Fumeur barbu
Fumeur barbu (Bloch 1170)

1964 (August 27, Mougins)

Sugarlift aquatint with etching printed in color à la poupée on Auvergne Richard de Bas laid with Richard de Bas watermark
One of fifteen artist's proofs, outside the edition of 50
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Annotated “epreuve d'artiste” in pencil, lower left
Dated in plate in reverse, upper right
Inscribed “146462” in pencil, upper left verso
Printed by Pennequin for Crommelynck, 1964-65
Published by Galerie Louise Leiris, 1965
Image: 16 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches
Sheet: 22 1/8 x 15 7/8 inches
Framed: 28 1/16 x 23 1/16 inches
(Bloch 1170) (Baer 1170.B.b.)

In the summer of 1964, Picasso created the Fumeurs (Smokers), a series of thirteen sugar-lift aquatints of a young man wearing a sailor’s striped shirt with a cigarette in his mouth—each of them conveys a different mood, from jaunty to defiant. They are executed in broad brushstrokes and printed in a vibrant palette à la poupée (each color is applied and wiped separately, printed in one pass through the press with one plate). The images are playful, but also project an image of cool masculinity in a time when smoking was still considered glamorous.

 

The Fumeurs have traditionally been understood to be self-portraits of a kind: Picasso was a smoker himself and one of his favorite things to wear was the traditional striped shirt of the French Marines. After World War II, Picasso’s reputation spread internationally and this garment became closely associated with the artist in the public’s mind. He wore in a number of photo essays featured in Life magazine during the 1960s with (now iconic) photographs by David Douglas Duncan.

 

If the Fumeurs represent Picasso himself, they are certainly idealized and somewhat fanciful. The man depicted is much younger than the artist, who was in his eighties at this point. Picasso had previously represented himself as a young sailor in a striped shirt in the Blind Minotaur etchings of 1934 from the Suite Vollard, but those were created in middle age and the young sailor seems to symbolize himself in a more literal way at an earlier point in life. Here, the vigorous youth—who is the sole subject of the image—appears to be a form of wish fulfillment. According to Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s lover from 1945-53, he frequently proclaimed, "I'd give anything to be twenty years younger".i

 

The Fumeurs were executed using the sugar-lift aquatint* technique, which had become a special purview of the artist at this point. He had mastered this challenging approach to intaglio etching nearly three decades prior in his famous series of animal etchings Eaux-fortes originals pour les texts de Buffon and expanded upon his skill with increasingly ambitious projects in the ensuing decades. In 1964, he had been living in the French Riviera for over a decade and rarely visited Paris. Due to the fact that his intaglio printers, Roger Lacourière and Jacques Frélaut, were in the capital, he made relatively few etchings in this period and his printmaking activity was focused primarily on making linocuts with Hidalgo Arnéra in Vallauris. This changed in 1963 when Aldo Crommelynck, a Parisian intaglio printer who had worked with Picasso in the Lacourière studio in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, established a satellite workshop in Mougins not far from Picasso’s home. Crommelynck became Picasso’s primary printer for the last decade of the artist’s life—he abandoned working in both linocut and lithography for the most part, instead focusing on intaglio. The Fumeurs show the artist regaining full stride in the medium after a long hiatus.

 

*Sugar-lift aquatint: to create a sugar-lift, the artist paints on the copper plate with specially prepared sugar syrup that is allowed to dry. The plate is then coated with varnish or hard-ground and placed in a water bath. The sugar solution underneath dissolves and “lifts” the varnish or hard-ground, leaving the painted areas exposed. The plate is then put through the process of aquatint: it is dusted with rosin powder that is baked to the surface, and then etched to varying depths according to the desires of the artist; a full range of tones is possible.

 

 

i Gilot and Carleton Lake, Life with Picasso [London: Virago Press, 1990 - reprint of 1964 McGraw-Hill edition], 325.