20th Century Artists


The Vollard Suite

During his life time Picasso created approximately two thousand prints in a variety of media – etchings, drypoints, lithographs and linocuts. For the first forty years of his artistic career Picasso concentrated almost exclusively on intaglio processes. The one hundred remarkable etchings that make up The Vollard Suite are generally regarded as the finest of his achievements in printmaking.

The Vollard Suite, created between 1930 and 1937, was named after its publisher, French art dealer and critic Ambroise Vollard. Picasso and Vollard shared a close working relationship up until 1910; after this date Vollard was no longer Picasso’s dealer but they continued to collaborate on publishing projects. In 1930 Vollard, encouraged by the success of two earlier ventures, ambitiously commissioned one hundred plates from Picasso. By 1937 the plates were completed and given to master print Roger Lacouriere to print. The entire edition comprises three copies on parchment, fifty copies on larger format Montval paper (50 x 38 cm) and two hundred and fifty on smaller format Montval paper (44.5 x 34 cm).  

Le Repos

Tragically, on 22 July 1939 Ambroise Vollard died in a car crash leaving the project suspended until the greater part of the edition was purchased by the print dealer Henri Petiet. After World War II Petiet engaged Picasso to sign a certain number of sets, and this continued up until 1969 but ceased with the publication of the 347 series. Hence, a number of the prints from the edition of two hundred and fifty remain unsigned.

The suite itself comprises seventy-three sheets on five main themes:

Rembrandt, the Battle of Love, the Sculptor’s Studio, the Minotaur and the Blind Minotaur. There are a further twenty-seven sheets on disparate themes including three portraits of Ambroise Vollard.

Of all the themes Picasso’s preoccupation with the mythical figure of the Minautor is, perhaps, the most fascinating. The Minautor is seen drinking and sleeping; he is both tender and aggressive- he is blinded and finally dies tragically and publicly.

Despite superficial differences, an underlying unity of tone and Picasso’s preoccupation with neo-classical and classical subjects lends a homogeneity and consistency to the series that is clearly evident when viewed in its entirely.

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