Picasso's love of the bullfight was an essential and deeply impassioned element in his personal sense of españolismo, and an important source of his imagery. He was a true aficionado, "by tradition, by blood and by artistic devotion," in the words of his lifelong friend Jaime Sabartés (quoted in V.P. Curtis, La Tauromaquia, Goya, Picasso and the Bullfight, exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum, 1986, p. 70). Picasso championed the post-war revival of the bullfight in southern France. During the 1950s and early 1960s, the public often caught sight of the world's most famous living artist in the stands of the old Roman arenas at Arles, Nîmes and Fréjus, with his companion and future wife Jacqueline Roque, and their friends. Picasso knew all the famous matadors, and especially admired Luis Miguel Dominguín, who, in a gesture of mutual regard, made a gift of one his ceremonial jackets to the artist.
The years 1957-1961 marked the high point of Picasso's treatment of the bullfighting theme in his art, during which time he produced four illustrated books devoted to this subject, most importantly La Tauromaquia, 1959 (Cramer, no. 100), his counterpart to Goya's work of the same title from 1815, and Toros y Toreros, 1961 (Cramer, no. 112), in which the artist provided illustrations for a text by his friend Dominguín. Picasso executed most of his corrida scenes in brush and ink, working primarily with silhouetted forms in a kinetic and summary style.
Speaking of his work at this time, Picasso expressed how he had internalized the corrida, how it had become utterly essential to him, preoccupying him even when he was unable to be at the ring: "Yes, it is my passion... but sometimes something stops me attending... Then, my thoughts are in the arena, I hear the pasodoble, I see the crowd, the entry of the troop, the first bull. One time I felt so bad at missing a fight that I began to conjure up all its phases in my mind... and this has rooted me completely in the art of the bullfight" (quoted in Picasso, Toros y Toreros, exh. cat., Musée Picasso, Paris, 1993, p. 224).