Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Picasso executed the present drawing during a period in which he was virtually obsessed with the bullfight or corrida. In 1959 he drew the illustrations for La Tauromaquia o arte de torear, a treatise on bullfighting by Pepe Illo, and provided drawings for Toros y toreros, a text by the artist's friend, the celebrated torero Luis Miguel Dominguín. Speaking of his work at this time, Picasso expressed how he had internalised 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., Paris, 1993, p. 224).
The present work belongs to a sequence of studies which Michel Leiris described as a 'dazzling series of washes and drawings which [Picasso] executed between 11 July 1959 and 26 June 1960' (Picasso, Dessins 1959-1960, exh. cat., Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, 1960, introduction). They succeed in conjuring the visceral essence of the bullfight, describing, in Leiris's words, 'an orgy of...silk buttons, mantillas, skirts, sweat and perfume' (ibid.). Picasso explored, at length, all the symbolic resonances contained within the mythology of the bullfight - the powerful themes of sexuality, power and death that lend this struggle its compelling urgency.
The bullfight also reflected Picasso's own concerns with nationality, and with his native Spain; it reflected his rekindled interest in machismo as he restlessly entered old age. Art, for Picasso, was a form of autobiography, and the degree to which Picasso identified with the role of the bullfighter was evident in the close relationship that he had with Dominguín. Both men express and expose themselves through the style of their art, and intensify the viewer's perception of the subjects they tackle. Just as Dominguín brings out the character of the bull during their contest, so Picasso, in his work, evokes the excitement and flavour of the corrida.