Rare Proofs from the Artist’s Collection
September 17 – October 17th, 2005

Leslie Sacks Fine Art
11640 San Vicente Blvd. (Brentwood), Los Angeles, CA 90049
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Pablo Picasso, “Dressage au Cirque, Avec au Premier Plan. Ecuyere, Magicien, Fauconnier et la Colombe de Noe”, from the 156 Series, 19-20 April, 1970, etching, 36.8 x 48.8 cm.

All of the etchings in this exhibition are proofs printed before steel facing of the plates (to be explained further on). They are richer in contrasts than the regular edition and were kept by Picasso for his personal collection in the course of creating Series 60 and 156, between 1966 and 1971. It should also be noted that the proofs before steel facing are the only examples of these etchings printed during Picasso’s lifetime and thus subject to his scrutiny, the editions having been printed after the artist’s death. These works are registered with the Picasso Archives and bear the oval stamp of the Marina Picasso Collection, his granddaughter being a successor in direct ownership under the aegis of the Picasso Estate, from which these works were acquired.
During his seven decades of printmaking, Picasso created five major sets of etchings, a tour de force unrivaled in this medium. This is evidenced by his Saltimbanques Suite of 1904 to 1905 (15 works), Vollard Suite of 1930 to 1937 (100 works), Series 60 of 1966 to 1968 (60 works), 347 Series of 1968 (347 works) and, finally, his 156 Series of 1969 to 1971 (156 works). Totaling 678 individual images for these suites alone, Picasso’s output far surpassed Rembrandt’s oeuvre of some 300 etchings.
For each edition in Series 156 and 60 there were three proofs before steel facing (see Baer Catalogue Raisonne). These proofs, and the entire gamut of the editions, were pulled by the master printers Aldo and Piero Crommelynck. Examples of these proofs are in the permanent collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale and Musée National Picasso, Paris, the Museu Picasso, Barcelona, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Art Institute of Chicago and other major institutions around the world. Of the 648 proofs before steel facing from Series 156 and 60, only forty-two have the Picasso atelier signature and penciled annotation, “épreuve avant aciérage” (proof before steel facing). Of these forty-two, seventeen are presented in this exhibition.
Steel facing is a modern technique whereby the soft copper plate into which the image is etched receives a thin coat of steel via electroplating in order to harden its surface. In this way an edition can be printed from beginning to end without degradation of image quality, unlike Rembrandt etchings, for example, whose bare copper plates wore down from the pressure of the press over the course of printing an edition. This resulted in a visible softening of lines, as well as a diminishing of subtle contrasts and tonal depth in examples from late in a print run. Although steel facing allows for consistent quality throughout an edition and is thus an improvement over a bare copper plate, the process necessarily reduces textural delicacy and tonal depth to some degree. Therefore, proofs before steel facing are the ultimate vehicles for displaying both the full expressive capacity of the etching process and in so doing that of the artist’s hand.

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