This lot is offered without reserve.
Picasso was involved with printmaking as early as 1904, although he did not make lithography a focus of his graphic work until the winter of 1945. At this time he went to work alongside the master lithographers at the Imprimerie Mourlot.
The Mourlot family's involvement with printing goes back to Francois Mourlot who founded a wallpaper business during the early nineteenth century. After Francois' death, his son Jules took the workshop in another direction, printing advertising posters. Jules founded the Imprimerie Mourlot in 1852 and moved the presses to the rue de Chabrol in 1914. Upon Jules' death in 1921, his two sons, Georges and Fernand inherited the workshop.
By 1945 every major printmaker in Paris was working with Mourlot and his printers. In the case of Picasso, the team beside Fernand Mourlot consisted of three printers, Gaston Tutin and Jean Celestin ('Pere Tutin' and 'Tintin') the proofers, and Henri Deschamps the chromist who was in charge of the inks. They worked with Picasso taking proofs from the stones and zinc plates. When Picasso first began work with Mourlot, all of the lithographs were drawn on the stone in the traditional manner. By 1947, Picasso realized that he could avoid some of the studio's restrictions by working on zinc plates which could be easily transported from his studio to the printers.
While working on the stones a system was devised whereby eighteen copies of each successive stage of any image on which Picasso was working would be taken and preserved. Once the move was made to zinc plates this number was reduced to six, five copies for the artist and a sixth for Mourlot himself. Although Mourlot records the five "artist's reserved copies" in his catalogue raisonné he does not mention the sixth impression. Many of the proofs in this sale are numbered 6/6 and must presumably be the copy kept by Mourlot. The lithographs offered in this sale represent an almost complete run of "reserved proofs".
The themes covered by the lithographs are central to the artist's oeuvre. There are portraits of women, most notably Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque, still lifes, genre, explorations of earlier artistic work and styles, and contemporary interpretations of the dove as a symbol of peace.
The many proofs allow an in-depth examination of Picasso's tireless exploration of the lithographic medium. The majority of the prints are in black alone, but of particular luminosity (enhanced by the addition of garlic to the ink according to Deschamps). There are also some exceptional color prints such as the Armchair Woman No. 1 with blue-grey background (M.134) (see lot 127). In many cases proofs and final states are offered as combined lots to show the alterations achieved during the printmaking process. In other cases, prints which stand alone as finished works of art, are to be sold singly.
"Until then Pablo had made only a few drawings of me and two portraits in oil ...Now, in the proofs of the lithographs he showed me I saw evidence that I had been much on his mind. Most of the things he had been doing were, in one way or another, portraits of me."
Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake
Life with Picasso
New York, Toronto, London
McGraw Hill Company 1964