Portrait de Jacqueline au chapeau de paille
Portrait de Jacqueline au chapeau de paille (Bloch 1067)

1962 (January 14, Mougins)

Color linocut printed in yellow, red, green, and black on Arches paper
From the edition of 50
Signed by the artist, lower right
Numbered 22/50 in pencil, lower left
Printed by Arnéra, Vallauris
Published by Louise Leiris, Paris, 1963
Image: 25 1/4 x 20 7/8 inches
Sheet: 29 5/8 x 24 3/8 inches
Framed: 31 9/16 x 37 5/16 inches
(Bloch 1067) (Ba1279 B.a.IV etat B)

This four-color lino print was made at the height of a period of prolific linocut activity, when Picasso was experimenting obsessively with the medium at his new home in Mougins, a village in the hills above Cannes. His initial forays into linogravure, begun in 1951, comprise a series of posters advertising local arts and crafts exhibitions and bullfights that he created with the help of Hidalgo Arnéra (1922-2007), a local printer whose convenient proximity permitted him to speed up his printing processes. Creating an engraving or a lithograph – Picasso’s previous printing methods – had become an exceedingly lengthy and complex activity after his move to the south of France in the late 1940s as, in the absence of any trusted printing workshop nearby, his plates had to be transported back and forth to Paris. But with the discovery of Arnéra’s workshop in Vallauris, the situation changed dramatically. Picasso made his first independent linocut in 1958, quickly becoming frustrated by the fiddly and time-consuming process involved in cutting a new lino block for each color, often resulting in imperfect registration. Innovative as always, at Arnéra’s suggestion Picasso simplified this procedure the following year through a different approach in which he carved successive stages of his image into a single block in a carefully planned order, permitting him to print progressively in different colors. Known as the reduction technique, this resulted in the bright, flat colors and bold patterning of linogravure that now become part of the artist’s visual repertoire in print, hitherto limited, almost exclusively, to the fine linear detail and rich black inky tones of etching, aquatint and lithography.

 

The composition represented in Femme au chapeau de paille bleue clearly was of great significance to Picasso, as it preoccupied him over several days in mid January 1962 when he created more than one version of this portrait of his new wife Jacqueline Roque (1927-86) wearing a straw hat. His lover since the mid 1950s and the subject of innumerable paintings and prints produced during the 1950s and 1960s, Jacqueline was known for her submissive behavior and her devotion to the ageing artist; her large almond-shaped eyes and her elegant long-nosed profile became an icon in his late work. The depiction of a straw hat in the middle of winter suggests that the sunny weather it evokes was symbolized for Picasso by his happy and fulfilled relationship with his last great muse whom he had married in March the previous year. With its strong colors, it combines a sense of summer light and heat with darker elements as suggested by his choice of green (rather than blue) to compliment the two primaries red and yellow, and the striking black. Although presented in a full-frontal view, Jacqueline’s face also contains profile elements, recalling Picasso’s early Cubist innovations and his engagement with his subject not only from a visual perspective, but also from a tactile one. However here, rather than evoking the roundness of a three-dimensional object, Picasso’s highly stylized graphic image would seem to portray simultaneous views. Rather than flattening out in the orthodox Cubist manner, it suggests a subject who moves from one position to the next, revealing aspects of herself as visible in new light. Simplified almost to a diagram, the composition equally suggests the wearing of a theatrical mask, a sense that is heightened by the strong vertical yellow line that virtually bisects the image. On the left of this, one wide-open eye looks back at the viewer above a red form in the place of a cheek that evokes a female fertility symbol; on the right side, the eye depicted in profile appears somewhat narrowed above a contracted version of the red form. Its somewhat distressed expression is emphasized by the profiled open mouth, suggesting an alternative mood to the happier mask – possibly one of the recurring bouts of illness that Jacqueline did her best (usually unsuccessfully) to hide from her husband. Picasso has flipped the line defining his subject’s nose in profile backwards into the right side of the face, resulting in a restless ambiguity that keeps the viewer’s eye in constant motion over the composition. The green lines on the right define the rounded contours of Jacqueline’s left cheek above a neck that curves impossibly into her left shoulder. Her profiled chin rests on another inverted V-form – in yellow – that echoes the female form in red above, as well as balancing the yellow lines of her hat. Below this, the straight parallel and right-angled lines of her black hair serve to hold the composition in place rather in the manner of architectural brackets.

 

According the author of the catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s prints, Brigitte Baer, the artist began his representation of Jacqueline wearing a straw hat with two preparatory drawings (Zervos XX-196 and 197) made on January 14, 1962, the same day as he created this print (Brigitte Baer, Picasso Peintre-Graveur, Tome V, Kornfeld Editions, Bern 1989, p.359). It thus represents the beginning of his treatment of this subject in linogravure, and as such is an example of masterly efficiency in the medium. As usual, Picasso had designed his entire composition in his head – the linear structure as well as the color balance – before he embarked on the execution of it. He began by defining his image by removing all the surface of the lino block except for the thick lines in which it is drawn. This first state served for the lightest color – the yellow – in which some 90 proofs were pulled on Arches vellum. In the second state, he removed from the lino block the lines he had decided to retain as yellow and printed over the 90 proofs pulled in the first state in red. He did the same again for the following two states – using green in the third state and black in the fourth and final state. The following year, Arnéra printed a further 70 impressions on the same paper. Of these, the Louise Leiris Gallery, Paris published an edition of 50 impressions signed and numbered 1/50 to 50/50, with a remaining 20 artist’s proofs. Our impression is numbered 22/50 in the lower left in pencil and signed by Picasso in the lower right, also in pencil.