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'Homme Dévoilant une Femme' (Man Uncovering a Woman) by Pablo Picasso, printed by Roger Alcouriére, 1931.

Picasso: The Vollard Suite


The Vollard Suite is regarded as one of the greatest print suites, and perhaps the most enigmatic and famous of the twentieth century. Comprising 100 intaglio prints it was made by Pablo Picasso between 1930 and 1937 in Paris and at the Château de Boisgeloup — a country property near Paris the artist acquired in 1930. Although executed over a seven-year period, the majority of the plates date from 1933. This was the year when Modern art dealer and print publisher Ambroise Vollard commissioned Picasso to make the expanded series of 100 plates in exchange for a selection of French Impressionist paintings in Vollard’s private collection. It is thought that Vollard’s original intentions had been to use the works to illustrate a lavish livre d’artiste, and between 1936 and 1937 he enlisted master-printer Roger Lacourière to edition the works in preparation for publication.

When Vollard was killed in a car accident in 1939 the project remained unrealised however, and with the subsequent outbreak of the Second World War the editioned prints were left unpublished. At the time of their creation Picasso inscribed the date and place of creation on the plates, but neither assigned titles nor, following Vollard’s death, did he ever specify how the prints should be issued. It was only when the 100 prints were finally released to the public in the early 1950s that they became widely referred to as the Vollard Suite.

In the mid-1950s art historian Hans Bollinger devised an order for arranging the Vollard Suite that continues to influence how the 100 prints are interpreted and exhibited. By choosing not to follow the strict chronological sequence in which Picasso produced the plates, Bollinger identified seven themes running through the suite, which he grouped under the titles; The Plates, Battle of Love (Rape), Rembrandt, The Sculptor’s Studio, The Minotaur, The Blind Minotaur and Portraits of Ambroise Vollard.

Explored throughout are the enduring themes of history and creativity, ambition and achievement, fear and immortality, moral and physical fallibility, male sexuality and obsession. Illustrated with reference to classicism and Greek mythology, the Matador engaged in the bullfight, the artist and the model. Through these images the Vollard Suite can be viewed as an extraordinary auto-biographic document, reflecting Picasso’s mid-life musings on his own desires and conduct of an affair with his young lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, creativity and his growing stature as the twentieth century’s most celebrated and influential modern artist.

When:From Saturday 9 June to Monday 24 September 2018
Where:National Gallery of Australia

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