PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
CARVED IN COLOR: THE NICK AND RAQUEL NEWMAN COLLECTION OF PRINTS BY PABLO PICASSO
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Buste de femme d'après Cranach le Jeune

Details
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Buste de femme d'après Cranach le Jeune
linocut in colors, on Arches paper, 1958, signed in blue crayon, numbered 17/50, published by galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, with wide margins, some light-staining, framed
Image: 25 ½ x 21 in. (648 x 533 mm.)
Sheet: 30 x 22 ½ in. (762 x 572 mm.)
Literature
Bloch 859; Baer 1053
Post lot text
1. D.-H. Kahnweiler, ‘Introduction: A Free Man’, in Picasso: In Retrospect, Roland Penrose and John Golding ed., Harper and Row, 1980, p. 8-9.
2. A. Malraux, Picasso’s Mask, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976, p. 118.
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Lot Essay

Explaining the genesis of Picasso’s great linocut Buste de Femme d’après Cranach le Jeune, Picasso’s dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979) said: ‘One of Picasso’s notable characteristics was his need to transform existing works of art, to compose ‘variations on a theme’, as it were. His point of departure was often simply a reproduction in a book; or even a postcard sent by myself, such as Cranach the Younger’s Portrait of a Woman [1564] in Vienna, which became his first linocut in color. Among other things, what struck him in particular about this painting was the way the woman’s shadow ‘rhymes’ with the upper part of her body... This need to transform was certainly an important characteristic of Picasso’s genius.’ (1).
Picasso had made a preparatory linocut (Baer 1052) after this postcard the day before executing Buste de Femme. This preliminary work, printed in black from one block, follows Cranach’s composition closely - the young girl is depicted in three-quarter profile and faces in the same direction as the painting, requiring Picasso to reverse the image in the cutting. The effect is somewhat labored, and when Picasso revisited the subject again the following day, he abandoned this creative hindrance, this time cutting the subject freely and adapting Cranach’s composition in a much more spontaneous way. The result is a tour de force of printmaking: with fluid cuts of the linocut gouge and the overprinting of bright, flat color from five separate blocks, Picasso amplified what he had described to Kahnweiler as the painting’s ‘internal rhymes’. Flattening the pictorial space, the bulging shadow on the girl’s right now merges with the undulating shape of her black bodice and shoulders, themselves echoed in the loops of the gold chain and hair net, and by the curved strokes in the background. The girl’s features are playfully distorted, so that we seem to see her from the front and in full profile simultaneously.
What Picasso described to André Malraux as his desire to ‘paint against the canvases that are important to me…that’s painting: for a painter it means wrestling with painting’ (2) also resonates with the iconoclastic transformation of Cranach’s delicate portrait into an exuberant display of color and rhythmic patterns in this most layered and painterly of all his prints.

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