From his first work in 1895 until his death in 1973, Pablo Picasso experimented with a variety of styles and mediums. Tête de Femme (de Profil) is a rare example of both a Classically inspired theme combined with the reductive linocut printing methode that the artist pioneered between 1958 to 1963. During this short timeframe, Picasso created 150 linocuts in the southern village of Vallauris, France within the Atelier of Hidalgo Arnéra. This was a small number in comparison to the 2,000 other prints made by the artist prior. As a result, Tête de Femme (de Profil) belongs to a unique period in Picasso’s later career. Although the work was crafted in 1959, when the artist was 78 years old, it showcases Picasso’s lifelong pursuit to be among the avant-garde.
Before making linocuts, Picasso’s favoured methodes of printmaking were etchings and lithography. However, these methodes produced either grayscale compositions or fine lines of colour. By contrast, linoleum offered a pliable material that created bold layers of colour. Tête de Femme (de Profil) is a quintessential model of this effect with its striking transition from a black ground to an earthy, Sienese red foreground that emphasizes the sitter’s Classical profile. Traditionally, artists cut multiple blocks of linoleum for each colour they desired, but this process was time consuming and costly. With the help of the studio owner, Arnéra, Picasso developed a novel technique that allowed him to cut into the same block of linoleum for each new colour. What is more, Picasso was the only artist to create linocuts in this manner and the skill used to make the paint adhere to the same block of linoleum is kept within the Arnéra family.
In addition to the medium, Tête de Femme (de Profil) is an exceptional piece based on its subject matter that harkens back to antiquity. With a prolific career spanning nearly eight decades, Picasso was no stranger to inventing and re-inventing artistic styles. He once stated, “When I think about it, I’d say I’m an artist without style. Style puts constraints on the artist, forcing a single viewpoint on things upon him, the same techniques, the same formula, year after year, his life long.” Throughout his career, Picasso played with different styles including his Blue Period, African-influenced Era, and, perhaps most notably, establishing the Cubist movement with Georges Braque during the 1910’s. Tête de Femme (de Profil) draws upon Picasso’s knowledge of Greco-Roman portrait busts after an earlier trip to Italy in 1917 and combines it with his adaptation of linocuts from the contemporary period. This work is an exquisite juxtaposition of old and new that substantiates Picasso’s ingenuity as an artist.
Private collection, Europe
Private collection, New York