Le Viol, 1931 (from the Vollard Suite)

by Pablo Picasso


DIMENSIONS: Plate: 8.8 x 12.3 inches (22.1 x 31.2 cm)
Sheet: 13.4 x 17.5 inches (34 x 44.5 cm)
MEDIUM: Etching printed on laid Montval with Picasso watermark

Bloch 142; Baer 209.B.d;
From an edition of 260

The Vollard Suite is a series of 100 etchings named after the art collector and dealer who commissioned them, Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) – these were produced between 1930 and 1937. Vollard gave Picasso his first Paris exhibition in 1901. The mammoth task of printing some 310 sets was completed by the Paris printer Roger Lacourière in 1939 but Vollard died before they could be distributed.


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    The predominant theme Pablo Picasso explores in this set is classical sculpture. During this period of neoclassicism, the artist was making sculpture in his new home and studio, with his young lover Marie-Thérèse Walter acting as his model. The etchings represent a dialogue alternating between the artist and his creation and between the artist and his model. Classical linearity and repose within the studio also alternate with darker, violent forces. The latter are represented by scenes of violation and by the Minotaur (15 etchings), the half-man, half-animal of classical myth which became central to Picasso’s personal mythology. Picasso also tilts his cap to Rembrandt in a group of 4 etchings. The series concludes with three portraits of Vollard himself made in 1937.

    Picasso’s graphic oeuvre spans more than seven decades, from 1899 to 1972. His published prints total approximately 2000 different images pulled from metal, stone, wood, linoleum and celluloid. His unpublished prints, perhaps 200 more, have yet to be exactly counted.

    Picasso’s prints demonstrate his intuitive and characteristic ability to recognize and exploit the possibilities inherent in any medium in which he chose to work. Once he had mastered the traditional methods of a print medium, like etching on metal, Picasso usually experimented further, pursuing, for example, scarcely known intaglio techniques such as sugar-lift aquatint. The printed graphic work of Picasso shows a clearly defined succession of periods in which certain techniques predominated.

    The Estate of Pablo Picasso
    Private collection, Hong Kong

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    Pablo Picasso is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and co-founder of the art movement Cubism, renowned for continually experimenting with new styles and in different mediums. Born in Malaga, Spain, in 1881, he was the son of an artist, under whom he trained before studying at the art academy in Barcelona. He then moved to study at Madrid’s Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Spain’s top art academy at the time, in 1897, beginning his artistic career. His early work comprised of mainly scenes inspired by his Catholic faith and portraits of his family members, in a traditional realist style, adhering with his training. By 1901 Picasso had abandoned this method to develop his own individual style which was later called the Blue Period.


    During this time he primarily painted in shades of blue, with occasional touches of accent colour. The works are often perceived as sombre due to the subdued tones and scenes of blindness, poverty and isolation. Some attribute this period to the artist’s supposed depression following a friend’s suicide. In 1904 Picasso settled in Paris where he lived for most of his adult life. Here his painting progressed to the ‘Rose Period’, using shades of pink and rose with a warmer tonal range, also incorporating elements of primitivism, after taking inspiration from an exhibit of angular African art at the Palais de Trocadero.

    Between 1907 and 1912, Picasso worked with fellow painter Georges Braque in creating the beginnings of the Cubist movement in art. They used a palette of earth tones and depicted deconstructed objects with complex geometric forms. His partner, Fernande Olivier, was the subject in many of Picasso’s Cubist works, before they seperated in 1912. From 1912 to 1919, Picasso’s work continued in the Cubist vein, but he introduced collage and the human form into some of his creations. The destructive and creative ideas of Cubism shocked, appalled but also fascinated the art world.

    Between 1919 and 1929 Picasso’s art featured a significant change in style. After his first visit to Italy and the end of the First World War, his paintings reflected a restoration of order in art and his neoclassical works contrasted starkly to his Cubist paintings. However, as the French Surrealist Movement gained momentum in the mid-1920s, Picasso returned to his penchant for Primitivism in Surrealist-influenced paintings. During the 1930s, Picasso’s work reflected the violence of war time, the menacing Minotaur replaced the harlequin of his earlier years as a central symbol in his art.


    Picasso remained in Paris during World War II and continued to create art. He completed more than 300 poetry works and two plays between 1939 and 1959. Paris was liberated in 1944, and Picasso began a relationship with Francoise Gilot, they had two children together, however, their relationship ended in a similar way to him many previous ones, because of his infidelities and abuse. He focused on sculpture during this era and participated in an international exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1949.


    Towards the end of Picasso’s life, the many artworks he produced reflected a mixture of his previous styles, including colourful paintings and copper etchings. In his final seventeen years he produced over seventy portraits of his wife Jacqueline, as well as moving towards painting landscape views, which he had previously depicted sporadically or as a backdrop to figurative works. His private life is often viewed as a useful guide to the meaning of his work, as he himself believed his art was akin to a diary, there are a few obvious links between his art and the events of his life. Although his later work cannot be categorised by his particular styles, the mixture of different elements from these past stages, resulted in him producing an eclectic collection of paintings.

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