Pablo Picasso - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 22, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Pablo Picasso, ‘La Minotauromachie’, Lot 1

    Evening & Day Editions, 23 January 2020

  • Provenance

    The artist
    Marina Picasso collection, with her oval stamp verso (Lugt 3698)
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Christian Zervos et al., Picasso 1930-1935, Cahiers d’art, 1936, p. 85
    Paul Eluard, À Pablo Picasso, Geneva & Paris, 1944, pl. 102
    Alfred Barr, Jr., Picasso. Fifty Years of his Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York,1946
    Daniel E. Schneider, The Painting of Pablo Picasso: A Psychoanalytic Study, College Art Journal 7, 1947-48, pp. 81-95
    Curt G. Seckel, Picasso und die Insel des Minotaurus, Betrachtung über eine Raiderung, Das Kunstwerk und das Schöne Heim 4, vol. 5, 1950, pp. 26-29
    Wilhelm Boeck, Picasso, Stuttgart, 1955, p. 401
    Vicente Marrero Suárez, Picasso y el Toro, Madrid, 1956
    Curt G. Seckel, Die Minotauromachie. Bildehafte Meditation aus einem Schicksalsjahr Picassos, Zeitwende, Die Neue Furche 30, 1959, pp. 245-253
    Jan Runnquist, Minotauros, En Studie i Förhållandet Mellan Ikonografi och Form I Picassos Konst, 1900-1937, Stockholm, 1959
    Sir Herbert Edward Read, The Form of Things Unknown, Essays Towards an Aesthetic Philosophy, New York, 1960, pp. 64-75
    Otto J. Brendel, Classic and Non-Classic Elements in Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, Bloomington, Indiana, 1962, pp. 121-162
    Albert E. Elsen, Purposes of Art, New York, 1962, pp. 388-405
    Alfred Scheidegger, Der Monotauros, Dreissig graphische Blätter von Pablo Picasso, Frankfurt, 1963
    Carla Gottlieb, The Meaning of Bull and Horse in Guernica, Art Journal 24, 1964-65, pp. 106-112
    Georges Bloch, Catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé et lithographié 1904-1967, Bern, 1968, p. 286, no. 288
    Anthony Blunt, Picasso’s Guernica (The Whidden Lectures for 1966), New York, Toronto, 1969
    André Fermigier, Picasso, Paris, 1969
    Martin Ries, Picasso and the Myth of the Minotaur, Art Journal 32, 1972-73, pp. 142-145
    Rui Mário Goncalves, Guernica e os mitos, Coloquio Artes No. 16, 1973, pp. 18-25
    Curt G. Seckel, Meister der Graphik – Picassos Wege zur Symbolik der Minotauromachie, Die Kunst und das Schöne Heim 85, 1973, pp. 289-296
    Herschel Browning Chipp, Guernica: Love, War, and the Bullfight, Art Journal 33, 1973-74, pp. 100-115
    Jürgen Thimme, Picasso und die Antike, Badisches Landesmuseum, 1974
    Francis Ponge, Pierre Descargues and Edward Quinn, Picasso, Paris, 1974, p. 212
    Timothy Hilton, Picasso, London, 1975, no. 166, p. 225
    Mary Mathews Gedo, Art as Autobiography, Chicago & London, 1980
    Marc Le Bot, Minotauromachie, L’Arc, Revue trimestrielle, Aix-en-Provence, 1981, pp. 30-34
    Jürgen Thimme, Pablo Picasso’s ‘Minotauromachie’, Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen, 1981, pp. 105-122
    Lydia Gasman, Mystery, Magic and Love in Picasso, 1925-1938, New York, 1981
    Sebastian Goeppert and Herma C. Goeppert-Frank, Pablo Picasso’s ‘Minotauromachie’, 1981, various
    Marie-Laure Bernadac, La Minotauromachie, 1935, French Academy in Rome, 1982
    Gloria K. Fiero, Picasso’s Minotaur, Art International 26, 1983, pp. 20-30
    Brigitte Baer, Picasso the Printmaker: Graphics from the Marina Picasso Collection, Dallas Museum of Art, 1983, pp. 94-97
    Brigitte Baer and Bernhard Geiser, Picasso Peintre-Graveur, Bern, 1986, vol. III, p. 17, no. 573
    Sebastian Goeppert and Herma C. Goeppert-Frank, Minotauromachy by Pablo Picasso, Geneva, 1987
    Brigitte Baer and Bernhard Geiser, Picasso Peintre-Graveur, Bern, 1996, addendum to vols. I-VII, pp. 28-32
    Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot and Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, no. 711, p. 292
    Kathleen Brunner, Picasso Rewriting Picasso, London, 2004, pp. 8 and 20-21
    Emmanuel Benador, Picasso Printmaker: A Perpetual Metamorphosis, 2005, no. 32
    Picasso. Toros, Museo Picasso, Malaga, 2005, p. 84
    Stephen Coppel, Picasso Prints – The Vollard Suite, The British Museum, London, 2012, p. 37

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the Parisian studio of master printer Roger Lacourière, Pablo Picasso began on March 23rd, 1935 to engrave a large copper plate. This plate became one of the most important graphic works of the 20th Century and the pinnacle of Picasso’s printmaking oeuvre: La Minotauromachie. Technically brilliant and visually complex, La Minotauromachie is an intimate and autobiographical allegory rife with personal symbolism. It has been understood as the illustration of a private ethical battle as well as a universal parable of good and evil, violence and innocence, suffering and salvation.

    La Minotauromachie is the culmination of a near frenzied period of printmaking as Picasso was completing his most important group of etchings La Suite Vollard (1930-1937), comprising one hundred images. It also coincided with, or was perhaps determined by, a time of strife that the artist later described as “la pire époque de ma vie” (“the worst period of my life”). His wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova was on the verge of leaving him after discovering that his much younger mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter was pregnant. The significant turbulence in Picasso’s personal life was the backdrop to him working directly on plates and indulging in the physical act of complex, visceral mark-making that was driven by an urgent and cathartic need to create.

    Through this lens of Picasso’s guilt and frustration with his personal life, the figure of the Minotaur grew. Triggered by a commission to provide a cover illustration for the newly launched Surrealist magazine Minotaure, Picasso’s alter-ego figure of the Minotaur appears throughout the etching series La Suite Vollard, which directly preceded La Minotauromachie. This motif represents the dark centre of man’s violent, irrational and lustful desires. A mythological beast that is at once the monster within, but also the fighting bull of Picasso’s native Spain, whose power, pride and ferocity corresponds with the artist’s own character.

    In La Minotauromachie almost half of the printed image is dedicated to the towering figure of the Minotaur whose arm is flung forward, reaching towards a lit candle held aloft in the hand of a young girl who holds a bouquet of flowers in the other. Between their frozen confrontation, a mare horse and torera (female bullfighter) are paired together. The shrieking mare eyes the Minotaur in terror attempting to flee the danger he represents, but she is mortally wounded - her stomach has been gouged with her entrails flowing out. She exudes an abject fear that starkly contrasts with the serene countenance of the female bullfighter, resting placidly on the mare’s back with her breasts exposed. Her features, just as those of all four of the female figures in the print, are those of Marie-Thérèse and her stomach appears swollen with child. Three attendant figures observe the catastrophic scene below: two young women peering down as though from a theatre box, and a bearded Christ-like figure with the face of Picasso who escapes via a ladder, but is unable to resist looking over his shoulder.

    According to legend, the Minotaur had the power to see where others could not, because his eyes were accustomed to the darkness of the labyrinth. This opposition between light and dark divides the composition of La Minotauromachie both formally and conceptually into two planes. The unbridled impulses shared by Picasso and the mythical Minotaur: desire, guilt and revenge, are sublimated before the supine figure of Marie-Thérèse who, in her pregnancy, literally embodies the consequences of Picasso’s adultery. Minotaur and torera are halted by the young iteration of Marie-Thérèse who holds a radiating candle and bouquet of flowers as a paradigm of innocence, truth and virtue - the two visions of Picasso’s lover combine to demonstrate her past and future, irrevocably changed through the artist’s intervention.

    The mythical Minotaur becomes the physical embodiment of Picasso’s and by extension all of mankind’s fundamentally split personality: torn between conscience, humanity, civility and the underlying animal instinct that begets lust and violence. The imaginary Minotaur lives on the boundary of human experience. Half-man half-monster he has not yet transformed into the dehumanised bull of Guernica, Picasso’s magnum opus painted two years later in response to the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing tyranny of Fascism. In this epic political work Picasso’s iconic Minotaur motif is no longer a symbol of mortal sin, but a full rendering of the malign power of war.

  • 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. 

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Property of an Important European Collector


La Minotauromachie

Etching and engraving with scraper, on laid Montval paper with watermark, with full margins (deckle on all sides).
I. 49.8 x 69.4 cm (19 5/8 x 27 3/8 in.)
S. 57.3 x 77.4 cm (22 1/2 x 30 1/2 in.)

Baer’s seventh (final) state, one of the 23 impressions from the artist’s estate, printed by Roger Lacourière, Paris, in original condition, framed.

£800,000 - 1,200,000 ‡♠

Sold for £975,000

Contact Specialist
Rebecca Tooby-Desmond
Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions, Associate Director
+44 207 318 4079

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 23 January 2020