From February to April, the Art Gallery of Ballarat will be presenting an exhibition of 100 etchings by the famed Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, The Vollard Suite, named after Ambroise Vollard, Picasso’s early art dealer and publisher.
The Art Gallery of Ballarat is one of only three venues around Australia to host this significant exhibition from the National Gallery of Australia, which is one of the few cultural institutions in the world to hold the complete suite of 100.
Gallery Director Louise Tegart said that it is a privilege for the Gallery to showcase this rare set of works from one of the 20th century’s master artists.
“The series of 100 etchings that make up Picasso’s Vollard Suite is at once among the artist’s best and least known works of art,” she said.
“Individual prints from the series are reproduced in almost every textbook of 20th century art, but relatively few people have ever seen the set in its entirety.”
The suite, created in the 1930s, represents a major landmark in Picasso’s extensive career as a printmaker and offers a rare glimpse into his brilliant artistic style. It is regarded as one of the greatest print suites, and perhaps the most enigmatic and famous of the twentieth century.
It was made by Pablo Picasso between 1930 and 1937, although most of the plates date from 1933, the year when Modern art dealer and print publisher Ambroise Vollard commissioned Picasso to make the series of prints in exchange for paintings by Renoir and Cézanne. The actual printing was delayed because of Vollard’s death and the 100 prints were finally released to the public in the early 1950s.
Given the long period of time it took for Picasso to complete the suite, it reflects his erotic and artistic obsessions, marital issues and the darkening political situation in Europe over many years. In these unique images, Picasso explores the enduring themes of history and creativity, ambition and achievement, fear and immortality, moral and physical fallibility, male sexuality and obsession. He has created images which reference classicism and Greek mythology, the Matador engaged in the bullfight, the artist and the model.
Louise says the exhibition, which will also showcase photographs of Picasso, sculptures and artist books that reflect these mythological themes, has broad appeal.
Exhibition curator Sally Foster (National Gallery of Australia Curator, International Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books) said Pablo Picasso’s work is popular because he was a ‘fantastic artist’, in technical terms.
“His works are really beautiful and this is a suite of prints and his print-making is really stunning, beautiful use of line, a really beautiful draughtsman,” she said.
“So they lull you in with this gorgeous imagery but they are also really layered and dense and complicated, problematic, so it’s all those sorts of things – they draw people in, they draw people away, there is so much going on in them.
“Even if you are not a lover of his art work there is something for you in them.”
The National Gallery of Australia bought the whole suite in 1984, all 100 of them, which is very rare .
These prints haven’t been out on exhibition for 20 years and they won’t come out for a while, so it’s really worth coming out and seeing.
This is a free exhibition.