Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Vollard Suite

A beautiful exhibition - Picasso/Vollard: Prints from the Stock of the Artist's Publisher - is currently on view at the Adelson Galleries in New York, until mid-December. 64 prints are being exhibited, including 37 from the Vollard Suite; if you're in New York, it's a show very well worth seeing. Here's a link to the exhibition's on-line catalog:

Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939), was an early champion of the avante-garde and exhibited artists such as Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Maillol, Derain, and Picasso in his Paris gallery. He also published prints, including the Vollard Suite, a collection of 100 etchings made by Picasso between 1930 and 1937.

Minotaur with a Goblet in his Hand and a Young Woman
1933, etching, 7
5/8 x 10 9/16 inches

The prints in the Vollard Suite have always been among my favorite works of art. They are Picasso at his best - inventive compositions and exquisite lines flowing in ways that seem totally effortless.

Blind Minotaur Led by a Little Girl in the Night
1934, aquatint, 9 3/4 x 13 11/16 inches

I was first introduced to these prints in art school by a friend who had a monograph about the Suite filled with reproductions; it was written in German, but the images didn't require words to appreciate their depth and beauty. That and their lyricism, as well as the mix of humor and tragedy, all appealed to me.

Reclining Sculptor, 1
1933, etching, 7 5/8 x 10 1/2 inches

Later, when I taught Freshman drawing classes during grad school, I would show reproductions of these etchings. When one student saw them, he asked me to show him how to draw just like that, how to produce the anatomic distortions - as if there was a formula, a trick. He wanted to be able to do it immediately. The student was quite unhappy when I told him there was no formula, no trick, and that Picasso had spent many years in his youth making innumerable academic drawings of the human body. The long study gave Picasso a deep knowledge of human anatomy, and once he began to take liberties in his art, that fundamental understanding gave him the freedom to abstract the lines and forms with so much beauty and truth.

Sculptor and Model Admiring a Sculpted Head
1933, etching, 10 1/2 x 7 5/8 inches

Each print certainly stand alone, but it's great to see them together as well. I've had the good fortune to see the entire set exhibited on two occasions: in 2006 at the Metropolitan Museum, Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde; and in the summer of 2013, a very beautifully hung exhibition at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth, Picasso: The Vollard Suite. Both were memorable experiences.

Dying Minotaur in Arena
1933, etching, 7 3/4 x 10 9/16 inches

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