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1944-1971 Carnal landscapes

During the war years, Picasso painted a series of horizontal nudes as grim and motionless as corpses. His reclining postwar nudes come back to life, unfolding like the fields and hills of a landscape, while his vertical sheet metal sculptures, invite the viewer’s eyes to caress their surfaces and crevices.

“Art is never chaste”, Picasso said to me one day. “Ignorant, innocent people should not be allowed to look at it; those who are insufficiently prepared should not encounter it. Yes, art is dangerous. Or, if it is chaste, it is not art.”

[Picasso in conversation with Antonina Vallentin, 1957]

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With a folded, dangling arm and cutout features, this representation of Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986), the artist’s second and last wife, is known in three other versions. One example, made of paper, enabled Picasso to decide how and where to bend or “crease” the metal and allowed him to experiment with the size and the placement of the open-work areas.

The figure of Jacqueline occupies two “sections” of a metal sheet that has been folded into three panels. One panel is solid and has not been worked, serving as a structural support and augmenting the perceived depth of the body. The model’s features have been sliced out of the metal: eyebrows, eyes, ears, mouth and cheeks, a breast and an arm. With the exception of the right arm, hanging from the figure’s centreline, these forms are expressed by hollowed, absent spaces. Viewed from various angles, the sculpture’s flat-metal sections assume volume. Occupying and appropriating these empty spaces into itself, the body acquires depth and mass.

Metal cutout sculptures of this type were part of Picasso’s production in the 1960s. The first example was a large bird of prey. In general, these metalworks recalled the paper cutouts Picasso had made in the early 1940s during the Second World War and the primitive silhouettes, especially those of paper animals and figure, that he had made as a child. According to Lionel Prejger, Picasso invented this type of sculpture as a means of giving “permanent shape” to the paper cutouts he had accumulated over time and, nonetheless, became so inspired by the process that he began to “cut out new paper shapes every day, in such quantity that it was hard to keep up with him (Prejger cited in McCully 1997, p. 259). […] It has also been suggested that the artist’s work in metal developed simultaneously from the metal toys he created for his own children.

Picasso’s collaboration in the 1960s with the Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjar (who has discovered a special cement that could cover large flat surfaces) resulted in a number of important public commissions of colossal cement sculpture, some based on the type of construction of cutout shapes and bet forms found in this metal sculpture.

This cutout sculpture of Jacqueline was made in Cannes in 1961, the year she and Picasso married.

Text: McDonald Parker “Woman”. In Catalogue Collection Museo Picasso Málaga, 2003, pp. 359-360

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It is a known fact that, ever since he was child, Pablo Picasso enjoyed making cut-outs with pieces of paper and scissors. It was perhaps from this desire to construct and transform materials into figures that he developed his talent for composing artworks using images, fragments, objects and materials from a variety of sources. It led to the use of collage in his work, and to his numerous experiments on occupying 3-dimensional space using various sculpture techniques. He was a skilled craftsman and he took  advantage of any materials he came across to create art: wire, cardboard, plaster, iron, clay, wood, and so on.

This interest in exploring materials, along with the skill of cutting and folding that he learnt as a child, converged to give shape to male and female figures, birds, horses, masks and toys. This sculpture is a double profile made of metal, produced in Cannes in 1961 and inspired by Jaqueline. It belongs to a series of similar works using this technique that he produced in the early 1960s.

In this kind of work, which was made with the help of an experienced metalworker, Picasso once again excelled himself, turning fragile and manipulatable designs on paper into rigid structural forms. The result is divided into two sections by folding the metal into three panels. One is solid and untreated, unlike the other two. Eyebrows, eyes, ears, a mouth, cheeks, breasts and an arm all emerge from this industrial material.

Traces of things learnt during his Cubist adventure can also be seen; he plays with visual angles, and has faceted the metal to make the figure more geometric. When approaching artistic processes that were new to him, such as this one, Picasso liked to work with experts in handling industrial and precious materials, such as cement, silver, gold and, in the case of these little metal women, sheets of wrought iron.

 (PICASSO) “I am going to be able to make a dream I had a long time ago come true: to turn these little bits of paper scattered all over the place into durable objects”