'Pablo Picasso's Eyes' - David Douglas Duncan / STPI. Photo: Zaki Jufri
Think Picasso and what comes to mind are images of abstract cubist paintings, or fantastical sculptures rendered in bronze, plaster and non-traditional materials.
But did you know that the man responsible for some of the most radical and thought-provoking artworks of his time was also a printmaker?
Singapore Tyler Print Institute’s (STPI) new exhibition shines the spotlight on this little known facet of the famous artist. The exhibition, ‘The Mystery of Picasso’s Creative Process – The Art of Printmaking: A Selection of Masterpieces’, is held from 26 June to 24 August and presented by SingTel.
On display are 50 rare lithographs, linocuts and printing plates by the late Spanish Cubist master. They are drawn from the archives of his son, Claude Picasso, and it is the first time they are shown in Singapore.
A visitor looking at Picasso's 'Portrait d'homme a la fraise (Variation d'apres el Greco)' / STPI. Photo: Zaki Jufri
The pieces offer a glimpse into the artist’s creative process through printmaking.
Tatyana Franck, curator of the archives, says that working with printmaking techniques allowed the artist to expand and explore new direction in his work.
Franck also notes that Picasso likely chose to use the lithographic process since it allowed him to fully express his vision. Lithography is a method of printing from a metal or stone surface.
“Picasso had always been interested in using several mediums, and printmaking was very important in his practice as it allows him to create a lot of works at the same time,” Franck explains.
Picasso created his first prints in 1905, published by the art dealer Vollard in 1913.
More graphic works were produced in the early 1930s, but it was not until after World War II that the artist became more prolific in printmaking.
Picasso produced around 2,200 prints throughout his career. These works represent a personal diary of sorts and enable art historians – since they are dated – to retrace his artistic direction in detail.
Picasso's 'Portrait de Jacqueline au chapeau de paille muticolore' / STPI. Photo: Zaki Jufri
Franck explains: “Although Picasso first experimented with etchings (a printmaking technique) in 1899, he focused more on lithographs and linocuts only after World War II, when he started working with Atelier Mourlot, a renowned Parisian art publisher and print workshop, with whom he created more than 800 prints from 1945.”
PICASSO’S SELF-PORTRAITS, HIS LOVERS
One of the highlights of exhibits is ‘La Taureau’ (The Bull), a series of 11 lithographs. Displayed in succession, the series shows Picasso’s experiments with lithography at the Mourlot print workshop in Paris after World War II.
In the series of images, Picasso visually dissects the image of a bull with great detail and simple, pure lines to capture the creature’s essence as concisely as possible.
“The image of the bull is an important aspect in his work and it recurs quite often as it represents himself – his signature. So ‘The Bull’ series is a collection of Picasso’s self-portraits of sorts,” Franck says.
Another series of note is ‘Les Deux Femmes Nues’ (Two Nude Women), which were produced during his stay in Nazi-occupied France, where he had only recently met Francoise Gilot.
Gilot is the main “femme” in the series, Picasso’s muse and lover who was mother to his two children Claude and Paloma. Dora Maar, his earlier lover and muse, is the sleeping figure.
The series of prints move through stages of increasing abstraction, until the last becomes a highly cubist piece. The works reveal the changing interpretations of his muses as they become central in his art and creativity.
The exhibition also features the work of photojournalist David Douglas Duncan who had intimate access to the late artist.
Duncan was a war photographer forLife magazine when he met Picasso in his villa La Californie in Cannes. Many of Duncan's photos show the artist either concentrating on a painting, drawing or just clowning around with his children.
‘The Mystery of Picasso’s Creative Process – The Art of Printmaking: A Selection of Masterpieces’ | Date: 26 Jun - 24 Aug | Opening hours: Tue-Sat 10am-6pm | Venue: Singapore Tyler Print Institute, 41 Robertson Quay | Tel: 63363663 | Tickets: Free admission