Homme Façonnant un Arc Devant une Jeune Femme et un Flutiste
Homme Façonnant un Arc Devant une Jeune Femme et un Flutiste (Bloch 305)
1938 (February 19, Paris)
Drypoint printed on Montval laid paper
One of a few proofs outside the edition of 57 
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Dedicated  "Pour Frélaut, Paris le 27 Avril 1942," lower right
Printed by Lacourière, 1942
Image: 9 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches
Sheet: 13 1/4 x 17 1/2 inches
Framed: 21 5/8 x 24 1/8 inches
(Bloch 305) (Baer 633.A.b.)

Homme Façonnant un Arc Devant une Jeune Femme et un Flutiste precedes this phase by nearly a decade and was created in a brief period of respite between the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and the occupation of Paris by German forces. In addition to these political events, Picasso’s personal life had been overturned in 1935 with the dissolution of his marriage and the birth of his daughter by his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter. These events provoked his most agitated and complex imagery: The Minotaur; Guernica and the Weeping Women. When Picasso created this plate—which is a fine example of the playful sketch plates that he often generated for personal gratification in the studio—he had been steeped in highly emotional and dark subject matter for months, if not years. Understandably, it seems that he wished to engage in something of a more light-hearted nature. The date noted on the plate is February 19—a time of year when winter can become oppressive—and the open, breezy composition here recalls the lazy days of summer. In fact, later in life, Picasso reportedly said that his images in this vein were inspired by the summers he spent on the Riviera.i

 

This impression is one of a few trial proofs that were taken by Picasso’s trusted intaglio printer Roger Lacourière in 1942 before the edition of fifty-seven was printed. It has the characteristically rich burr of an early impression from a drypoint plate, before the press has worn it down. Lacourière expertly and sensitively inked the textured areas in the figures’ hair, the woman’s robe, the grass below, and the tree to the left to bring out Picasso’s masterful drypoint line. This early proof is dedicated to Jacques Frélaut, a printer in Lacourière’s studio who later became Picasso primary intaglio printer, presumably in appreciation of his professionalism and dedication to Picasso. The artist was notoriously demanding and exacting, but this did not bother Frélaut in the slightest. He and Picasso had a remarkable rapport. The noted scholar Pat Gilmour described Frélaut’s philosophy in relationship to Picasso thus:

 

Frélaut believed that to be a good printer, you need to grow up with a press so that you can work without tiring. He says the most dangerous thing for an artisan is skillfulness. A good collaborative printer needs an affinity for the artist, the facility that enables him to create the right atmosphere, and an ability to work “with joy.” Such a printer does not mind being manipulated: “The word manipulate, for me,” says Frélaut, “means almost an integration with the artist…I become him. He manipulates me.” From Frélaut’s point of view, Picasso was “simplicity, authenticity, and the opposite of convention” and his honesty in his work pervaded everything. Work was the only thing that was important to him, and in order to understand him, one only had to understand that. The artist always drew directly onto the copper, never from a prepared drawing, for engraving was a serious undertaking. He expected the printer to realize in the sheet what he had drawn in the plate, without tricks, but “frankly, with generosity and warmth.”ii

 

 

i Roland Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, third edition [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981], 151-2.

ii Frélaut as paraphrased by Pat Gilmour in “Picasso and His Printers,” The Print Collector’s Newsletter XVIII, no. 3 (July-August 1987): 85.