Pablo Picasso - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Between 1930 and 1937, Picasso embarked on a series of one hundred etchings titled La Suite Vollard. The project was commissioned by its namesake, Ambroise Vollard, one of the most influential art dealers in Europe at the time. Many of the details surrounding the commission and how Vollard intended to present the finished suite remain a mystery, as the dealer was killed in a car crash in 1939 just weeks after the edition was printed. Despite the speculation surrounding their original context, the etchings of La Suite Vollard function almost as individual diary entries covering this seminal period of Picasso’s life and career. Illustrating a huge variety of motifs that frequent the artist’s wider oeuvre, La Suite Vollard also documents the artist’s desire for his mistress and muse at the time, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Although still married to his wife of nine years, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, Picasso became romantically involved with Marie-Thérèse – who was twenty-eight years his junior – in 1927. The production of La Suite Vollard stretched over the entirety of Picasso’s affair with Marie-Thérèse, and she subsequently appears in many of the individual etchings.

     

    Marie Therese Walter. Image: PVDE / Bridgeman Images
    Marie Therese Walter. Image: PVDE / Bridgeman Images

    Upon first meeting the seventeen-year-old Marie-Thérèse, Picasso was allegedly struck by her Grecian profile and reportedly said, “Mademoiselle, you have an interesting face. I would like to do a portrait of you. I feel we are going to do great things together...I am Picasso.” Picasso’s obsession with the young woman’s features is evident through the artist’s many depictions of Marie-Thérèse, whose strong classical nose is frequently exaggerated in his artworks. Amongst the most famous images from La Suite Vollard is the ninety-seventh plate, Minotaure aveugle guidé par Marie-Thérèse au pigeon dans une nuit étoilée (Blind Minotaur Guided Through a Starry Night by Marie-Thérèse with a Dove). The artist focuses on the iconic profile of Marie-Thérèse – here holding a dove – but also introduces another key element from his personal mythology: the Minotaur. For Picasso, the Minotaur was a myriad of symbolic meanings. On one hand, his contemporary Surrealists understood the beast to symbolise man’s violent, irrational and lustful desires. This reading certainly intrigued and resonated with the Spanish artist, so much so that he depicted the creature for the cover of the first issue of the Surrealist magazine titled Minotaure. On the other hand, Picasso associated the creature with the bull, which he viewed not only as symbolic of his native Spain but almost as a personal spirit animal.

     

    Maquette for the cover of the journal Minotaure, 1933. Image © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2022 / Bridgeman Images
    Pablo Picasso, Maquette for the cover of the journal Minotaure, 1933. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Succession Picasso / DACS, London 2022

    With these dual contexts, the meaning behind this etching is twofold. Firstly, the image provides an insight into Picasso’s relationship with Marie-Thérèse, who is depicted as a guiding light and a symbol of peace to the blinded Minotaur who represents the artist. Demonstrating Picasso’s initial infatuation with Marie-Thérèse, he impotently follows her. Yet, the Minotaur’s reared head and distressed expression also infuse the image with a sense of anxiety, perhaps alluding to their tumultuous relationship which, by 1934, was already in demise. Secondly, this work also references the growing tensions in Europe and the spread of Fascism in the 1930s: the blind Minotaur – signifying Spain, on the brink of civil war – is led through the darkness by a vulnerable young girl, clutching the dove of peace. The image evokes a sense of uncertainty and helplessness, foreshadowing the violent upheaval to come. Picasso would return to the motif of this horned creature once again in his ultimate anti-war statement: the 1937 oil painting Guernica.

     

    Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937. Image © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2022 / Bridgeman Images
    Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Succession Picasso / DACS, London 2022

    Aside from documenting events in Picasso’s life and alluding to the shifting political landscape, Minotaure aveugle guidé par Marie-Thérèse au pigeon dans une nuit étoilée also serves as an exquisite example of Picasso’s mastery of a printing technique known as sugar-lift aquatint. Under the guidance of the master printer of La Suite Vollard, Roger Lacourière, Picasso experimented with this new medium to create suberbly tonal, painterly effects and rich textures in his printing. Through the combination of sugar-lift aquatint, drypoint and engraving in this image, Picasso produced one of the greatest graphic images in twentieth-century art.

    • Provenance

      Halcyon Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2016

    • Literature

      Georges Bloch 225
      Brigitte Baer 437

    • 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

Property from a Private UK Collection

10

Minotaure aveugle guidé par Marie-Thérèse au pigeon dans une nuit étoilée (Blind Minotaur Guided Through a Starry Night by Marie-Thérèse with a Dove), plate 97 from La Suite Vollard (Bl. 225, Ba. 437)

1934
Sugar-lift aquatint, scraper, drypoint and engraving, on laid Montval paper watermarked Vollard, with full margins.
I. 24.7 x 34.7 cm (9 3/4 x 13 5/8 in.)
S. 34.1 x 44.6 cm (13 3/8 x 17 1/2 in.)

Signed in pencil, from the edition of 260 (there was also an edition of 50 with wide margins), printed by Roger Lacourière, published by Ambroise Vollard, Paris, 1939, framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £88,200

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 18 - 19 January 2023