Portrait de Famille Ingresque. IV
Portrait de Famille Ingresque. IV (Bloch 1146)

1962 (October 2, Mougins)

Linocut printed in two colors on Arches wove
One of twenty artist's proofs, of which eight are signed, outside the edition of 50
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Inscribed "epreuve d'artiste" in pencil, lower left
Inscribed " 16535 V" in pencil, upper left verso
Printed by Arnéra, 1962-1963
Published by Galerie Louise Leiris, 1963
Image: 15 1/4 x 21 inches 
Sheet: 19 7/8 x 25 7/8 inches
Framed: 27 5/8 x 32 5/8 inches
(Bloch 1146) (Baer 1337.B.b.)

This is the fourth and final image in a series of linocuts begun on 26 June 1962, in the artist’s home in Mougins, near Cannes, following a series of lithographs on the same subject created between 21 June and 6 July of the same year. Picasso’s repeated treatment of this composition demonstrates the importance that it had for him in the summer and autumn of 1962. Its inspiration—as its title indicates—was a drawing by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) that Picasso would have known well from memory as it hung in the Louvre in Paris. The Forestier Family of 1806 shows Ingres’s fiancée Julie Forestier with both her parents, an uncle and the family maid. A romantic memento, it is one of the best known of the graphic portraits by Ingres in the Louvre, much admired for the delicacy of the drawing and the placement of the figures in the composition. Ingres drew the family portrait when he had to leave his fiancée in Paris and spend four years at the French Academy in Rome (the Villa Medici) after winning the Prix de Rome in 1801. Once he had left, the pair decided to separate and Julie returned the drawing to the artist, who copied it. Ingres married Madeleine Chapelle, a young milliner, in 1813.

 

When Picasso created this series of linocuts, he was eighty years old and living in relative isolation from the Paris art world in a villa in the hills above Cannes with his young wife Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986) whom he had married the previous year. No longer considered an innovator in art, as new fashions had taken central stage he had entered his old master phase, looking to the art of past masters for his motifs. As he contemplated his own complex and extended family, he perhaps re-identified himself with one of his oldest artistic mentors and sources of inspiration, whose work he had been familiar with since the early years of the twentieth-century. Known as the academic artist par excellence, Ingres had appealed to Picasso for his classicism, which the younger artist shared from the academic training he had received at the Spanish art schools he had attended during his adolescence. Indeed an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Ingres at the Salon d’Automne in 1905 was said to have overwhelmed the young Spaniard with envy for the ‘linear mastery of Ingres’s drawings’.i However, in this linocut Picasso’s reference to the older artist’s work is far from straightforward. The medium itself is hardly one would that would seem naturally to match Ingres’ delicate and sinuous line. Bright flat colors and bold patterning are typical effects with this technique, as ink sits easily on the surface of the linoleum blocks, and the material’s softness requires relatively little effort for gouging. Picasso’s initial forays into the medium of linocut 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 the artist to speed up his printing processes, which had become exceedingly lengthy after his move to the south of France in the late 1940s. He made his first independent linocut in 1958, but it was not until the early 1960s that his really in-depth engagement with the medium began, leading to the creation of linocut prints that would become the highlights of his printmaking oeuvre.

 

In Portrait de famille Ingresque. IV, not only has Picasso transformed the fine line of the original into more dramatic broad strokes, the four figures in this print have been radically repositioned in relation to Ingres’ original to suggest a very different narrative. Whereas Ingres’ drawing logically places his fiancée in the centre of the image, where she stands flanked by her seated parents on either side, Picasso has moved the older couple to this central position. The young woman in his linocut stands at the left side of the image looking over her parents’ heads at a young man who returns her gaze from the other side. This oppositional placement is a common tactic in Picasso’s prints, with great dynamic effect, suggesting a narrative that is hidden from the viewer, a subtext to the otherwise apparently innocent family portrait. Although possibly brother and sister, it seems more likely that the young couple are lovers; here they have been brought to the foreground of the image to emphasize their mutual interest, while the older couple has receded into the background. In his usual fashion, the artist has achieved the maximum of impact with the most minimal of line: though crudely delineated, the characters’ expressions and poses suggest a range of emotions, from disapproving grumpiness on the part of the old man in the background, to the young man’s hopeful attention and the young woman’s placid desire. The brown frame around the image is especially unusual. Cut from a separate linoleum block, it creates an effect of three-dimensionality by suggesting a shadow on one side of the broad frame around the family group through the scalloped extrusion on the picture’s right hand side.

 

Created on October 2nd in Mougins, this linocut was printed in two colors on Arches wove by Arnéra in 1962-63 in an edition of fifty and published by Galerie Louise Leiris in 1963. Twenty artist’s proofs were also printed on Arches wove at the same time, of which eight were signed. This impression is one of the eight signed artist’s proofs, signed at the lower right in pencil, and annotated “épreuve d'artiste” at the lower left, also in pencil.

 

 

i John Richardson, A Life of Picasso, Volume I: 1881-1906, p.421.