Examining the Work of Pablo Picasso

To mark the forthcoming special exhibition Picasso on Paper: The Artist as Printmaker, 1923–72 (November 11, 2023‒March 3, 2024),we hope that you enjoy this lithograph by Picasso in our collection. This print will be on view at the museum during the course of the exhibition and you are encouraged
to see it when you visit.

We also invite you to attend a special preview event on November 10.

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881‒1973)
Alex Maguy, 1962
Lithograph on paper
Printed by Fernand Mourlot
28″h x 20″w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Melinda & James Marsden, 2015.13.1

In this print, Picasso depicted Alex Maguy using abstracted, nervous lines that obscure his face. Through its extensive use of curving squiggles and heavily shaded areas, the artist created the impression that Maguy is emerging from the shadows or behind a curtain. He wears what appears to be a laurel crown, recalling the Greco-Roman portraits found in Picasso’s classically inspired prints of the late 1950s and early 60 (see examples included in the exhibition below). This work was created as a poster for an exhibition of Picasso’s recent paintings (1962), held in Paris.   

A fashion designer turned art gallery owner, Maguy represented Picasso and other celebrated artists, including Marc Chagall and Moïse Kisling. Initially imprisoned in several concentration camps during World War II, Maguy fortunately escaped, returned to France, and joined the underground resistance against the Nazi regime. 

Among the most famous artists to have ever lived, Picasso exerted a significant impact on the evolution of modern art internationally. Along with his colleague, Georges Braque, Picasso is perhaps best known for his seminal role in revolutionizing visual expression through the development of Cubism during the early 1900s. Like many of his contemporaries, including Henri Matisse, André Derain, and Fernand Léger, Picasso was intrigued by the human figure over the course of his nearly eighty-year career.

In addition, he was a major printmaker and produced numerous lithographs with printer Fernand Mourlot. Alex Maguy was made in Mourlot’s workshop, which Picasso joined in 1945 at the suggestion of Braque. At the studio, Picasso worked tirelessly side by side with master printers, including Jean Célestin and “Père” Tutin, from morning to night, experimenting with the medium in innovative ways. As Célestin later observed, “There was no stopping him. As lithographers, we were astounded by him.”

Similarly, Mourlot was dazzled by Picasso’s experimental methods (seen in this example) and the results he achieved by not following the standard rules of lithography. While Picasso first started out working with transfer paper and drawing directly on lithographic stones with crayons, he later transitioned to wash drawing and other techniques that astounded his colleagues. After their first meeting in October 1945, Mourlot said: “He loved the printing works, the noise of the machines, the smell of the ink, the contact with the workers.”

Picasso often reworked the lithographic stone after the first proofs had been pulled, scraping and adding marks to the matrix with crayon and ink. As Mourlot recalled: “After this sort of treatment this sort of design becomes indecipherable and is destroyed. But with him! Each time it would turn out very well Why? That’s a mystery.”

Pablo Picasso
Homme grec barbu (Bearded Greek Man), 1960
Drypoint on celluloid printed on Arches wove paper
Printed by Pierre-André Benoît
Timothy Collins Collection, Los Angeles, CA

Pablo Picasso
Homme barbu couronné de vigne (Bearded Greek Man Crowned by Laurel), 1962
Linoleum cut in color on Arches wove paper
Printed by Hidalgo Arnéra
Timothy Collins Collection, Los Angeles, CA

Daniel Fulco is the Agnita M. Stine Schrieber Curator for the Washinton County Museum of Fine Arts.

This WeekendArt is sponsored by Paul & Lotta Mellott