Pablo Picasso - Editions & Works on Paper New York Thursday, October 22, 2020 | Phillips

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  • "Within libraries’ frighteningly opaque walls, certain books are doors" —Paul Eluard

    Pablo Picasso and Paul Eluard
    Pablo Picasso and Paul Eluard on the beach, 1937 (Photo by Eileen Agar) © Tate

    This elaborate volume A Pablo Picasso is filled with small reproductions of Picasso’s artwork which serve as a kind of iconography beginning with his childhood up until 1943. Along with an original signed etching by Picasso of a female face with spiraling eyes, the book was created by Surrealist poet Paul Eluard as an ultimate homage to Picasso. At times from the mid 1930’s until Eluard’s early death in 1952, he and Picasso were intertwined and inseparable; Picasso met Dora Maar through Eluard. The writings by Eluard contained in this book relate to the artist in different degrees from Les Yeux fertiles (1936) to the collection of poems titled Dignes de vivre (1944) placed in between the mostly black and white, tipped-in images with corresponding reference details printed underneath.

    The etching Picasso created for the volume Tête de femme de face has similarities to the face of Eluard’s wife, Nusch, who had tightly curled black hair and was rumored to have had an affair with Picasso with her husband’s blessing symbolizing his love for both of them. Nusch died suddenly a year later in 1946 and is referenced a few times by Picasso throughout the book.


    Nusch Eluard by Dora Maar
    Nusch Eluard, 1935 (Photo by Dora Maar) © Centre Pompidou


    Eluard’s epigraph reproduced in the book: 

    "In this high sphere, which is the handiwork of Picasso, I wanted to share the endless pleasures it gives me; I wanted to prove in words and in forms the faith man has in man."

    The elaborate tooled black leather and gold cover and inside design by book binders Semet & Plumelle was inspired by Picasso’s abstract line-and-dot drawings from a 1924 notebook. These images were reproduced in the etched portfolio Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu (The Unknown Masterpiece), 1927, illustrating Honoré de Balzac’s philosophical short story on representation in painting. The use of this design on the cover cleverly plays upon the idea that line is the indispensable means of representation - the building blocks or most basic elements from which a picture is made - a fitting beginning to the hundred diverse images contained inside.

    • Provenance

      R. and B.L. Library (monogram in black ink inside front cover)
      Sotheby's and Binoche et Giquello, Paris, Bibliothèque R. et B.L. Dada - Surréalisme, April 27, 2016, lot 307
      Acquired from the above sale by the current private collector

    • Literature

      Georges Bloch 373
      Brigitte Baer 702
      Patrick Cramer Books 43
      see Susan Greenberg Fisher and Irene Small, Picasso and the Allure of Language, 2009, pp. 104-111.

    • Artist Biography

      Pablo Picasso

      Spanish • 1881 - 1973

      One of the most dominant and influential artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso was a master of endless reinvention. While significantly contributing to the movements of Surrealism, Neoclassicism and Expressionism, he is best known for pioneering the groundbreaking movement of Cubism alongside fellow artist Georges Braque in the 1910s. In his practice, he drew on African and Iberian visual culture as well as the developments in the fast-changing world around him.

      Throughout his long and prolific career, the Spanish-born artist consistently pushed the boundaries of art to new extremes. Picasso's oeuvre is famously characterized by a radical diversity of styles, ranging from his early forays in Cubism to his Classical Period and his later more gestural expressionist work, and a diverse array of media including printmaking, drawing, ceramics and sculpture as well as theater sets and costumes designs. 

      View More Works


A Pablo Picasso (To Pablo Picasso)

The complete book including one etching on Marais vellum paper and 100 offset lithographic reproductions of the artist's works tipped-in, with poems in French by Paul Eluard, untrimmed sheets, all bound (as issued), with gold and silver embossed black leather cover, black inside guards decorated with metallic square motifs and contained in coordinating black paper-covered slipcase by bookbinders Semet & Plumelle stamp-signed.
11 3/4 x 8 x 2 3/8 in. (29.8 x 20.3 x 6 cm)
The etching signed in pencil, signed and numbered 'exemplaire n° 29' by Paul Eluard in blue ink on a front page (from the edition of 65, aside from the deluxe edition of 25 before the etching was reduced and an impression from the cancelled plate), published by Éditions des Trois Collines, Geneva and Paris.

Full Cataloguing

$6,000 - 8,000 

Sold for $13,860

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 21 - 22 October 2020