Portraiture in Print
The exhibition is centred around seven ground-breaking prints by Pablo Picasso that depict his most enduring muse, Françoise Gilot, who recently passed away. Picasso pays homage to her beauty through a series of portraits that trace the development of their relationship which lasted over ten years.
The exhibition will also feature rare, early studies by Josef Albers and prints in a variety of media by Richard Hamilton, who embraced many time-honoured printing methods as well as inventing a few of his own. More recent works include portrait etchings by Georg Baselitz depicting other artists and a group of intense self-portraits by Jim Dine.
Portraiture in Print coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of Picasso’s death and the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery in London, and their Portrait Mode campaign.
The exhibition will be closed from 5 – 31 August.
Seven works on show focus on two of Picasso’s muses, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque.
Gilot, with whom Picasso had a relationship for ten years, is a dominant theme in the artist’s works in the late 1940s. Around this time Picasso also began working with the lithographic printer, Fernand Mourlot, in Paris. Lithography, first made on limestone and subsequently on copper plates, enabled Picasso to draw rapidly and expressively at any time of day or night. Tête de Jeune Fille (States I-IV), 1947 demonstrates his evolving creative process in a joyous ode to Gilot’s beauty.
In 1952 Picasso made La Femme à la Fenetre. This portrait, arguably one of Picasso’s most iconic and important graphic works, which is housed in museum collections worldwide, is a more tragic image which reflects his disintegrating relationship with his muse. A year later Gilot appears alongside Jacqueline Roque in L’Italienne, 1953. The basis of the work is a reproductive image Picasso found in Mourlot’s studio that had been used to print an exhibition poster depicting an Italian woman. It is the first print in which the artist made use of a photographic base to underpin a lithographic edition. By changing the composition of the female face, the woman begins to look like Gilot, his lover at the time. He then added various other characters, including the first reference to his future wife Roque, depicted bottom left, and himself, depicted top right, playing the castanets.
Seen alongside Picasso’s prints is a group portrait entitled Picasso’s meninas, 1973, by Richard Hamilton. This work, published to celebrate Picasso’s 90th birthday and made with Aldo Crommelynck, Picasso’s own master printer, constitutes a tribute to the artist as well as to Diego Velazquez’s masterpiece. Hamilton set out to include every intaglio technique that Picasso had ever used in one all-encompassing image.
Further works by Hamilton highlight the layered way in which the artist’s work used different contemporary media. Hamilton was introduced to the Polaroid camera by Roy Lichtenstein in the late 1960s. Fascinated by the possibilities of this immediate printing method, Hamilton purchased his own Polaroid Camera and began to ask artist friends to take pictures of him. A Portrait of the Artist by Francis Bacon, 1970-71 is based on a Polaroid of Hamilton that Francis Bacon took in 1969. Hamilton was intrigued by the photograph because it seemed to echo Bacon’s painting style and so he developed it into an ironic self-portrait.
Podcast: Making a Mark with Richard Hamilton
Georg Baselitz works from his own printing press in his studio outside Munich. Through a series of prints based on self-portraits of artists he admires or is influenced by, Baselitz demonstrates the appeal of portraiture as a vehicle for his study of mark making.
Each self-portrait, including Frank Auerbach (F.Au.), 2018 and Tracey Emin (T.E.), 2018, has been carefully selected and reimagined in Baselitz’s own unique style. Over the past sixty years he has made use of numerous different techniques and the three etchings on show were made with a combination of aquatint and line engraving.
Since the 1960s Jim Dine has made prints exploring his signature motifs in every conceivable medium. He returns throughout his career to self-portraiture in a lifelong attempt to record his ageing appearance with ever-increasing intensity.
A group of prints, entitled Myself, was made in 2016 when Dine was 80 years old. The works, featuring front-on depictions of the artist, were made by Dine drawing on lithographic and intaglio plates whilst staring with furrowed brow and all-consuming concentration at his own image in a mirror.