Etching printed on Montval laid paper with Montgolfier watermark
From the Suite Vollard (S.V. 59), edition of 50 of the second (final) state
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Printed by Lacourière, 1939
Published by Vollard, 1939
Image: 7 5/8 x 10 1/2 inches
Sheet: 15 1/4 x 19 3/4 inches
(Bloch 168) (Baer 321.II.B.c)
A handful of images in the “Sculptor’s Studio” suite, such as this one, show the sculptor intently at work with an expression of deep concentration and focus. They depict the creative act itself in service to the general theme—an exploration of the relationship between art and life, as well as the very nature of making art.
Though sculpture is generally the medium depicted, Picasso explores the relationship between two-dimensional and three-dimensional art in some of the plates. As noted by the art historian Lisa Florman, the contrast in styles between the left and right half of this image is more than just a whim—it cleverly calls attention to the fact that we are looking at an etched image. The model at left (who is clearly Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter) is densely shaded and hatched, as are her lush surroundings. This approach draws attention to the process of building volume in two dimensions—while the very act of doing so in three dimensions is shown at right. Florman states that “in each case the emphasis is on the artist’s physical involvement with his work”—and thus, on the artistic process.i
Florman also points out that our profile view of the model corresponds to that of the sculptor toward his sculpture (but oddly, not that of the sculptor toward the model). Picasso, thus, is showing us not only what he sees during the creation process, but also the final product in both frontal and rear views. A number of images from the “Sculptor’s Studio” series share the same complex dual perspective, emphasizing Picasso’s role in the creation of the image before us.ii
The current impression is one of fifty deluxe impressions with large margins printed on Montval laid paper watermarked “Papeterie Montgolfier à Montval,” outside of the edition of 260 (there was also a small edition of three). It was printed by Roger Lacourière in late 1938 or early 1939. The untimely death of Ambroise Vollard in the summer of 1939 delayed their commerce until 1948 when the prints were acquired by dealer Henri Petiet through the Vollard estate.
i Myth and Metamorphosis: Picasso’s Classical Prints of the 1930s. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2000, 113. ii ibid., 112-116.