The British Museum has acquired 16 important lithograph prints and three aquatint prints by artist Pablo Picasso covering the post-war period from the late 1940s to the late 1950s.
The works represent the final part of the museum’s campaign to represent more fully Picasso’s work as a printmaker. His achievements in this field, where he produced over 2,500 prints principally in etching, lithography, aquatint and linocut, rank alongside his great predecessors Dürer, Rembrandt and Goya.
Of the sixteen lithographs, six are inspired by the youthful beauty of the aspiring artist Françoise Gilot, whom Picasso first met in 1943 when she was 21 and he was 62.
Picasso’s sense of identification with the sensuality of the pagan world was very much part of his Mediterranean heritage and Bacchanalian scenes feature in several of the newly acquired lithographs from the 1950s.
In Rehearsal, made over six consecutive days in February 1954, the pagan and the modern world are brought together in the form of a tambourine-playing satyr and a youthful trumpeter surrounded by three voluptuous female nudes.
The group of lithographs also includes three portraits of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979), the German-born dealer with whom Picasso maintained a long, if sometimes difficult, relationship, from before the first world war until the artist’s death in 1973.
Made in a single day, 3 June 1957, Picasso adopted a more representational style to record, perhaps not without a hint of malice, Kahnweiler’s bald cranium, lined features and elephantine ears.
Picasso also explored further possibilities with the technique of sugar aquatint. In Hen of 1952 the artist dabbed with his fingers the sugar-lift solution on the plate to create the effect of the bird’s dappled plumage, and then used a scraper to define the direction of its feathers.
Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, said: ‘These exceptional lithograph and aquatint prints are a significant addition to the British Museum’s holdings of Picasso’s graphic work, one that now stands us among the most important public collections of Picasso in the world.’
The prints will go on public display early next year from the last week in January to the first week of March 2017 and are available to study upon appointment at the Prints & Drawings Study Room at the British Museum.