A Perpetual Metamorphosis

May 22nd - July 27th, 2008


1881 Birth of Picasso in Malaga, Spain, October 25.

1899 First etching, El Zurdo (The Lefty), Barcelona. Unique print, heightened by the artist with watercolor and varnish. Picasso had forgotten that the image on the plate would be left-right reversed in the print, hence the humorous title.

1904 Moves to Paris, takes a studio at the Bateau Lavoir. Second etching, The Frugal Repast, printed without steel facing in thirty sheets (three of them on blue paper) by Auguste Delâtre.

1905 Produces fifteen etchings and dry points on the theme of itinerant circus acrobats, printed by Delâtre in a very small edition; thirteen plates bought in 1913 and published, together with The Frugal Repast, by Vollard as the suite Saltimbanques. First woodcut. 1907 Buys a small hand press from Delâtre. Death of Delâtre. 1909 Makes two engravings on celluloid and two drypoints on copper.

1910 Makes four Cubist etchings to illustrate the book Saint Matorel by his friend Max Jacob. 1911 Saint Matorel published by Kahnweiler. Makes the drypoint Still Life with Bottle of Marc, the greatest drypoint of the Cubist era, published by Kahnweiler in 1912. (At Kahnweiler's request Braque executes the similar print Fox in slightly larger format.)

1913 Continues to make Cubist prints. Vollard publishes the Saltimbanques suite, printed by Louis Fort. Begins work on three etchings to illustrate Max Jacob's The Siege of Jerusalem.

1918-1919 Creates an etching to illustrate Max Jacob's book Le phanerograme, whose hero is the Commedia dell' Arte figure Pierrot. Makes the drypoint Portrait of Olga and the first lithographs. 1921 Makes lithographs and drypoints on various themes, among them La Source.

1922 Makes three zinc etching to illustrate Pierre Reverdy's Cravate de Chanvre. Makes prints in Ingresque style. 1923 Makes the large format dry point Portrait of Olga with Fur Collar.

1923-25 Works on prints on the theme of The Three Graces and makes a number of small experimental prints.

1927 Begins work on fourteen etchings to illustrate Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece, published by Vollard in 1931, illustrated with an additional sixty-seven wood engravings by the technician Georges Aubert after drawings by Picasso.

1928-1929 Begins prints to illustrate La Tauromaquia (1796, by José Delgado, known as Pepe Illo). Commissioned by Gustavo Gili, Sr., the work was abandoned and revived in 1956 by Gustavo Gili, Jr. 1930-1931 Makes the first of the etchings that were later to become part of the Vollard Suite. Begins prints to illustrate Albert Skira's edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses; chief model, Marie-Therese Walter. 1932 Begins prints on the theme of The Bathers.

1933 Makes sixty engravings for the Vollard Suite and one hundred monotypes. Makes first prints on the Minotaur theme. Begins collaboration with master printer Roger Lacourière, who introduces Picasso to the sugar-lift aquatint method invented by Lacourière's father.

1934Makes first prints on the theme of the woman bullfighter and continues work on the Vollard Suite etchings.

1936 Makes thirty-two sugar-lift aquatints to illustrate Vollard's edition of Buffon's Histoires Naturelles. Makes three etchings to illustrate La Barre d'Appui and Les Yeux Fertiles, books of poetry by his friend, the Surrealist poet Paul Eluard. Engraves Faune Undressing a Sleeping Woman, one of the Vollard Suite's most important works.

1937 Produces The Dream and Lie of Franco I & II (etching and sugar-lift aquatint) and Weeping Woman (drypoint, aquatint, etching and scraper work) in response to the Spanish Civil War and the April bombing of the town of Guernica by German planes. Death of Vollard in an automobile accident; Picasso makes three portrait etchings of Vollard to round the Vollard Suite off to one hundred prints.

1938 Engraves Woman with Tambourine (aquatint and scraper) and begins prints to illustrate the book Afat, his first collaboration with the gifted experimental publisher and book designer Iliazd. 1939 Makes seven colored aquatints for Portrait of Dora Maar, a book he had conceived to be a combination of images and text of his own authorship, but which was never realized. Makes first linocut.

1940-45 Scarcity of materials due to World War II and German occupation of Paris leads to a suspension of Picasso's printmaking. 1945-46 Makes etchings on the themes of a mural painting created for the Antibes Museum. Begins intense work in lithography with the master lithographer Mourlot in the latter's Paris workshop. Makes Two Nude Women and The Bull.

1947 Continues to collaborate on lithographs with Mourlot, and produces David and Bathsheba. Illustrates the books Pismo/Escrito, Dos Contes, Deux Contes, and Gongora.

1948 Makes the lithograph Francoise Gilot in Polish Coat, and 125 lithographs to illustrate Pierre Reverdy's Le Chant des Morts, published by Tériade. 1950-1951 Makes lithographs on the theme of Doves in Flight and prints to illustrate La Maigre, published by Iliazd.

1952 Makes the large format sugar-lift aquatint Woman by A Window. Takes the aquatint Bull and Picador through twenty states but does not publish the work.

1953 Makes another large format sugar-lift aquatint The Egyptian. Makes etchings and lithographs, Goat's Skull on Table, and portraits of son and daughter, Claude and Paloma.

1955 Begins to make linoleum cuts in collaboration with the printer Arnéra-three years later begins intensive production in this medium.

1958 First linocut published by Arnéra, Bust of Woman After Cranach The Younger; for publication by Iliazd. Makes sixteen drypoints in illustration of the fourteenth century Spanish friar Marcos Jimenez de la Espada's Le Frère Mendiant, a prose narrative of de la Espada's travels in pre-colonial Africa. Makes twelve engravings to illustrate Chevaux de Minuit by Roche Grey.

1959-1960 Experiments with a new technique of his own invention for colored linocuts. The printer Jacques Frélaut makes proofs of old plates Picasso discovered when he moved archives and materials from his Paris studio to his new villa, Notre-Dame-dela-Vie, in Mougins, near Cannes.

1961 Frélaut prints from a group of old plates, which will be published posthumously in 1981 under the title Box of Remorse (the name given by Picasso to the group of plates when he re-discovered them in 1960). Makes the aquatint (with scraper, drypoint and burin) Portrait of Jacqueline as Bride through eighteen states but does not publish it. 1962 Intense production of linoleum cuts, including Luncheon on the Grass after Manet, Head of Jacqueline, and Still Life with Suspension.

1963 The printers Aldo and Piero Crommelynck, whom Picasso knows through their work for Lacourière, establish a workshop in Mougins, near Picasso, and, between 1963 and 1966, produce editions of more than a hundred engravings, variations on the theme of Painter and Model.

1964 Makes suite of etchings, The Smokers, printed in color with the aid of a dabbler (a ball of cloth with a handle, used for applying colors to copper or zinc plates). Prints old linoleum plates by a new method involving rinsing, which Picasso invents resulting in new aesthetic works.

1965 Continues engravings on the Painter and Model theme. 1966 Makes seven etchings, four aquatints and one aquatint with drypoint and etching to illustrate the 1928 sex farce Le Cocu Magnifique by the Crommelynck brothers' father and published under their own imprint. Makes twelve intaglio prints by various methods to illustrate El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz-the last project in collaboration with Roger Lacourière, who dies later that year.

1968 Makes an etching for Iliazd's homage to Lacourière, entitled Rogelio Lacourière, pêcheur de cuivre, with prints by Miro, Max Ernst and other artists that Lacourière had collaborated with. Begins intense work on a suite of 347 prints, finishing it in three months, and calling it simply, 347-many are made by the sugar-lift aquatint technique, which Picasso learned from Lacourière; a number will later be selected as illustrations for La Celestina, published in 1971.

1970-1972 Publication of La Celestina in 1971. The Death of Icarus: Self-Portrait with Two Women published by Albert Skira. Intense work on the last suite of prints, called 156, after the number of images (although due to the loss of one plate only 155 were actually published), and which was published posthumously. Other prints to be published posthumously are Venus and Cupid (1949), a portrait of Mademoiselle Angela Rosengart (1966), and a suite called Sixty Prints.

1973 Picasso dies at Mougins April 8.

About the Exhibit

The Myra and Sandy Kirschenbaum Collection is part of an important tradition among collectors that focuses primarily upon works on paper. This extensive collection comprises every aspect of Picasso as a printmaker and includes many unique works.

Early in 1997, I first met Sanford Kirschenbaum through Michael Hladky, director of the Mezzanine Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That encounter turned into a lasting friendship as we continued to meet and discuss Picasso and his printmaking. During weekly visits with Sandy and his wife Myra, they consistently tested my expertise on the aesthetic and technical aspects of Picasso’s work. Sandy’s curiosity and knowledge of print techniques always made our discussions lively. Our debates were punctuated by explanations and observations on many different pieces.

Over time, they came to a complete appreciation of Picasso’s creative process and the inventive subtlety of his work. Throughout his life, Picasso was involved with printmaking and with learning new techniques from master printers. Picasso’s work reflects his intimate relationship with printers who could guide him in the nuances of each method: Roger Lacourière for intaglio prints, Mourlot for lithographs, Arnéra for linoleum cuts, and so on. At first, Sandy and Myra were drawn to the linoleum cuts which coincided with Picasso’s period in the South of France. In this medium, Picasso would produce most of the color prints he ever engraved, as well as black and white images. As time went on, Sandy and Myra began to explore other periods and techniques in Picasso’s printmaking.

They became aware of the differences between specific beautiful impressions or proofs from mediocre ones found on the open market. Because Picasso was very finicky about choosing the first and best impressions to keep for his own collection, most of the best prints were part of the vast holdings of Picasso’s granddaughter Marina Picasso, which have been handled by Jan Krugier as the exclusive representative. Through Jan Krugier, Sandy and Myra obtained many of the best examples of Picasso’s prints.

One of the reasons this collection is so significant is that through these impressions the smallest details engraved by the artist are visible. I would like to warmly thank the Kirshenbaums for suggesting my text as the catalog to this exhibition and for lending so many unusual and beautiful works—many of which are not well known or are unique impressions. The exhibition displays Picasso’s prints from state to state in the order of their creation, and organizes them chronologically to cover every period in the artist’s life. Through the succession of states, we can see the mind of the artist; it is like reading an open book. Picasso prints in the way that a writer writes: he reveals his stories to us, chapter by chapter.