Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite
3 May – 2 September 2012 Room 90
Picasso’s collection of prints, known as the Vollard Suite is currently on display in the British Musuem. Comprising the completed collection of 100 prints produced between 1930 and 1937 this is the first time that the suite has been shown in its entirety in a British collection. Moreover, it’s free to see!
Inspired largely by the Masters and legends of sculptures, Minotaurs and studios, the collection encompasses various themes. The theme of the blind Minotaur (not that I am obsessed with Minotaurs, I just happen to like the legend) being led by a child is quite wonderful in its ability to elicit a curious sort of empathy both with the creature and the scene. Looking through the etchings we see the development of the composition, the child going from illustratively drawn to a more symbolic, linear profile representation. The influence of African masks and Etruscan bronze work, with the etched, line drawings.
The British Museum shows the works of Goya, Rembrandt and Ingres where their influence is most strongly felt in this collection. At the time of producing the prints Picasso’s own life was love struck. His affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter, just 17 to his 45 years. At the time, Walter was six months under the age of consent, this, coupled with Picasso’s wife, ensured that the affair began with a secrecy which lent an increased electricity to the attraction. The little girl leading the Minotaur is Marie-.Thérèse. It took 7 years before the first set of Vollard prints were produced, World War II, relocation and personal upheaval all played their part.
There are three quick portraits of Ambroise Vollard, all produced on the same day with a wonderfully manic energy. Picasso had previously painted the French art dealer in the cubist style, creating an iconic portrait in 1910. Here the features are more naturalisticly rendered, and the line seems to be taking a walk around his face as it hits the page.
I love this exhibition, so far I have been in twice and plan to go again. If you’re heading to the Tate in the morning to see Picasso, why not hop across town in the afternoon and fill up on works by the 20th century genius?