Au Bain
This original etching,
Au Bain, 17.10.1930 (In the bath)  is one of 100 images from the famous Vollard Suite.  Picasso created the etching plate that was used to print this etching on October 17, 1930.

In 1930  Picasso's secret affair with with the 20-year old Marie-Thérèse and the ongoing conflicts with Olga dominate his personal life.  He acquired a Château in Boisgeloup, about 45 miles northwest of Paris where he could escape with Marie-Thérèse.  There he converts a stable to a sculpture studio, modeling in clay and plaster sculptures inspired by Marie-Thérèse.

Meanwhile, he spent the summer months of 1930 with Olga and Paulo.  When he returned in the fall he bought an apartment for Marie-Thérèse across the street from his home with Olga.   One month later Picasso created this etching, the third of the Suite Vollard and one of 30 etchings he completed in September and October, 1930.  

The suite of 100 images was named for Picasso's art dealer and publisher, Ambroise Vollard (1867-1939).  Vollard, responsible for giving the first one-man show in Paris for Picasso in 1901 is the subject of a special exhibition to be at the Museum of Modern Art in New York September, 2006 - January, 2007.  Vollard also gave the first solo shows for artists Cezanne and Matisse in the Paris gallery he created in 1893 where he also exhibited art by Degas, Rodin, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, among others.  In most of these early shows Vollard defied public taste, supporting avante-garde artists, all of  whom later painted portraits of Vollard in appreciation for his early support. 

In 1913 Vollard began to purchase the copper etching plates that Picasso prepared with the intent of producing a limited number of etchings "pulled" from those plates.

In 1937 Vollard was given 97 copper etching plates by Picasso in trade for some paintings (by other artists)  that Picasso wanted from Vollard.  The etching plates were created in the period 1930 to 1936.  The etching pictured here is the third etching created from this group and one of the only 3 from 1930.  Picasso later created three etchings of Vollard, bringing the total number of etching plates to 100.

Vollard died in an auto accident in 1939 and soon after the etching plates were acquired by Henri Petiet.

The 100 Suite Vollard images are generally categorized by themes: The Battle of Love (5 images), The Sculptor's Studio (46), Rembrandt (4), The Minotaur and The Blind Minotaur (15), and the Portraits of Vollard (3).  The remaining 27 images deal with various themes such as women dressing and women sleeping, the circus, bullfight, and love (both tender and otherwise), among others.  Evident among all the prints in the Vollard Suite is a unity bound by the nod to neoclassicism, influenced by Picasso's earlier trips to art centers in Italy including Rome, Florence, Naples and Pompeii.

For the Suite Vollard Picasso created 3 of the etchings in 1930, seven in 1931, one in 1932, 61 in 1933, 24 in 1934, none in 1935, one in 1936, and three in 1937.  Between 1930 and 1936 Picasso dated his works in Roman numerals; after 1936 he used Arabic numbers.

Most of the etchings in this Saper Galleries exhibition are from the Sculptor's Studio grouping and are a reflection of the love affair Picasso enjoyed with his model and secret mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, whom he met in 1927 when she was 17 years old.  The etchings  are autobiographical in that they display his work as a painter and sculptor and a lover, even as he leaves Marie-Thérèse soon after meeting Dora Maar in 1936.  The artist's wide range of moods is evident in each of the images as well as the nature of relations he had with the women of his life.  In many of the Sculptor's Studio images Picasso appears to reflect on the story of Pygmalion, in an autobiographic manner.  The story is of the sculptor and King, Pygmalion, who created an ivory statue of a young woman, Galatea, so beautiful that he fell in love with it. 

Picasso's seeming preoccupation with sculpture is related to his concentration with the medium since he acquired a new residence in 1932 at his studio at Boisgeloup outside of Paris.  Between 1933 and 1934 he focused on creating plaster sculptures of his mistress

In most every image Picasso's technical inventiveness is evident.  In fact, several seem to match the hand of Rembrandt, the great etcher from the 17th century, and it is Rembrandt's face which appears in several of the Picasso etchings.  In his final etchings of the 100 plates, he mastered the technique called sugar lift to achieve tonal qualities and other rich effects that were not developed before Picasso.

Picasso mixed various media, in most cases starting with line etching (exaggerated in the figure on the left very much in the style of Rembrandt in contrast to simplicity in design of the figure to the right in the etching shown above), then adding drypoint and later aquatint to achieve effects of light and atmosphere or dense darkness.  In observing several of the Vollard etchings together they seem to sing with nuances of dance as they suggest different moods by virtue of medium and the techniques in designing the imagery  portrayed.

It was Roger Lacourière who was commissioned by Vollard to print the Picasso etching plates in 1939 although the etchings were not offered for sale until 1950.  There were 313 etchings printed from each plate.  On Montval paper were 260 copies watermarked either "Picasso" or "Vollard".  There were also 50 copies printed on a Montval paper about 2" larger in both directions and those were watermarked "Papeterie Montgolfier à Montval".  Finally, there were 3 signed copies on parchment, rarely found in the marketplace.  This etching is from the edition of 260 on Montval paper watermarked "Picasso".  The print is very richly inked and likely an early impression.

After World War II Petiet had Picasso sign a certain number of sets of the Vollard Suite etchings.  In 1969, Picasso, so preoccupied with the creation of his 347 Series, stopped signing the Vollard etchings, and that is why there are still so many unsigned today.

Most recently the Picasso Suite Vollard etchings were exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Norton Simon Museum, and the Nassau County Museum of Art.  There are more than 120 major museums which display significant Picasso collections.  It is said that Picasso's Vollard Suite is the greatest group of prints produced in the 20th century.