“There are only two types of women—goddesses and doormats.” Pablo Picasso

Women were central to Pablo Picasso’s work and life. He was, as John Richardson his biographer once wrote, “always apt to associate sex with art: the procreative act with the creative act”. His constant female muses made up the main focus of his work and the beauty of Pablo Picasso’s limited edition prints is that they present an autobiographical sketch of Picasso’s career, tracing his relationships and loves.

By far Picasso’s most depicted subject was his wife Jacqueline Roque, pictured above in the lithograph Jacqueline with Black Hankerchief, 1958. The longest lasting of Picasso’s relationships she killed herself with a pistol in 1986, still grieving over the artist’s death in 1973. The dark-haired divorcée, 45 years Picasso’s junior, had a reputation for being manipulative and conniving, mainly because she managed to get in the way of Picasso’s relationship with his then lover Françoise Gilot. However, his work featuring Jacqueline and the work he produced during his time with her has become hotly desired by collectors.

Picasso had no desire to paint unknown models, he only had interest in painting individuals who had significance in his life. Arthur Danto, the art critic, once remarked that “Picasso invented a new style each time he fell in love with a new woman.” Jacqueline’s sharp profile and almond-shaped eyes clearly entranced Picasso. Though he was still together with Gilot, Picasso wooed Jacqueline with single red roses and by chalking a white dove on the outside of her house. 

Left: Pablo Picasso, Head of Woman, In Profile, (Tête de femme, de profil), 1905, Etching. Right: Pablo Picasso, Woman, Child and Observers Viewing Painting, 1970, Etching

Pablo Picasso’s limited edition prints are available to buy now on fineartmultiple, please click here.

“The graphic arts are my favorite medium.” Pablo Picasso

Picasso would completely immerse himself into each new medium until he had a total mastery of the technique. Such was his obsession that in 1907 he even bought himself a printing press. Having mastered etching and intaglio techniques Picasso began experimenting with lithography and under the stewardship of masterprinter Fernand Mourlot, Picasso began using color in his works. Françoise Gilot, noted in her book Life with Picasso, 1964, that what appealed to him most about printing was the speed with which he could transfer his ideas. Picasso once said to her “I’ve reached the moment... when the movement of my thoughts interests me more than the thought itself.”

Pablo Picasso, The Surprised Bathing Women (Les Baigneuses Surprises), 1933, Etching

Pablo Picasso’s limited edition print is available to buy now on fineartmultiple, please click here.

“It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.” Pablo Picasso

The Surprised Bathing Women, 1933, originates from the the highly collectable Vollard Suite, a set of 100 etchings dating from 1930-37 made for Picasso’s art dealer Ambroise Vollard. In 2011 The British Museum purchased a complete set of the Vollard Suite, an act considered by the then director, Neil MacGregor, as “one of the institution’s most important acquisitions of the past 50 years.”

The work is typical of the time just after Picasso’s purchase of the Château de Boisgeloup, and explore the romantic confrontations between artist, sculpture, and muse. His then lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, was thought to have classical features and her looks are said to have inspired Picasso to reference the economical line drawing of the ancient Greeks. The startled expressions of the bathers, surprised by a Peeping Tom, are superbly enacted by Picasso, who was probably depicting himself as a voyeuristic observer of the nudity on show. Overseeing it all is a bust raised high on a plinth, perhaps a comment on the artist’s dual role as both onlooker and creator.

Pablo Picasso, The Dance of the Fauns (La Danse des Faunes), 1957, Lithograph

Pablo Picasso’s limited edition print is available to buy now on fineartmultiple, please click here.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso

Picasso always possessed a superstitious belief that work would keep him alive, and his relentless exploration and ceaseless creativity, enabled him to continually reinvent himself and switch between styles radically different from each other. To him the faun from Greek mythology was a symbol of of a lust for life, mischievousness and creativity. The fauns encircling the fallen figure in The Dance of the Fauns, 1957 are triumphant in their blind surrender to passion. Their sexuality and zest fully on show as they frolic in an orgy of drink, music, and Bacchic excess. The lithograph reveals Picasso utter mastery of the medium, its dreamlike quality achieved through its half-finished outlines, contrasting with the thick crosshatching at its center that plunges the viewer into the work.

The lithograph brings to mind El Grecho with its its treatment of space and its dematerialization of form. El Grecho’s Vision of Saint John was a huge influence on Picasso’s most revolutionary work, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, that shocked both the world and Picasso himself, who kept it tucked away in the corner of his studio, and would not exhibit it until 1916. The five naked prostitutes, (Picasso liked to call it his Brothel) depicted in the painting have a menacing and confrontational manner, inspiring the art critic, Carol Duncan to describe them as “whore and deity, decadent and savage, tempting and repelling, awesome and obscene… threatening and powerless.”

Pablo Picasso, The Collection of Small Pictures, 1965, Lithograph

Pablo Picasso’s limited edition print is available to buy now on fineartmultiple, please click here.

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso

As Picasso got older his work moved away from the complexity of Cubism and he began to embrace a childlike simplicity and a seemingly crude technique. His lithograph The Collection of Small Pictures, 1965 is brimming with a joyous energy that seems to sparkle on the paper's surface. Its sense of movement and spontaneity is enhanced by the supposedly static pictures arranged on the wall. On passing a group of school children Picasso once said: “When I was as old as these children, I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them.”

It is said that Picasso’s work constitutes a vast pictorial autobiography which was only reinforced by Picasso’s habit of dating all of his works: “I want to leave to posterity a documentation that will be as complete as possible. That’s why I put a date on everything I do.” According to Georges Bloch, the man who first catalogued Picasso’s limited editions, it is only really possible to see his true genius by “following the genesis of his work from one date to another. All his phrases and styles, which we use as landmarks, are in reality only successive stages of a continuity that constitutes the phenomenon of Picasso.” More than any other artist, Picasso, the indefatigable innovator, steered the course of art in the 20th century and we are still living in the shadow of his astonishing influence.


By Duncan Ballantyne-Way — Senior Editor