Socialist Worker

Picasso on Paper: prints and illustrations brought together

by Laura Johnson
Issue No. 2066

Portrait of Dora Maar, 1941

Portrait of Dora Maar, 1941

This exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s prints spans almost his entire career of over 70 years.

It ranges from the emaciated figures of The Frugal Meal, made in Picasso’s poverty-stricken youth, to an exploration of the relationship between an ageing painter and young female models made in his eighties.

Picasso was incredibly prolific – almost all the catalogues of his prints made while he was still alive are incomplete as the cataloguer was unable to keep up with his output.

The exhibition includes an excellent range of his incredibly varied works. Picasso had no formal training in printmaking but picked up new techniques throughout his life, changing and adapting them as he went along.

In an age where photography had taken over the role of realistic representation, he invented the technique of Cubism where reality is rearranged. He used collage where parts of the real world in the form of a newspaper or packaging are brought into the artwork.

However Picasso steered clear of pure abstraction and there are always representational elements in his work.

Many of the prints are about Picasso himself and his relationships with women.

Many portraits of his various partners also include a painter or sculptor. And many of the prints have a bullfighting theme.

He identifies with the figure of the bull, which is sexually virile and a monstrous outsider. He then shows it grappling with female matadors or horses, which are a symbol of femininity.

As he ages so do the painters in his works and the theme of voyeurism begins to emerge. While he shows himself as an isolated figure, he also collaborates with others.

There are many illustrations for friends’ books and other artists and specially commissioned posters advertising bullfights and exhibitions.

Some of the works, especially those from around the period of the Spanish Civil War, are overtly political and show his solidarity with the Republican cause.

There are cartoons of the fascist General Franco and drawings of weeping women that accompanied the famous Guernica.

Other works show an interest in myth or reworkings of classical paintings by artists such as Velasquez. All the works are absorbing and deserve to be as well known as his painting or sculpture.

Picasso on Paper
The Dean Gallery, Edinburgh
until 23 September

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Article information

Tue 28 Aug 2007, 18:17 BST
Issue No. 2066
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