Pablo Picasso. Variation on Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Mougins, 04/07/1961. Etched with a gouge on linoleum plate, printed on Arches vellum watermarked paper (Sabartés proof, I state). 61,9 x 75 cm. MPB070.271. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Gift of de Jaume Sabartés, 1966. © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2018
Pablo Picasso did around 40 works inspired by Le déjeuner sur l’herbe by Édouard Manet that date between 1959 and 1962. This is a series of variations produced with various artistic disciplines such as printing, painting, drawing and ceramics.
This series responds to a need of the artist who, from his period of academic learning in Barcelona until his later years, fed off the painting from the past to redo it with revolutionary styles such as cubism. Based on this need, at the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s, he produced a cycle of series about the Masters who impacted most in him, such as Delacroix, Velázquez and Manet, amongst others.
The reflection about the work Le déjeuner sur l’herbe was, with the experience that he gained with Las Meninas by Velázquez, the most profound and complex that he did during this period, in which he renewed the genre of the citation or copy, and takes possession of the pictorial language of the great masterpieces.
In fact, more than being a copy or a direct inspiration, it is a re-appropriation through the theme and the compositions that form part of the work, where Picasso can see in the first person the power of the painter.
Pablo Picasso. Variation on Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. I. Mougins, 26/01/1962 y 13/03/1962. Etched with a gouge in six colours on linoleum plate, printed on Arches vellum watermarked paper (Sabartés proof, V and final state). MPB070.315. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Gift of Jaume Sabartés, 1964. © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2018
In the case of Manet, the work Le déjeuner sur l’herbe created such a stir in its presentation at the Salon des Refusées in 1863 (after being rejected by the Official Paris Salon), was seen for many as scandalous, while for others it was pioneering and avant-garde. For Picasso it was fascinating and echoed every question that Manet’s painting provoked. His was the phrase: When I see Le déjeuner sur l’herbe de Manet, I think: “pains for the future“.
During the ongoing dialogue that he held with the work, the first point he explored was the theme of leisure in the countryside. For the artist, eating outdoors reminded him of the simple life of the countryside and where he lived, in the south of France. If one observes the work of Picasso Le déjeuner sur l’herbe according to Manet from 1960, food is very present in the foreground of the picture and remind us that eating is a vital need of the body.
A second theme that it reflects is the juxtaposition of the female nude with fully clothed men, which was considered vulgar but one that Picasso exploits to the full, dressing and undressing all the characters. He has fun and goes into the work to such an extent that he plays with the whole composition, bringing the characters closer and moving them away, reproducing different activities such as eating or smoking.
Likewise, each figure of the group is a separate entity, absorbed in its own attitude and action, in such a way that no narrative connection can explain the whole. For Picasso the protagonists of Manet become actors of a small theatre where the landscape is the decoration.
In Room 08 of the temporary exhibition “Picasso’s kitchen” you will be able to find some magnificent works, such as Le déjeuner sur l’herbe accordingto Manet (03/03/1960 – 20/08/1960), Variation of “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe” by Manet. II (27/03/1962 – 23/04/1962) or Small variation of “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe” by Manet (22/04/1962).
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