Portrait de Françoise a la resille
Portrait de Françoise a la resille (Baer 907)

1953 (May 13, Paris)

Aquatint, etching, engraving and drypoint with scraper on Arches with Arches watermark
One of nine proofs of the third (final) state; there was no edition printed
Marina Picasso Collection oval stamp lower right on verso; Inventory number recorded in the Picasso archives in Paris, "INV 24060" lower right verso, in pencil
Printed by Lacourière
Image: 16 3/4 x 12 7/8 inches
Sheet: 22 x 15 1/8 inches
Framed: 32 1/8 x 27 7/8 inches
(Baer 907.III)

Portrait de Françoise à la résille is among Picasso’s most important intaglio prints of Françoise, the artist’s lover and muse from 1943 to 1953, and the subject of innumerable paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. In this aquatint, she is portrayed wearing the current fashion of the time: a lacy hairnet. Picasso met Françoise Gilot in 1941, and was quickly smitten. The couple began living together in Paris in 1946, relocating more permanently to the Côte d’Azur in 1948, where they took up residence in the village of Vallauris. Françoise bore Picasso two children, Claude and Paloma in 1947 and 1949 respectively; their time together was an extremely prolific period in the artist’s oeuvre. Picasso had spent the war years in Paris, shut away in his Left Bank studio with his intelligent and gifted but strong-willed and temperamental mistress, Dora Maar, and in close contact with his former mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, and their daughter Maya, who were living nearby. After this dismal period of claustrophobic occupation, his meeting with Françoise and the development of their liaison introduced a breath of fresh air. In her early twenties and herself a painter, Françoise was full of energy, vitality and belief in art, symbolizing that hope for the future brought about by the end of the war. As with all Picasso’s love affairs, a new relationship brought a new and intensive engagement with an artistic medium. After meeting the master printmaker Fernand Mourlot in 1945, he began a collaborative relationship on a par with his innovative etching work with Roger Lacourière during the 1930s. Not surprisingly, the first theme that appeared in the artist’s new lithographic work was the face of Gilot. Numerous lithographic portraits of Françoise were created in the following years, such as his well-known suite of ten lithographic portraits Françoise, 1946 (Bloch 396-403), and a suite of intaglio proofs Portrait de Françoise au long cou I (Baer 733).

 

In Portrait de Françoise à la résille, as in virtually all his images of Gilot, Picasso focuses on the classical forms of his subject’s beautiful features and long elegant neck viewed face-on. Gilot’s rounded face is supported by a slender column that looks far too narrow to support the head above it, a characteristic shared by the figure in a painting that Picasso made the following year, Femme a la robe verte.i The technical complexity of Portrait de Françoise à la résille results from Picasso’s years of intensive experimentation with Lacourière. The image was evolved through three states: in the first, Picasso outlined the features of Gilot’s face with aquatint, creating a cartoon-like image that, in its simplified expressive and painterly form, recalls the many faces he was painting on ceramics in the nearby Madoura pottery workshops at the time. I n the second state, he clarified the image with drypoint and scraper, before refining the detail with the scraper and burin in the third. In this final state, the flat surface of the original visage has gained volume through the addition of clusters of delicate geometric lines inscribing patterning over the subject’s cheeks and forehead, and around her wide-set eyes. Françoise’s long lashes, a prominent feature in many earlier print portraits, here double as volumetric indicators, radiating outwards from her right eyelid and her left eyebrow. Similar fine lines add definition to her long straight nose, small full lips and round chin; while Picasso has used the scraper to create white stripes denoting hairs on the dark lid of her right eye, her eyebrows, and the small margin of smoothed-back hair visible between her forehead and the edge of her résille. Here, Picasso’s mastery is at its most evident, as the lacy mantilla that adorns Françoise’s head, attractively framing her face and hanging down to her shoulders where it fuses with the texture of her bodice, is extraordinarily well defined, despite being drawn with a mixture of scraped and inscribed criss-cross lines over the scribbled brushstrokes laid down in the first state. The overall effect is one of simultaneous delicacy and strength—the subject’s large dark eyes speak alertness and intelligence, while her ripe lips speak of the force of Picasso’s desire.

 

 

i John Richardson, Picasso: The Mediterranean Years, Gagosian Gallery, London 2010, p.193.