Tête de femme (de profil)
Tête de femme (de profil) (Bloch 905, 4th state)

1959 (October 20)

1959 (October 20)
Linocut printed in color on Arches paper
Fourth state of five, IV.A  (of V)
Exceptionally rare in this form.
Stamped in ink on the verso: 'lmprimerie Arnéra Archives/Non Signé 
Annotated with what appear to be printing measurements by the printer, Hidalgo Arnéra, "1/+5/+9" in pencil
Printed by Hidalgo Arnéra 1959
Image: 25 1/4 x 21 inches
Sheet: 29 1/2  x 24 1/2 inches
Framed: 35 5/16 x 31 1/8 inches
(Bloch 0905) (Baer 1246)

Created in a single day in its entirety, Tête de femme de profil is a linocut in three colours taken through a total of five states. Made from a single block, it demonstrates the use of an innovative linogravure technique that Picasso was in the throes of developing: that of reduction. Ever since his relocation to the south of France in 1948, Picasso had become increasingly frustrated by the length of time it took for his etching and lithographic plates to travel to and from his printers in Paris and he was therefore extremely happy to find a local printer – Hidalgo Arnéra (1922-2007) – who specialized in printing newspapers and posters in the town of Vallauris in 1951. Working with Arnéra, Picasso went on to create a series of linocut posters during the 1950s and early 1960s, advertising the local arts and crafts exhibitions and bullfights, in which he exploited the medium’s suitability for poster design. Picasso’s first independent linocut was Portrait of a Young Girl, after Cranach the Younger, made on July 4, 1958 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). Although he had learnt quickly from Arnéra and was now technically proficient, the artist found the process of making this multi-coloured print in linocut fiddly and time-consuming: he had to cut as many linoleum blocks as there are colours in the print, ensuring that they all registered correctly. Adapting these new-learned techniques, he began to work in a revolutionary process of reduction. Rather than cutting many separate pieces of linoleum, he used a single piece, which he cut, printed, then re-cut and re-printed, just as he reworked his etching and lithography plates. Arnéra recounts that during this period of intensive interest and experimentation, Picasso would cut the linocuts late at night, and his chauffeur would drive them to the workshop early next morning. Arnéra would print them up before lunch-time—a demanding task as the inks had to be mixed in a particular way so that the different colours overprinted properly—and then take the prints to Picasso for viewing at 1.30pm precisely. He did this every weekday for eight years, resulting in around 200 linocuts. (Hidalgo Arnéra quoted in Patrick Elliott, Picasso on Paper, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh 2007, p.21.)


When Picaso created Tête de femme de profil on October 20, 1959, he began by defining the long-nosed profile of his lover (and future wife) Jacqueline Roque (1927-
86) with a single line gouged from the lino block. A second line defines the top of her head and rough scrapings cover part of her face and outline her hair at the back. Arnéra pulled approximately 80 proofs of this state in chocolate brown over a background of light caramel, in addition to several single proofs in beige. In the second state, Picasso removed much of the surface of the lino within the contours of the head, leaving a line of emphasis in parallel to the initial contours that follow the forehead, nose, lips and chin, the coiffure and, within the contours, the jaw, the ear, the eyes and the detail of the hair. Parallel lines now fill sections of the woman’s neck and shoulders, giving a sculptural appearance to Picasso’s stylized neo-classical bust. In her catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s prints, Brigitte Baer cites only a single impression in this state pulled in black over one of the 80 proofs from the first state (Brigitte Baer, Picasso Peintre-Graveur, Tome V, Kornfeld Editions, Bern 1991, pp.297-9). However, a further three impressions of this state are known to exist. We have a working proof printed in chocolate brown and light caramel over beige on Arches paper with a watermark that is exceptionally rare in this form. It is annotated with what appear to be printing measurements by Arnéra in pencil: ‘+1/+5/+9’ and is stamped in ink on the verso: ‘Imprimerie Arnéra Archives/Non Signé’.
In the third state, Picasso removed a narrow section of the lino at the top of his subject’s head, and added further stripes to her neck, with an extra line on either side of this terminating her bust and shoulders at the front and back respectively. Again, Baer cites only one impression in this state printed in dark brown and light brown over the beige background of the first state. However a further three impressions in this colourway are known to exist. This is one of those three impressions and thus again, exceptionally rare. It is similarly annotated by Arnéra in pencil: ‘+1/H5/H8’ and is stamped in ink on the verso: ‘Imprimerie Arnéra Archives/Non Signé’.


For the fourth state, which Baer calls the ‘definitive black’ state, Picasso filled in the space between the stripes on his subject’s neck, leaving virtually nothing of the lino surface remaining. He added cross-hatching to the front of her top, extending this beyond the boundary line created in the third state with a rounded shape. At the same time he removed the line defining her profiled forehead, nose, chin and jaw, leaving only the lines defining her lips and nostrils intact. Baer cites five trial proofs pulled over the impressions of the first state using black, of which this is one. Printed on Arches paper with a watermark, it is stamped in ink on the verso: ‘Imprimerie Arnéra Archives/Non Signé’. This state was deemed the definitive form, and it was published in 1960 by the Louise Leiris Gallery, Paris in an edition of 50 with an additional 20 artist’s proofs all printed by Arnéra. Picasso again worked the block for a fifth state, removing most of the surface of his lino, scraping it almost to the base. In this state, very little of the lino’s surface remains, yielding only a trace of his image and making it very difficult to print. Six working proofs were pulled from this.