A mixture of geographic necessity and artistic curiosity led Picasso, at the age of 78, to turn away from etching and lithography, hitherto his favourite means of graphic expression, and take up linocutting. Picasso had moved to the South of France with his second wife Jacqueline Roque in 1955. Far from the printshops of Mourlot and Frélaut in Paris, Picasso began to make linocuts with the printer Arnéra in Vallauris. In a short burst of activity from 1958 to 1963 Picasso produced many outstanding images, amongst them this beautiful portrait of Jacqueline.
Frustrated by the technical limitations of traditional colour relief printing, Picasso, with characteristic verve, invented his own 'reductive' method. Instead of using separate blocks for each colour Picasso used a single block, avoiding the laborious registration required in order to print one block over another accurately. In the case of 'Le Chapeau à Fleurs' the uncut piece of linoleum was inked in a pale cream and a run of impressions pulled and allowed to dry. Picasso then gouged away the areas of the block he intended to remain this colour, the highlights on the cheeks, ears and neck. The block was then re-inked, with a slightly darker colour, and printed over the original sheets. The process was repeated, this time with the remainder of the face and the highlights in the flowery hat being removed, and reprinted in light brown. In this way, through successive stages of cutting and then printing, the elegant features of Jacqueline were built up and defined. A second block was added for the surrounding frame, a playful improvisation revealing the fluidity with which Picasso worked in the medium, inventing new techniques, but also appropriating the old, to realise his creative vision.