Paris, 14 Juillet 42
Paris, 14 Juillet 42 (Baer 682)

1942 (14 July, Paris)

Lithograph printed on Arches with Arches watermark
One of three trial proofs
1942 (July 14, Paris)
Dated "Paris, 14 Juillet 42" in plate in reverse, lower left
Printed by Mourlot, 1945
Image: 17 1/8 x 24 3/8 inches
Sheet: 19 3/4 x 26 inches
Framed: 24 1/4 x 30 1/4 inches
(Baer 682 V.B.b.Note)

Paris, 14 Juillet, 42 was created in July of 1942 during one of the darkest periods of the German occupation of Paris, a time when Picasso was making very few prints. He had never received any formal training as a printmaker, but during the second half of the 1930s had experimented extensively with the various possibilities of engraving in the workshops of Roger Lacourière (1892-1966). Picasso’s collaboration with Lacourière was extremely rich, producing among others, the celebrated Femme qui pleure etchings of 1937 and 1949. Always liking to push technical possibilities to their limits, Picasso first created Paris, 14 Juillet, 42 as an etching engraved onto a zinc plate, which Lacourière printed in several states. Three years later, when he began working in the lithography workshop of Fernand Mourlot (1895-1988), the master printer assisted him to transfer one of his etching proofs onto a lithographic zinc plate and the image was printed as a lithograph on Arches paper. This is the only known instance of a complete transfer between the two printing mediums. Proofed in small quantities, neither the etching nor the lithograph were ever editioned; only three impressions of this lithograph exist, making it one of the rarest of Picasso’s prints.

 

The mood depicted in Paris, 14 Juillet, 42 is in stark contrast with the atmosphere in Paris at the time. Given the date of its creation—14 July is Bastille day, a holiday commemorating French nationalism, symbolized by the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution—it seems likely that the artist intended it to be read as a form of nationalist allegory, although this is filtered and transformed through the artist’s personal symbolism. Picasso had already expressed his disgust with the horrors of war in his 1937 painting, Guernica. Now instead, he focused on the more cheerful topic of peace, paraphrasing one of the most famous classical monuments to peace: the Ara Pacis Augustae in Rome, built between 13 and 9 BC to honor the Emperor Augustus. The temple is decorated with friezes showing sacrificial processions; one of the most significant of these depicts a bearded man thought to represent Aeneas, the founding father of Rome, here symbolically associated with Augustus. The bare-chested male figure on the right side of Picasso’s print corresponds with the figure of Aeneas, although he is holding a bunch of flowers and a painter’s palette, rather than a sacrificial bowl, identifying him with the artist. In his later years especially, Picasso portrayed himself bearded in self-portraits despite never actually wearing one and it is understood that the beard was in homage to his father, Don José. The young woman on the far left holds two doves or pigeons in her arms. This could be another reference to the artist’s father, an art teacher known for painting pigeons, or simply a reference to peace as symbolized by the doves. She corresponds in attitude and face to the figure of Livia in the imperial procession frieze, although Livia’s veil has been replaced by long hair, which interestingly closely resembles the hair of Picasso’s soon-to-be lover and muse, Françoise Gilot. Picasso is known to have told Gilot: ‘I painted you before I met you’. The short-statured, poised older lady cradling a lamb next to the Livia/Françoise figure wears the veil worn by Livia in the frieze, but has no further correspondence to her; she is a possible reference to Picasso’s mother, María. The young man in the center holding a platter of fish is Picasso’s eldest son, Paulo.

 

In balanced opposition to the figure of the painter is the young woman seen in profile, carrying a bowl of fruit on her head and leading a goat, who appears to be nibbling the stems of the flowers held aloft by the painter. The young woman’s proud demeanor and her prominent, semi-bared breasts recall the figure of Liberty Leading the People in the famous painting by Eugène Delacroix (1830, Louvre Museum, Paris). That Picasso might celebrate liberty with peace during a time when Paris was occupied by Fascists is not at all surprising, but this notion is perhaps a little more complex than it originally appears. As an artist, Picasso thought of himself as a revolutionary, vehemently defending a ‘free and revolutionary art’.i Although he never really documented his loyalty to the party in his work, Picasso joined the French Communist Party (PCF) in 1944, supporting a kind of salon communism. Paris, 14 juillet, 42 is the first model for one of the artist’s most important sculptures of the decade, L’Homme au mouton 1943, which he donated to the communist-run town of Vallauris on the French Côte d’Azur, after buying a house there, in 1949. The imagery of this sculpture—in which a man carries a sheep on his shoulders—is resoundingly Christian, as is the loaf of bread, the fish and the lamb in the earlier print. However, if the figures approaching the artist bear symbols of animal sacrifice and divine plenty, the figure of the artist is resoundingly pagan and vegetal, surrounded as he is by flowers that sprout from vases and a box behind him, and even from the ends of paintbrushes on the palette he holds. The intense texture that highlights the heads of the painter and the greedy goat suggests an identification between them, while the abundant flowers recall the artistic genre of the still life—and the memento mori—that feature prominently in Picasso’s paintings during the war years, when he took refuge from overt political messages in a more timeless reflection on the transience of life and the inevitability of death. This texturing is strikingly dominant in the lithograph, which emphasizes the significant elements of the composition with darker (because deeper engraved) lines. Severing limbs and torsos, the emphasis stretches from the head and upper body of the artist across the image, including the goat’s neck and front torso, the boy’s head, the head, arms and breasts of the young woman seen in profile, the young girl who holds a loaf of bread, the profile of the elderly woman and the lamb she cradles, and the turned-away face of the young woman with the doves.

 

 

i Quoted in Andreas Bühler, ‘Picasso’s Lithograph, Paris 14 juillet 1942, and the Ara Pacis Augustae’ in Heiner Hachmeister, Picasso: Paraphrases and
Variations, Münster: Hachmeister, 2004, p.21.