Picasso’s Unseen Prints Showcased at the Norton Simon Museum

Norton Simon Museum’s newest exhibition showcases 16 rarely seen works by the prolific printmaker.

As one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso’s work spanned eight decades and countless mediums, achieving a celebrated career characterized by ceaseless change and avant-garde experimentation. While Picasso’s array of well-known and frequently displayed artworks have long been associated with the heavily studied artist, Norton Simon Museum’s new exhibition offers a fresh perspective on the Spanish artist and an opportunity to encounter completely new-to-us prints.

Unseen Picasso (September 3, 2021, through January 10, 2022) showcases a curated selection of 16 rare and infrequently displayed prints made from the 1930s to 1960s. Images of the mythical minotaur and bull commonly found in Picasso’s work are absent; instead, Unseen Picasso highlights works distinguished by a singular characteristic: It may be one of only two or three examples in the world. It may be a unique artist’s proof, such as Head of a Woman, No. 3 (1939), which depicts surrealist artist Dora Maar. Or, like Two Nude Women (1946), it may be an unrecorded trial proof and the sole work from this lithographic series to be printed in color.

Curator Gloria Williams Sander selected works to illustrate Picasso’s inventiveness in engaging with different printmaking techniques, including etching, drypoint, and aquatint, his lithographic explorations on stone or zinc, and his beloved bold, colorful linocuts.

“What is illuminating is his fearless experimentation with each technique,” Williams Sander says. “He continually pushed against the normative practices followed in the printer’s workshop.”

Picasso’s prints speak to his dedication to craftsmanship and offer an intimate portrait of the prolific printmaker. “I see them as more talkative than his paintings,” says Williams Sander. “As one of the most self-conscious artists of the 20th century, the activity of printmaking was a form of autobiography for him. Rather than writing in a diary, he worked on the flat surface of the copperplate, or the linoleum block. His obsessions, whether with the women in his life, his artistic legacy, or his own mortality, permeate his prints.” nortonsimon.org

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