Peintre avec modèle barbu assis sur une chaise
Peintre avec modèle barbu assis sur une chaise (Bloch 1136)

1963 (November 26, Mougins)

Aquatint with scraper and drypoint printed on wove Richard de Bas with Auvergene watermark
Proof outside the edition of 50
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Annotated "Bon à tirer" in pencil, lower center margin 
Annotated "B1136 / 50000 F" in pencil, verso lower left corner 
Printed by Crommelynck for his collection, 1964-65
Image: 9 x 13 inches
Sheet: 12 3/4 x 17 7/8 inches
Framed: 19 1/8 x 29 5/8 inches
(Bloch 1136) (Baer 1133.B.a)

 

In summer 1961, Picasso moved with his new wife Jacqueline Roque (1927-86) into a house named Notre-Dame-de-Vie located in the village of Mougins in the hills above Cannes, which proved to be his final and most long-lasting home. Over the previous decade, while he had made significant new forays into the medium of linocut, working with a local printmaker specialising in this, his output in etching and aquatint had declined, due to the difficulty of working remote from the workshop of the great master-printer Roger Lacourière (1892-1966) in Paris. Picasso had worked intensively during the 1930s with Lacourière, learning a variety of etching techniques including sugarlift, spitbite, burin and sophisticated aquatint effects, and in Lacourière’s workshop he had made the acquaintance of two young apprentices, Aldo and Piero Crommelynck (1931-2009 and 1934-2001), who had left Lacourière to set up their own Paris workshop in 1955. Realising that they would never have another chance to work with Picasso unless they moved south, in early 1963 the Crommelynck brothers set up a second printing studio in a former bakery in Mougins. Here, in October of that year, Picasso began his last and most productive phase of printmaking that lasted until the end of his life. Using every technique he knew, while continuing to invent new ones, and sometimes breaking all the rules, Picasso produced around 500 etchings from this collaboration.

Almost the first subject Picasso embarked on in October 1963 was that of the artist and his model, producing some fifty images on this theme over the course of eighteen months. Utilizing a combination of varying characters – models that may be male or female, real or imagined, living and breathing beings or inanimate sculptures – and a range of spectators – the series represents a significant group of works in which the artist meditates on his daily concerns while revealing something of the small local community (made up of his wife Jacqueline, the family of Piero Crommelynck and the visitors passing through in a regular stream) in which he lived. Peintre avec modèle barbu assis sur une chaise is unusual in that it is dominated by the two male figures of its title, while the nude female model – who appears as a spectator in other images if not the main subject of the artist’s gaze – is fragmented into multiple parts of women that float over the background of the print as though they are previously-made pictures hanging in the artist’s studio. Seen in profile at the upper left centre of the print, Jacqueline’s face is recognisable from her features and her traditional bandeau. Other hovering faces further to the left could equally represent portraits or visitors to the artist’s studio.

Picasso had a very clear mental image of his composition when he began to work on an etching. Piero Crommelynck has recounted that ‘on a traditional etching, Picasso gave the impression that he was working slowly, similar to making a tapestry. Sometimes he would begin with a highly detailed scene, working so meticulously that the effect was one of slow motion, and yet without the slightest hesitation. But when he was drawing directly with a brush dipped in acid on copper coated in a very fine grain [as he was to create this print], his speed of execution was awesome.’ (Quoted in Ann Hindry, ‘Printer and friend’, in Picasso: the Last Decades, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2002, p.63.) Peintre avec modèle barbu assis sur une chaise hinges compositionally around the painter’s easel in the centre, with the bearded artist on the right represented in watery shades of dark and light grey created by swift aquatint worked with a brush as described above. On the other side of the easel, his nude subject has been drawn using a lithographic crayon – a rare and highly innovative combination – the white pastel-like line in strong contrast to the rest of the print, shining out against the dark grey of his chair. Equally bald-headed and bearded, this model suggests a mirroring alter-ego of the painter. Eighty-four years old by this stage, Picasso may well have been depicting a moment of self-observation and self-reflection, imagining placing himself in the place normally occupied by his model. He often used a beard to symbolize his mature self, and even selves, as more than one bearded character may inhabit an image in his late work. The bearded head in shown in profile at the upper left corner of the print possibly represents his father Don José (who always wore a beard) presiding over the artist’s contemplative moment.

This aquatint was created with a scraper and drypoint, incorporating lithographic crayon additions, and was printed on wove Richard de Bas paper with an Auvergene watermark. A rare single example, this impression was the first (test) proof of the image, printed in 1964-5 by Crommelynk and retained for his personal collection. It is signed by the artist at the lower right in pencil, and annotated at the lower center margin ‘Bon à tirer’, also in pencil. An edition of fifty plus fifteen artist’s proofs also printed on Richard de Bas wove paper by Crommelynk was published in 1965 by Galerie Louise Leiris in Paris.