Pablo Picasso’s book illustrations

Picasso, The Bull, for Buffon's Histoire NaturelleFrom Italian news agency ANSA:


Rare Picasso book drawings on show

Milan exhibit highlights artist’s technical creativity

MILAN (ANSA) – A selection of original Pablo Picasso drawings and etchings are on display here in an exhibit looking at the 20th-century master’s book illustrations.

Although best known for his painting, Picasso produced around 34,000 such illustrations during his lengthy career.

The exhibition showcases 100 of his best works, many of which are on public display for the first time.

The illustrations include Picasso’s renowned etchings for The Metamorphoses by Ovid, a collection of tales about Ancient Greek deities.

Picasso completed 30 pieces for the book, which was published in 1931, showing a variety of sharp, clear, curving forms, clearly influenced by Cubism.

This project is considered particularly unusual among Picasso’s illustrations, as the artwork is so close to the narrative, unlike some of his later works in which his interpretation was far more flexible and creative.

Another well-known series of illustrations by Picasso was his work for Honore de Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece, also published in 1931, in which he explored the relationship between artist and model.

One particularly interesting section of the show features the original copperplates Picasso used to create his etchings for L’Histoire Naturelle, a book on natural history written in 1749 by Comte de Buffon.

The illustrations, commissioned by a French publisher, were made by aquatinting, in which ink is imitated by etching a crackle on the copperplate.

Picasso selected 31 animals described in the book and etched them using his imagination, creating a series of delicate black and white drawings.

The exhibit seeks to highlight the enormous technical creativity displayed by Picasso, who used aquatinting, drypointing, engraving and lithography to create his illustrations.

In addition, it looks at his experiments with colour, including a lithograph, Le Picador, that features 24 different hues.

The illustration was created for a volume by his close friend, the Catalan poet Jaime Sabartes, entitled A Los Toros Avec Picasso.

The exhibit also features a further three lithographs for work by Sabartes, printed in Dans l’Atelier de Picasso.

Other works of particular note in the exhibition include ink finger portraits of his children Claude and Paloma, published in his 1950 volume, Picasso Lithographs, and art for the final book he illustrated, which was printed a year before he died in 1973.

Entitled The Fall of Icarus, this featured just a single etching: a self-portrait flanked by two faces and a nude.

The exhibition runs in Milan’s Fondazione Stelline until May 2.

5 thoughts on “Pablo Picasso’s book illustrations

  1. Pablo Picasso was a man of deep contradictions, no doubt about it. Pablo Picasso was a self avowed communist. However, Picasso was also one of the world’s wealthiest artists, leaving his heirs an estate valued at $260 million ($1.5 billion in 2008 dollars) when he died in 1973. Pablo Picasso once remarked, ‘I like to live like a poor man, except with lots of money’. Lol! Cheers, Jimi


  2. Hi James, according to the IMDB, Picasso died, “leaving an estate valued at between $100 million and $260 million”. So, estimates vary. Picasso had much more financial luck than almost all other artists; like Vincent van Gogh. Yet, even in the case of Picasso, others during and after the painter’s life still made more money from his work than Picasso himself.


  3. Hi Alexandra, in your blog, you don’t explain *why* you hate Picasso. Except for once sentence: “To me he represents surrender.. ” You don’t explain this. I’d say that Picaso did not surrender to the Franco fascists, see his Guernica; or to the Korean war, see his Massacre in Korea.

    Your blog entry about your museum work is interesting, by the way.


  4. Pingback: Printmaking and newspapers, New York exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.