En la Taberna. Pêcheurs catalans en bordée
En la Taberna. Pêcheurs catalans en bordée (Bloch 286)

1934 (November 11, Paris)

Etching printed in brown-black on Montval laid paper with Picasso watermark
From the edition of 108, of which half are printed in black and half are printed in brown-black  (An additional edition of 50 was printed in 1961 as part of the Caisse à remords .)
Printed by Lacourière, 1942
Image: 9 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches
Sheet: 13 3/8 x 17 3/4 inches
(Bloch 286) (Baer 439.B.d.2)

When this etching was created in November, 1934, Picasso’s enthusiasm for Marie-Thérèse was beginning to wane but he did not yet know she was pregnant (according to Brigitte Baer, Marie-Thérèse informed him just before Christmas that year). She does not appear in this image and Picasso seems to be taking a brief respite from the emotionally fraught subjects he had explored in his prints of 1933 and early 1934. The composition is notable for its gaiety and for the remarkable amount of activity the artist was able to convey in such a small plate.

 

This cabaret scene is one of only a few in Picasso’s work, however, the Catalan sailors seen here are frequent players in his prints of the mid-1930s. Most notably, they also appear in the celebrated etching Minotauromachy (Bloch 288, 1935) and the images of the blind Minotaur in the Suite Vollard (Bloch 222 - Bloch 225, 1934). In each of these complex images, the sailors are emotionally detached spectators to the fantastical scene that unfolds before them, perhaps functioning in a role similar to the Greek chorus—in such prints, the stoic and straight-backed sailor who appears here at left seems to be a guardian for the young girl that resembles Marie-Thérèse.

 

Here, however, the sailors seem to play a more straightforward role, enjoying themselves at a striptease, singing and dreaming. The woman whose head appears in the background at the upper center may be Célestina, the antagonist in Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea (or La Celestina), a seminal work of Renaissance Spanish literature that was written in 1499 by Fernando de Rojas. If so, this may be an early exploration of this story in Picasso’s work, which would become the subject of a suite of sixty-six prints created nearly four decades later toward the end of his life. In the story, the aged Célestina, a retired prostitute and procuress, is hired by Calisto to arrange a meeting with his love interest Melibea. Célestina agrees, but hatches a plan to take advantage of him with two of his henchmen, who are frequent customers at her brothel. Perhaps they are among the men seated in this scene.

 

Another possibility is that she represents Picasso’s jealous wife, Olga, who was at this point somewhat ravaged by years of poor diet, anxiety attacks, and obsessive coffee-drinking, despite the fact that she was only in her late thirties. If so, the sailors may represent Picasso at different points in life: schoolboy (right), youth (left), young man (center), middle-aged (left center). As such, the beards may serve to indicate the later stages of maturity. Picasso portrayed himself with a beard in several later works, though he never actually wore one. In addition, some scholars have seen a resemblance to Don José, Picasso’s father, in the bearded men. Perhaps this is reference to the recent assertions by psychoanalysts—by now quite familiar—that we are destined to “become” our parents. Whatever the case, the men enjoy themselves in spite of the woman’s mean-spirited presence and resentful mien—a struggle parallel to that which Picasso endured in his marriage until it ended in 1935.

 

The current impression is from the first edition of fifty-four printed in brownish-black ink by Lacourière in 1942, using the same Montval paper on which the Suite Vollard was printed (necessitated by paper shortages during WWII). He also printed fifty-four in black ink at the same time. A later edition of fifty plus artist’s proofs was printed by Jacques Frélaut in 1961 as part of the Caisse à Remords.