Picasso achieved some of his most innovative work materially in the medium of linocut, working closely over a decade with the printer Hidalgo Arnéra. He experimented with the printing methods, from the physical carving and inking of the plates to the chemical makeup of the inks, and created about 200 linocuts in this period. They met while Picasso was living in the south of France and was looking for a way to eliminate the time lost between working on a print and receiving the proof from the ateliers in Paris. Arnéra would run the proofs back and forth to Picasso’s studio in Cannes, printing the proofs in the morning so that Picasso could continue working when he woke.
Arnéra was an involved collaborator in Picasso’s experimentation. He encouraged the artist to try a subtractive method of one-plate printing when he became frustrated with the slowness of multiple plates. While Picasso had occasionally used the linocut technique before to a limited extent, his previous efforts, like those of most artists using the method, essentially mimicked the woodcut. His posters tended to feature large, flat color fields and a strong sense of the carved line. As he worked with Arnéra, however, he developed the medium to its full expressive potential, using methods as unique as sanding the plate for texture and wetting an inked sheet under the shower to achieve particular textural effects.
Picasso often returned to and developed extensively the themes that interested him in all his art forms, from the weeping women to the bullfight. However, even with specific compositions he often returned and experimented with various effects. “Danse Nocturne avec un Hibou” (Nocturnal Dance with an Owl) is one such composition, in which Picasso varied the colors and effects of his proofs as experimentation. The first state, printed in yellow on a black ground (formed by an uncarved plate), is possibly one of a kind, while the impressions printed in white on a black ground were rinsed after printing, giving each a unique final surface.
Similar authentications and annotations by Arnéra appear on many of the linocuts in the Musée National Picasso, “La Guerre et la Paix”, Vallauris. Several of the Arnéra inscriptions from this collection are illustrated in the exhibition catalogue “Picasso à Vallauris / Linogravures”, Musée National Picasso, “La Guerre et la Paix”, Vallauris, 16 June-19 November 2001, ill. 2, 3, 4, 8.
Learn more about Hidalgo Arnéra at our exhibition PICASSO – Unique Proofs from His Ateliers at Galerie Michael, May 5 – June 5, 2012.