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Quatre Femmes nues et tête sculptée. Etching on a firm, laid paper. 22.1 x 31.4 cm. Signed. (1934). Bloch 219; Geiser-Baer 424 V B d.
This wonderful depiction of great artistic and psychological intensity comes from the Suite Vollard, a set of one hundred etchings created by Picasso for the publisher and art dealer Ambroise Vollard in a period of explosive creative activity between 1930 and 1937. The cycle is an absolute stroke of artistic genius and ranks among the undisputed printmaking masterpieces of the 20th century. In the course of the graphic suite Picasso produces variations on different themes such as the embrace, the artist and model, the sculptor’s studio and the ancient myth of the Minotaur. The latter has strong autobiographical traits, symbolising Eros and the irrepressible vitality of the creative artist.
The present scene is among the finest compositions in the suite. The subtle and artistically convincing synthesis of very different stylistic elements is of unsurpassed brilliance. It illustrates the eternally erratic, immensely creative, provocative and chameleon-like nature of Picasso’s artistic temperament and reflects his unique gift of combining apparently conflicting and contradictory elements to form a perfect symbiosis. Cubist reduction of form is accompanied by a mild, well-tempered classicism reminiscent of Ingres. The head of a bearded ancient god on a fluted column lends the scene an archaic note. At the same time it is, so to speak, an ancient version of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The casually reclining naked odalisques, who while away the day in a sweet, lascivious dolce far niente, symbolise the erotic magnetism and magical power of the female sex. The flower vase on the window sill, drawn with a few delicate lines, is very ingenious and almost like a caricature. The graphic treatment is immensely refined. A dense network of very different hatchings permeates the work, creating a wonderful, finely gradated chiaroscuro that effectively brings out the sensuality of the graceful female bodies.
From an edition of 250 impressions on firm laid paper with the Vollard watermark; only a part of this edition was signed by the artist. A brilliant, richly inked impression with much burr, printed on the full sheet. Minimal soiling, otherwise in impeccable condition.
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