Linocut printed in three colors on Arches wove with Arches watermark
One of twenty artist's proofs of the fourth (final) state, outside the edition of 50
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Inscribed "epreuve d'artiste" in pencil, lower left
Printed by Arnéra, 1963
Published by Galerie Louise Leiris, 1963
Image: 10 5/8 x 13 3/4 inches
Sheet: 17 1/2 x 24 3/4 inches
Framed: 26 x 28 7/8 inches
(Bloch 1083) (Baer 1319.IV.B.b)
Dormeuse (Sleeper) was created during a period when Picasso was working extremely prolifically in linocut, having begun an intensive engagement with it in 1959, and as such it demonstrates his new mastery of the medium. Picasso’s initial forays into linocut, begun in 1951, comprise a series of posters advertising local arts and crafts exhibitions and bullfights that he created with the help of Hidalgo Arnéra (1922-2007), a local printer whose convenient proximity permitted the artist to speed up his printing processes, which had become exceedingly lengthy after his move to the south of France in the late 1940s, when his plates had to be transported back and forth to Paris in the absence of any trusted printing workshop in the south. Picasso made his first independent linocut in 1958, quickly becoming frustrated by the fiddly and time-consuming process involved in cutting a new linoleum block for each color, a process that often resulted in imperfect registration. Innovative as always, the following year Picasso simplified this process, rediscovering the reduction technique, which enabled a multi-colored image to be printed from a single block. After the first color was printed, Picasso carved deeper into the block to create a clean surface for inking the next color. The process was then repeated for each successive color, which in this print are: first, light caramel for the background, secondly chocolate, and finally black. The reduction technique was a risky procedure that required an artist confident in his decisions—there is no room for error, as the previous state is always cut away, meaning that Picasso had to have great courage and faith in his abilities. After his extensive experimentation with the techniques of etching and lithography in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Picasso had no fear of learning new skills or taking on new processes, attacking the linoleum as he had the intaglio plates without preliminary sketches or any real preparation. The quantity and quality of linocuts that he produced in a relatively short period of time show him to be a true master.
The theme of the sleeping female nude has a great lineage in the history of painting from the Renaissance on, providing a window onto a fantasized intimate moment when the subject on display is unaware of being watched by the viewer. From the Italian master Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus (1510, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden), to the Sleeping Odalisque (1810-30, Victoria and Albert Museum, London) painted by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the sleeping nude has provided a vehicle for celebrating the sensual beauty of the female form. The woman portrayed in this print is the artist’s second wife Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986) whom he met in 1952 at the Madoura pottery workshops where she was employed and he was making ceramics. Her image first appeared in drawings of the painter and model that he made in early 1954; later that year the artist began a series of canvases and lithographs based on Eugène Delacroix’s Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (1834, Louvre Museum, Paris), featuring an odalisque who bore an uncanny resemblance to Jacqueline. The last great female presence in Picasso’s life and the subject of innumerable paintings and prints produced in the 1950s and 1960s, Jacqueline was known for her submissive behavior and her devotion to the ageing artist. Her large, brilliant eyes and elegant long-nosed profile became an icon in Picasso’s oeuvre. Here she is shown semi-naked, lying on her back, the upper half of her body revealed to the artist’s affectionate gaze as she appears to have pushed her bed-clothes down to her waist. Her chest and arms are turned towards the viewer, her face is tilted to display her famous profile, her long, dark hair spreads out over the pillow and down onto the mattress in curves that echo those of the bedclothes lower down. Deeply in love, the couple had married the previous year, moving to a villa named Notre-Dame-de-Vie in the hills above Cannes near the village of Mougins. Here, on April 5th, Picasso worked on the linocut in four stages after having created several drawings of the same subject (see Zervos XX-208, 209, 212, 213 and 214) on the same day. After setting out the composition in the first state, the artist began adding patterning detail in the second—the folds on the pillow, the mattress and the sheet—and shading to the figure’s face, breasts and arms. He established this more firmly in the third state, adding further linear markings suggesting three-dimensional modeling on Jacqueline’s face and neck, her arms and upper body, as well as further markings on the pillow. Finally in the fourth state with the addition of black he placed two dark triangles in the background, effectively situating his subject in a room, and reworked her hair.
This fourth and final state was printed on Arches wove paper with an Arches watermark in an edition of fifty by Arnéra in 1963 and published by Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris the same year. An additional twenty artist’s proofs were printed on the same paper at the same time, of which this impression is one. It is signed at the lower right in pencil, and annotated “épreuve d'artiste” at the lower left, also in pencil.