Picador et Taureau. I
Picador et Taureau. I (Bloch 1350)

1947 (March 3, Paris)

Sugarlift aquatint with etching 
One of two or three impressions of the second (final) state printed on Pur Fil Marais wove with Pur Fil Marais watermark 
Dated upper left, in plate
Printed by Lacourière (1947)
Image: 11 3/4 x 16 inches
Sheet: 15 x 19 3/4 inches
Framed: 23 5/8 x 27 5/8 inches
(Bloch 1350) (Baer 781.II.A)

An integral part of Picasso’s life as a small child in Malaga, the corrida is one of his oldest themes. Picasso drew bulls, picadors and matadors from an early age, and when he created his first etching in 1899, it was the representation of a picador, albeit back-to-front. Not realizing that he needed to create his image in reverse for the printing process, he drew the lance in the picador’s wrong hand, resulting in the title El Zurdo (the left-handed one). These works were the prelude to countless drawings, prints and paintings made throughout the artist’s long life in which he explored every aspect of the bull, the bullfighter and the bullring.


A recurring event is portrayed in Picador et Taureau. I—the dynamic moment when the picador thrusts his lance into the bull’s shoulder, striking the first of the series of blows that lead ultimately to the animal’s death. As the picador triumphs above him, he bows his powerful head in a short pause before his vigor is renewed and he may gore a hole in the horse, or retreat to charge. In this pose, the downwards curves of the bull and the man are balanced by the lines of the upwards-rearing horse behind them. The horse’s rear quarters are on an equal foreground plane with the bull, and mirror the rounded hump of the bull’s massive shoulder around the dynamic vertical axis formed by the man and the bull’s head. Turned back as though in annoyance, the bull appears to be looking at his rear quarters, where his hind legs have been skewed around in a comic Cubist twist. The rearing horse’s head, neck and forelegs have a flattened, art deco stylization, while the painterly qualities of the bull’s forequarters and belly evoke the schematic representations of animals painted by early Europeans on the walls of the caves at Lascaux in southwestern France, recently discovered in 1940 and opened to the public in 1948.


Having spent the war years in Paris painting dark still-lives and memento mori, in summer 1945 Picasso was at last able to return to the sunny Mediterranean, where he reignited his passion for the spectacle of the corrida. That year, geometrically simplified images of bulls began to appear in his new lithographic experiments, singly or in groups, sometimes accompanied by picadors on horseback. As he spent increasing amounts of time in the south, bulls began to appear in his etchings too; on 3 March 1947, he created this aquatint in the Paris atelier of his collaborator, the master printmaker Roger Lacourière. Through their joining repetition of curving line, the three protagonists that form the composition fuse into a single entity based on a muscular six-legged torso that simultaneously pulls up into the air while driving downwards into the ground.


Picasso worked Picador et Taureau. I through two states. This is an impression of the second (final) state, one of two or three artist’s proofs printed on Pur fil Marais wove paper.