Toros en Vallauris 1955
Toros en Vallauris 1955 (Bloch 1265)

1955 (Probably June, Vallauris)

Linocut printed in blue, red and yellow with Registres Torpes watermark
Artist's proof outside the edition of 100 
Signed in the plate
Stamped "Imprimerie Arnéra Archives/Non Signé" on verso, in ink
Printed by Imprimerie Arnéra
Published by the Association des potiers de Vallauris
Image: 26 1/8 x 20 12 inches
Sheet: 35 3/8 x 23 1/4 inches
(Bloch 1265) (Baer 1029.B) (Czwiklitzer 14) (Art of the Poster 25)

Picasso designed his first posters in 1948, the year he moved into the villa La Gaulloise in Vallauris, a traditional potters’ village that lies some way inland from the Côte d’Azur. Over the next eighteen years he created around seventy posters in which his use of materials, mode of expression, and playful creativity are unrivaled. His designs initially utilized lithography, a medium in which he had begun a phase of extensive experimentation during autumn 1945 in the Paris workshop of Fernand Mourlot. From 1951, Picasso supplemented his lithographic posters with linoleum cuts, which he had printed on a hand press by a local man, Hidalgo Arnéra, who specialized in printing newspapers and posters. Picasso was invited in 1951 to create a poster to advertise the town’s annual art exhibition, Arnéra suggested that he use linocut, which is relatively easy to cut and print and can easily accommodate text, making it ideal for poster design. Following the success of this, the artist went on to create a series of linocut posters during the following decade advertising local art and crafts exhibitions, and bullfights. At the same time he received commissions to design posters to promote disarmament and peace, and designed posters for his own and fellow-artists’ exhibitions. Each of these four themes is characterized by a different use of his printing mediums. Those executed in lithography (principally the latter two themes) have a delicate, flowing linear style; by contrast the linocut posters are made up of flat interlocking forms printed in bright, striking colors that reflect the vibrancy of life in the sunny Mediterranean.

 

Picasso’s engagement with the medium of the poster—traditionally associated with street art rather than fine art—has its parallel in his interest in ceramics, which he began working with in Vallauris in 1947, painting decorative designs on clay bowls before going on to develop a substantial body of sculptural work in the medium. As Mark Gundel has commented, both clay and linoleum are easily worked and responsive materials, rendering them perfectly suited to Picasso’s guiding principle of formal metamorphosis.i With its individually cut blocks of linoleum, the linocut technique is ideally suited to pared down-graphic design, of which Picasso was already a master. His incomparable ability to streamline a poster’s message to a set of meaningful symbols had a significant influence on the development of poster art during subsequent years, constituting yet another area of innovation for the artist. This reductive technique—already used to great effect in his more personal images—is ideally suited to the advertising function of the poster. Executing the text in his own handwriting, and giving it equal weight with the image, Picasso both personalized the message and made it more accessible through its unity with the image as a single design.

 

Picasso developed a deep attachment to Vallauris, where he was able to take refuge from the excessive publicity that had begun to pursue him in the years just after the war, and to revive his life-long passion in the spectacle of the corrida. After his permanent relocation from Paris to the south of France in 1948, Picasso attended bullfights regularly, most frequently at his favorite venues in the Roman arenas of Nîmes and Arles, as well as at the smaller Vallauris arena. From 1954 to 1960 he designed linocut posters for the local summer season which had been specially organized for him by Spanish friends; the resulting seven posters display an extraordinary development and refinement of the imagery he was also exploring in other graphic works at the time, most notably in etching and lithography. Executed in simple blocks of primary colors combined with white or black, or in the earthy ochre and terracotta shades of the ceramics the artist was experimenting with in three-dimensions, the posters show a degree of abstraction that was entirely unprecedented in bullfight posters at that time, which were typically realistic depictions of dramatic moments. Starting with a simplified view of the arena and the spectacle in his first poster made in 1954, in his usual virtuoso manner Picasso refined this drama to the most pared-down of visual signs in his second poster the following year Toros en Vallauris 1955 (Bloch 1265), where the bull and the matador face oppose each other in two different blocks of color—yellow and red respectively—on either side of a central band of black. They are contained within a circle that defines the arena, around which disembodied faces represent the audience. Picasso continued this simplified visual language in his subsequent Toros en Vallauris posters, also using the image of an eye to symbolize the notion of spectators.

 

Picasso experimented playfully with the typography of the text on many of his posters, which was limited to the information ‘Toros en Vallauris’ (‘Bulls in Vallauris’, written significantly in the artist’s mother tongue Spanish, rather than in French), and the date, spelled out in bold letters intended to be clearly legible from a distance. On the poster he created in 1959, Toros en Vallauris 59 (Bloch 1287), he transformed the text into image itself, filling the large letters that spell out the announcement with stick figures engaged in bullfight scenes, while in the last poster made in 1960, Toros en Vallauris 1960 (Bloch 1291), the words are broken up to fit inside the bodies of seven bulls that charge in varying directions across the page.

 

All the posters were printed in the Arnéra workshop and are stamped in ink on the verso: ‘Imprimerie Arnéra Archives/Non Signé’.

 

 

i Marc Gundel, PICASSO: The Art of the Poster, New York: Prestel, 2000, p.9.