Pablo Picasso: The Vollard Suite

This complete and rare set of 100 prints by Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) is a magnificent testament to the virtuosity and brilliance of the artist.

The Vollard Suite was created between the years 1930–1937 upon the invitation of the legendary Paris art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who was known for having cornered the market for works by the luminaries of French modern art from Degas, through Cézanne and Matisse and eventually to Picasso. The unfortunate and untimely death of Vollard in 1939 hindered the distribution and visibility of these superb prints but eventually, they were recognised as one of Picasso’s iconic masterpieces, comparable to prints by Rembrandt and Goya. This success was also due to his encounter with Roger Lacouriére, the most innovative and accomplished intaglio printer in the day. Lacouriére’s unrelenting support and assistance to Picasso fueled him to push the boundaries in all aspects, from composition to technical virtuosity.

After the revolutionary arrival of Dadaism and Cubism in the first two decades of the 20th century, Picasso seized the opportunity to embark on something completely different. During this time, quoting renowned Picasso scholar Pierre Daix, “he (Picasso) changed everything from his house and his studio to his women”. It is thus not beyond the realm of possibility to conclude that his amorous relationship with Marie-Thérèse Walter, a beautiful girl-mistress with distinctively ‘classical’ facial features – in stark contrast to his first wife Olga Koklova, a slender Russian ballerina – inspired him the most in this new artistic development.

Amongst several themes in the Vollard Suite, the principle focus is of Picasso as the Minotaur – a beast with the head of a bull on the body of a man. The ancient Greek legend of the Minotaur originated with the failure of King Minos of Crete in sacrificing the white bull to Poseidon, the god of sea. As a punishment, Poseidon caused Pasiphaë, the wife of King Minos, to become infatuated with and eventually couple with the white bull.

Picasso’s autobiographical depiction of himself as the mythical figure of the Minotaur is synchronic with the journey and unfolding love story between Marie-Thérèse and himself. As Picasso became exhausted with his interest in this subject and style, his love for Marie-Thérèse waned in the same manner. By then, Picasso was already in another love affair with the highly gifted but extraordinarily difficult Dora Maar, who would later go on to inspire the artist to produce other masterpieces.