La suite de los saltimbanquis
Fundación Málaga made effective the cession on deposit to Fundación Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Museo-Casa Natal, dependent on the Málaga City Council, of the first series of engravings made by Picasso. These engravings, done with the etching and drypoint techniques and called “La suite de los saltimbanquis”, were on display in the seat of the foundation in Plaza de la Merced.
The value of this collection, which is kept all together in limited institutions and museums, lies in the fact that it was made between the summers of 1904 and 1905, during the transitional point between Picasso’s blue and pink periods. Therefore, the collection mixes with an extremely great technical quality the themes and figures from both periods, and shows that, since his beginnings as engraver, the artist from Málaga was an undeniable master. Among the series there is an engraving, “El almuerzo frugal”, that is one of the best works from the blue period, an image known worldwide and coveted by the best international museums, some of which include these pieces in their permanent collection. By a poetics of the poverty and a compassionate optics, in which it is conserved the caricatural sense of some of his drawings made between 1902 and 1904 on the engraving called “La danza bárbara”, Picasso collects scenes of poverty, elegant and delicate women portraits, scenes of acrobats and the circus, circus characters, family scenes starring acrobats, two dissimilar and opposed in their treatment versions of the biblical history of Salome, and a subtle landscape with riders and horses. It was his merchant Ambroise Vollard who in 1913 asked the printer Eugene Delátre the first deluxe edition of this series, to which this displayed collection belongs.
The complete list of the series with the size related to the printing and not the paper is the following:
“El almuerzo frugal” (Paris, September 1904), etching and scraper on zinc board, 46,3 x 37,7 cm.
“Cabeza de mujer”: Madeleine (Paris, January 1905), etching on bevelled copper, 12,1 x 9 cm.
“Los pobres” (winter of 1904-1905), etching on bevelled zinc, 23,6 x 18 cm.
“Busto de hombre” (Paris, February 1905), drypoint on bevelled copper, 12 x 9,3 cm.
“Los dos saltimbanquis” (Paris, from March 1905), drypoint on copper, 12,2 x 9,1 cm.
“Cabeza de mujer de perfil” (Paris, around February 1905), drypoint on copper, 29,2 x 25 cm.
“Los saltimbanquis” (Paris, around spring-summer 1905), drypoint on copper, 28,8 x 32,6 cm.
“El circo” (Paris, winter of 1905-1906), drypoint on copper with round edges, 22 x 14 cm.
“El saltimbanqui en reposo” (Paris, end of spring of 1905), drypoint on copper with round edges, 12,1 x 8,7 cm.
“La familia de saltimbanquis con macaco” (Paris, end of 1905), drypoint on zinc (the zinc probably used, scraped, smoothened and reused by the artist), 23,6 x 17,8 cm.
“El baño” (Paris, 1905), drypoint on copper, 34,4 x 28,9 cm.
“El baño de la madre” (Paris, 1905), etching and grattoir on zinc, 23,5 x 17,7 cm.
“Salomé” (Paris, end of 1905), drypoint on copper, 40 x 34,8 cm.
“La danza bárbara” (Paris, autumn-winter of 1905), drypoint on copper, 18,5 x 23,2 cm.
“El abrevadero” (Paris, spring of 1906), drypoint on bevelled copper, 28,8 x 32,6 cm.
Because of the great importance of this series of works, Fundación Málaga has assembled very carefully the exhibition, displaying the engravings grouped according to the three themed groups according to the three poems that Guillaume Apollinaire wrote about these works: “Saltimbanquis”, “Los esponsales” and “Salomé”. Moreover, a touch display will be placed in the entrance of the hall, so any visitor can access to more information about the contents of the exhibition. A second screen display with general data about Picasso and Málaga will work as a complement for the visitors in the first floor of the Casa Natal.
In this exhibition, we will have the opportunity of contemplating the engravings made by Picasso between 1904 and 1906 and grouped and produced by Vollard in 1913, creating the first graphic work portfolio of the artist, generally called “Suite de los saltimbanquis”. Two artistic periods (blue and rose) as well as the transition between the two of them are reflected in these cards.
The development of the characters over the work is observable. At first “La comida frugal” and “Los pobres” still are sad figures, dejected and exhausted, in which the depressive effect reveals a moving lonely pain. Leaving the blue period behind and moving to the pink period, isolated figures start to show up more sceptic and impartial. The dramatic tension makes way for a bigger calm on the faces (“Cabeza de mujer”, “Busto de hombre”, “Cabeza de mujer de perfil”). Picasso’s interest leads then to acrobats, jugglers and harlequins, which he represents generally in group and in quiet scenes of their daily life without paying attention to the real scenes (“Los dos saltimbanquis”, “En el circo”, “Saltimbanquis en reposo”, “Familia de saltimbanquis con mono”).
In this series the friendship between Picasso and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire is evident. While the artist was making these illustrations, the writer was composing poems under the same title. In that way, the drypoint “Salomé” invokes some verses that the poet devoted to the same subject.