Pablo Picasso - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “The line should not even vibrate…should not be able to”
    —Pablo Picasso, on the art of etching


    We can watch Picasso impulsively tracing, without any barrier between eye and hand, between the sensation and its registration, the grandiose works that are the crowning expression of a balance reached between mastery of the means and the eruption of a vision oblivious to all merely demonstrative skill. The authority of his genius and seventy years of creative impatience, unremittingly backed by his own untiring application, make Picasso the most fertile engrave of all time and lend the body of work presented here the character of a milestone in the history of engraving.1


    As a teenager in Barcelona, Picasso mixed with radical Catalan artists who had visited Paris and seen the work of the Impressionists, including Degas. While in his late teens in 1900, Picasso made his first trip to experience Paris firsthand, staying with many of these Catalan friends in the artistic quarter of Montmartre, where Degas lived, already well into his sixties. While separated in age by half a century, Picasso and Degas shared an interest in depicting the salacious world of brothels in Paris with shocking visual similarity. Both artists’ disheveled, blowsy prostitutes and paunchy, mustachioed clients are of the same conventionalized types, and both contrive to evoke an entire, compellingly real, mini-drama through facial expression, body language, figure groupings, and the merest indications of setting. Picasso also held a specific investment in gossip surrounding Degas’s personal life, as did many contemporary art critics, participating in wide-spread speculation as to the reasons for the artists self-pronounced celibacy, especially in light of his depictions of brothel scenes.


    “In Picasso’s etchings…the brothel becomes to Degas what it became to Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses: a theater of hallucinations where, in constantly shifting scenes, all the hero’s secret wishes and fears take shape.”
    —Gert Schiff, Picasso, The Last Years, 1963-1973, p. 60


    Degas’ monotypes depicting life in Parisian brothels in the late 1870s had a unique appeal for Picasso, whose own earliest images of prostitution were produced shortly before his first Parisian exploration. It was perhaps Ambroise Vollard — the gallery dealer who hosted Picasso’s first Parisian exhibition in 1901 — who introduced the young Spaniard to this little-known aspect of the Frenchman’s work. Between 1958 and 1960 Picasso realized a long-standing ambition when he acquired nine of Degas’ brothel monotypes, and it was in his late work that his admiration found its most explicit expression. Picasso sought to collect as many of Degas’s brothel monotypes as possible, naming them “the best thing he ever did.” To Picasso, the true value of the impressionist’s monotypes rested in their ability, more than any of his other work, to reveal “the actual drama of the man.”2 Echoes of Degas’s imagery and technique are evident in numerous prints produced in 1968, and in March 1971 Picasso began a series of thirty-nine etchings in which Degas appears as a client visiting a brothel. Convinced that Degas resembled his own father, and regarding him as an alter ego, Picasso continued to portray Degas in his drawings until a few months before his death, at age ninety-one, in April 1973. 3



    Piero and Aldo Crommelynck, quoted in Georges Bloch, Picasso, Volume IV, Catalogue of the Printed Graphic Work 1970-1972, pp. 26-27

    2 Elizabeth Cowling, “’The Best Things He Ever Did’: Picasso and Degas’ Maison Closes,” in Picasso Looks at Degas, p. 227

    3 Museo Picasso, Picasso Looks at Degas, October 15, 2010 – January 1, 2011

    • Provenance

      Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, circa 1980
      Private Collection, New York

    • Literature

      Georges Bloch 1985
      Brigitte Baer 1995

    • 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


Maison close. Médisance. Avec profil de Degas au nez froncé (Brothel. Gossip. With profile of Degas with a wrinkled nose), plate 130 from 156 Series (Bl. 1985, Ba. 1995)

Etching and aquatint, on Rives BFK paper, with full margins.
I. 14 3/8 x 19 1/4 in. (36.5 x 48.9 cm)
S. 19 3/4 x 25 5/8 in. (50.2 x 65.1 cm)

Stamp-signed and numbered 45/50 in pencil (there were also 15 artist's proofs in Roman numerals), published by Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, 1978, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $9,525

Contact Specialist
212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24-26 October 2023