This original etching, Femme nue
assise devant un Rideau, 3.4.1931 (Nude woman in front of a curtain)
is one of 100 images
from the famous Vollard Suite. Picasso created the etching plate
that was used to print this etching on April 3, 1931. This
is the fourth of the Vollard Suite etchings and the first of 7 etchings
Picasso created for the Suite in
1931 and the first in the Suite that he dated in the etching plate.
When this etching was created there was a major 30-year retrospective
of Picasso's paintings in London. Picasso was shy and
rarely attended his exhibitions, choosing instead to read reviews and
hear of them from his friends.
In May of this year he took possession of the château Boisgeloup
where he converted a stable on the estate to a sculpture studio.
There he created "sculptured heads" based on Marie-Thérèse's
face. In the sculptures she was often draped with philodendron
leaves, the plant symbolizing life, health, and fertility. The
additional 6 etchings created in 1931 for the Vollard Suite are
directly inspired by his liaison with 21-year old
Marie-Thérèse when he was age 49.
The Empire State Building opened in New York in 1931 as the world's
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. 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.
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
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,
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
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 Marie-Thérèse.
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
(as shown in this etching 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
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 "Vollard".
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.
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.