I am lucky to live in an area with a lot of excellent galleries nearby. The closest one to me geographically is the Lady Lever Art Gallery and they currently have an exhibition showing 17 large linocut prints by Pablo Picasso.
This is the first time the prints have been shown outside of the British Museum in London, the artworks featured include prints from the ‘Jacqueline Reading’ series – his wife and muse – and the most famous ‘Still Life under the Lamp’ series.
Linocutting was a technique that Picasso explored in the late 1950s and early 1960s and the prints included in this exhibition were made in 1962 when Picasso was 80 years old. What was particularly interesting to see were the progressive prints showing Picasso’s process and methods of building up the layers of colour.
The following is video by the British Museum explaining the processes he used to build up the image.
Below is a photo I took in the gallery of the ‘Still Life Under the Lamp’ finished print.
I have not tried the process of linocutting and printing in my own work (other than using potato prints as a child) before so it was fascinating to see the prints in their various stages alongside a selection of the tools. The images were much larger than I had imagined before travelling and were very bold and impactful on the wall, they were certainly not pieces that blended in, they reached out and grabbed your attention. The colours were vibrant and contrasted with each other to give them extra zing. I particularly admired the red and green in the fruit alongside the yellow of the lamp, it certainly reminded me of summer and warmer climates than the damp November day outside. It has made me think about the way I use colour in my own work to choose colours that amplify each other.
Not knowing a great deal about Picasso’s linocut work I took the opportunity to do some research into this area.
Picasso created more than 2000 printed images during the twentieth century. He used a variety of techniques from intaglio (the image is cut into a surface and the depressions hold the ink), lithography (image is drawn with an oil base which doesn’t mix with the water based ink) and linocut (relief printing).
It was later in his life (1950s-60s) when he really switched to linocutting after being influenced by Hidalgo Arnéra, a printer whose shop was near his studio in southern France. However, always being one for innovation Picasso adapted the regular technique of using many blocks to one that used a single piece of linoleum in what is called the ‘reductive print’ method. Essentially, after each successive colour is imprinted onto the paper, the artist then cleans the lino plate and cuts away what will not be imprinted for the subsequently applied colour.
In my reading I did find some directions to try reductive printing using a potato which I will try at some point in the near future.
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