend had gone crazy. They learned the following day that the old painter had died that night, but first he had burned all his paintings.
Vollard’s selection of Balzac’s novel about the painter’s search for the absolute provided Picasso with the possibility of identifying his own dilemma. In one of his letters to his friends, he wrote how he met with a similar amazement from his colleagues when he showed them his revolutionary proto-Cubism masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d’Avigno3.
He made thirteen etchings between 1927 and 1931; their central motif was the artist and his model. Riva Castleman wrote that „the artist works by his easel and before reality4 creates an image that, in its thorough confusion, is reality itself.“ Many people consider these graphics one of the milestones in the history of printmaking.
Picasso’s creativity in printmaking, using classical deep etching techniques and in the neoclassical style, continued until 1937, when he finished the last prints for the so-called Vollard Suite. In April 1937, German airplanes bombed the Spanish Basque capital, Guernica. Picasso rented a studio on Rue des Grands Augustins in Paris, in a house which many believe to have been the scene of Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece. The artist abandoned all other projects and focused on his famous, large canvas, Guernica, which was finished in June of the same year.
The series of 100 graphics for The Vollard Suite5 were made between 1933 and 1937. Thematically the works were a combination of both topics with which the artist had dealt already in the fore-mentioned books, namely mythology and the artist in his studio, and show the author’s inclination towards allegory and a surrealistic interest in the subconscious. The artist, with the help of printing masters, introduced numerous new technical procedures into his prints, for example aquatint and a technique of soft coatings to give the images a more painterly effect.
Picasso’s graphic masterpiece, Minotauromachy, (1935), emerged in that period, etched and engraved, printed and signed in 50 copies. It was issued and published by the artist himself.
Picasso was always open to new approaches, also in his printmaking. After 1940, he discovered lithography. A series of lithographs came forth in [Fernand] Mourlot’s studio in Paris, when the artist discovered the experimental potential of the lithographic process. Numerous variations of the same lithographic themes were produced; one of the most famous was Woman in an Armchair, which exists in 30 different variances.
When he moved to the south of France in the late 1950s, and there where no specialized printmaking studios available for etching or lithography, Picasso was encouraged by the possibility of printing linocuts. He started with a series of experiments, namely by printing coloured linocuts from a single plate. His most famous work from this period is his 1962 coloured linocut, Still Life Under the Lamp.
From the 1950s until his death the artist devoted his work to the emphasis of personal themes and the repetition of existing motifs and compositions. In 1955 he bought the La Californie villa in Cannes, where a series of drawings, graphics and images emerged, connected with motifs from his studio and life in the villa and its surroundings.
It seems as though in his later years Picasso transferred to art those expressions of vitality which had disappeared from his life. This is where his art works, if they were successful, clearly expressed the joy of life, even when they emerged as sketches or croquis. A series of prints from 1957 called Tauromachy is an example of how strongly Picasso’s work was inspired by history, this time after a series of prints by Goya. All Picasso’s etchings or aquatints, respectively, represent precise records of bullfighting scenes, but with a minimum of artistic features.
Let me mention one other series of prints that occupied the artist intensely toward the end of his life, when his main creative concern was to destroy the concept of the finished work. In 1968, 347 printing plates with distinctively erotic content and outright voyeurism appeared in his series, Suite 347. Erotica was more or less covertly present in the artist’s works the entire time, but it was the focal point of this series, something that shatters social taboos.
Picasso died in 1973, aged 92. His printing oeuvre is one of the largest graphic end products of Modernism and encompasses more than 1900 compositions of 25 to 150 copies. Many art historians are in agreement in verifying the importance of his work for the advance of printmaking after World War II. The significance of graphic media development is credited especially to Picasso’s exploratory approach towards working in printmaking techniques and introducing innovations to printing processes.
The fact that the above is true was validated also by the initiative of the Austrian art historian, Wieland Schmied, who managed to attract 69 artists from the entire world to cooperate in the joint project, Hommage to Picasso. Between 1972 and 1975 the artists created graphics in honour of the great master of Modernism. Important works of Picasso’s contemporaries, as well as other artists who marked the development of art after 1945, can be found among them, such as Pierre Alechinsky, Enrico Baj, Joseph Beuys, Pol Bury, Christo, Jim Dine, Dan Flavin, Richard Hamilton, Hans Hartung, David Hockney, Alfred Hrdlicka, Robert Indiana, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Walter de Maria, Roberto Matta, Joan Miró, Robert Motherwell, Eduardo Paolozzi, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Robert Rauschenberg, Emil Schumacher, Frank Stella, Antoni Tàpies, Jean Tinguely, Cy Twombly, Victor Vasarely, Andy Warhol and others.
Each artist produced a print entitled Hommage to Picasso in his own typical style and printing technique, which suited his artistic expression to the greatest extent. These are artists who worked in different styles, such as Surrealism, Art Informel, Tachisme, Abstract Expressionism, Lyrical Abstraction, Kinetic Art, Pop Art, New Trends, Op Art, Minimalism and others. Each of the 71 prints is something special. Among them, Picasso’s portraits can be found in numerous stylistic variations, for example in the works of P. Bury, E. Paolozzi, A. Tàpies, HAP Grieshaber, L. Rivers, E. Schumacher, J. Dine, C. Oldenburg. David Hockney depicted himself humbly going past a statue of the famous master; Andy Warhol portrayed Paloma Picasso in his own typical style; in a portrait outlining the African continent, W. de Maria hinted at the influence of African folk art on Picasso’s creations. In some of the prints, their authors paraphrased Picasso’s renowned works, for example, A. Hrdlicka, R. Hamilton, J. Castillo, R. Guttuso, J. Manzù, R. Matta. In a silkscreen, Michelangelo Pistolleto simply depicted a dove sitting on a fence, thereby alluding to Picasso’s famous Dove of Peace lithography, which had been chosen for the poster of the first World Congress of Advocates of Peace in Paris in 1949 and became an unusually strong and durable political symbol for future peace activities. Some of the artists emphasized elements from Picasso’s life and profession in their prints, like A. Jones, R. Indiana, E. Pignon, R. Rauschenberg, J. Rosenquist, J. Tinguely, J. Voss and others.
Christo, V. Vasarely, D. Judd, J. Beuys, J. Miró, R. Motherwell, L. Nevelson, W. Lam, C. Twombly and others dedicated one work each to the great master in their recognizable manner.
Finally, let me once again return to my statement that Picasso’s attitude towards printmaking had a great impact on the development of this medium after the War; therefore, I can conclude that, considering the great names in art after 1945 who responded with their prints to the project, Hommage to Picasso, this project is also a sort of a hommage to the graphic artists that flourished at their best in the 1960s and 1970s.
1 → Riva Castleman, Prints of the Twentieth Century, A history, Thames and Hudson, London 1988.
2 → Because the Slovene expression for livre de paintre (painter’s book) does not sufficiently describe this modernistic art phenomenon, I have decided to use the original French expression in this passage. It concerns a new perspective on the relationship between literature and the fine arts whose initiator was Ambroise Vollard. Painter’s books are not only illustrations of literary works, but independent fine art pieces. These types of books are predecessors of the artists’ books, which flourished in the sixties and the seventies of the previous century and are popular again today.
3 → Picasso’s famous painting, The Young Ladies of Avignon, was done in 1907. With it, he moved away radically from European painting traditions. It was first exhibited in 1916 and invoked astonishment and indignation. Today it is considered the key work of art that influenced the development of Cubism and Modern Art.
4 → That reality is his model.
5 → Picasso finished the series in 1937. Printer Roger Lacourière produced an additional 260 editions during the next two years, but due to the War and Vollard’s death in 1939, it first arrived on the market in 1950. Copies of this work can be found in numerous museums all over the world; individual sheets from the Suite are collectors’ items.