Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Pablo Picasso is widely considered the greatest artist of the twentieth century; he was also its greatest graphic artist. His published prints totaling approximately 2,000 different images pulled from metal, stone and other media. The cataloguer of Picasso's prints, Georges Bloch, has observed: "Picasso is truly revealed by following the genesis of his work from one date to another. All his phases and styles, which we use as landmarks, are in reality only successive stages of a continuity that constitutes the phenomenon of Picasso."

Picasso spend the first forty years of his work in prints exploring the various intaglio media, experimenting only occasionally with lithography, but in the latter part of 1945 the artist took up residence in the Mourlot studio on the Rue de Chabrol, Paris and began printing his finest lithographs with the help of this master printer. Lithography offered Picasso the chance to rework an image on the same printing surface and so preserve the complete evolution of the composition.

Picasso's graphic art evolved from his early association with such master printers as Eugene Delatre, Louis Forn and above all, Roger Lacouriere. Picasso rapidly discovered his own technical and visual vocabulary however and after acquiring his own press he was able to explore the secrets of printmaking in his own fashion. This constant experimentation with new materials and techniques adds another exciting dimension to the appreciation of his prints.

The final triumph of Picasso the printmaker was his development of the linocut. Picasso's invention in 1959 of the one-block technique of linocut printing enabled him to achieve brilliantly and richly colored works on paper. Like wood block printing the linoleum is cut away from the flat surface of the block except those areas that, when inked and printed, articulate the components of the composition. Softer, more supple and lighter in weight than wood, linoleum can be cut, gouged and slashed with greater speed and much less effort than wood. This material and process suited Picasso's temperament well.

The most important group of prints produced by Picasso was the Vollard Suite, published by the highly influential French publisher, Ambrose Vollard. This suite published in 1933 and containing dozens of imprinted images, is the greatest formal group of prints produced in the 20th century.

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