Grande tête de femme au chapeau orné is one of a series of seven terracotta plaques that Picasso produced with the Ramiés’ at Madoura in 1963. Each was produced from a plaster cast of an earlier worked linoleum block. In addition to his collaboration with the Ramiés in Vallauris since 1947, Picasso had also started an equally fruitful and creative working relationship with the local printmaker Hidalgo Arnéra in 1954, where Picasso created this series of seven linocuts. The ceramics produced at Atelier Madoura and the
linocuts produced at Imprimerie Arnéra highlight the breadth of collaboration between Picasso and these two studios at this time, with each renowned for their mastery of their respective craft.
The original linocut subject from which this ceramic plaque was created bears a resemblance to the many portraits of Jacqueline Roque, however, on this occasion Brigitte Baer stops short of including the muse’s name in the title. Picasso had met Jacqueline in 1954 when they were both working at the Madoura pottery, and he would go on to marry her in 1961, two years before the production of this series of plaques. Five of the series of seven plaques feature Jacqueline, but this plaque is by far the most successful portrait because of the complexity of the composition and its sheer pictorial scale. Picasso would paint Jacqueline almost exclusively from 1954 until the year of his death.
It is evident that the series were specifically planned; this is due to the fact that many of the blocks belong to reductive prints. The nature of the reductive process, which was invented by Picasso in collaboration with Arnéra, is to cut each colour away from a single piece of linoleum, building colours from lightest to darkest. As a process, one could say this is ruinous, as it is not possible to go back, undo, or amend what the artist had cut. For this reason, it was essential for the ceramicists to have a plaster cast of the desired image that Picasso wanted to have cast in clay.
In the example of Grande tête de femme au chapeau orné Picasso cut only a single state for the linoblock. The plaster cast of the linoleum block has preserved for posterity the fine carvings and grooves of the relief in the negative areas. These are the areas which would not receive ink and which would only be apparent printed in the linoleum print when the heaviest of pressure is applied during the print run. In this way we can view the plaster cast, and the resulting surface of the terracotta plaque, as a means of understanding the skill and shallow depths to which Picasso carved his linoblocks – no linoleum block was deeper than 5 mm.
The linocut, Grande tête de femme au chapeau orné, was experimental in its nature; playing with texture and pushing the material to its limits. The same can be said for the resultant terracotta plaque. The variation in the surface, in order to be a true refection of the plaster cast, had to absolutely perfect. If not, the application of the black glaze would not create the required effect. Structurally, it was extremely demanding to create a terracotta plaque of this size in the early 1960s - at almost 60 cm. high and 50 cm. wide. One
imagines many failed efforts rejected by Picasso and the Ramiés. That there are no significant firing cracks in a terracotta tile of this size, as in this example from the edition, is remarkable.
By exploring the linoleum block in plaster and pursuing the creation of the terracotta plaques, we can see how the necessary process of carving the lino must have struck a chord with Picasso; as the plaques elevate the necessary action within printmaking, to a standalone object in relief – an artwork in its own right.
We would like to thank Stephen Gallagher, Associate Print Specialist, for his assistance with this catalogue note