Picasso's Bullfighting Inspired linoleum cuts

In 1959, in collaboration with Picasso and Galerie Louise Leiris, new linoleum plates were made at 42% of the original size, and it was from these that the prints on offer here were made.

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Picasso's early yet remarkably precise memories of the post-war rebirth of bullfighting in Arles and Nimes served as the inspiration for the linoleum cuts created in the fall of 1959. The dramatic events in the ring received more significance in his work after the town of Vallauris, France, allowed bullfights in 1954 under new regulations that prohibited the actual killing of the animal. Picasso's friend and favorite model Jacqueline Rocque, who joined his life about this time and went on to become Madame Picasso in 1961, shared his fascination for bullfights. For Picasso, the subject developed into an obsession. His devotion to bullfighting was further deepened in 1957 when he was commissioned to illustrate the classic work on the subject, the Tauromaquia by Pepe Illo. 


Tauromaquia (Muerte de Pepe Illo), 1999

Tauromaquia (Muerte de Pepe Illo), 1999



The Linoleum cuts:

The Tauromaquia's supple and fluid ink and lithograph pencil drawings, which served as a model for the subsequent linoleum cuts, indicate a distinction, something truly novel and new. The ink drawings, in particular, allude to dense, unmolded designs that are clearer and shorter. The artist had a variety of techniques ready when he started the series of linoleum cuts to help his themes fit the flat, open spaces that are characteristic of this medium.


The banderillas (large)


Plates 37 and 38, which depict agitated scenes, effectively show how the brown block was ready to bear a direct relationship to the superimposed black through its extensively planned designs. The top layer of these prints still exhibits some black textures and rough, strong underlying strokes. In the first of the smaller prints, plate 39, a completely different process is in use. The artist wants to draw attention to the flashing sparks coming from the right embroidery of the costumed people in all of these prints. The subsequent bullfighting scenes, which are organized around a single topic, allude to the image left on a spectator's retina as his eye blinks in the glaring sun.


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