Exhibited in Ottawa in its entirety for the first time in nearly sixty years
The National Gallery of Canada presents, from April 29 to September 5, 2016, Picasso: Man and Beast. The Vollard Suite of Prints, an exhibition that reunites – for the first time in Ottawa in nearly 60 years – the entire 100 etchings and drypoints comprising The Vollard Suite. Considered some of Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) printmaking masterworks, they are among the treasures of the national collection and are rarely exhibited due to their fragility. For more information about the exhibition, visit gallery.ca/picasso.
Picasso’s creative universe has shaped the artistic heritage of the twentieth century. Best known for his Cubist paintings, he was also a skilled printmaker, exploring myriad ideas and influences in virtually every known technique.
Acquired by the Gallery in 1957, The Vollard Suite – named after Ambroise Vollard (1866–1939), Picasso’s early dealer and print publisher – explores the tension between man and beast that often characterized Picasso’s work.
This group of prints does not follow a linear narrative. Instead, the artist improvised with subjects and techniques to construct associations between multiple themes and visual allegories, leaving the images untitled. For this reason, the exhibition omits the assortment of titles – sometimes only descriptive or highly interpretive – attributed to the prints in art-historical literature. Presented by date of production, The Vollard Suite is not only Picasso’s neo-classical masterpiece on the civilizing nature of art, but also includes provocative yet quintessential representations of the beast within.
Inasmuch as Picasso led the avant-garde, he also looked to the past for inspiration and tech¬nique. The many images from The Vollard Suite set in an artist’s studio – most often a sculptor’s studio – feature a classical cast of bearded male artists and female models or muses, some¬times adorned with flowery hair garlands. Picasso nevertheless invested these neoclassical scenes with a very personal – or perhaps egocentric – touch by populating them with his own unmistakable Cubist sculptures.
Of transcendental importance to Picasso’s life and art was the issue of romantic love, and he dedicated a great deal of The Vollard Suite to exploring not just the ideals but the pathos of this emotion. Revealed in these images is a view of love that is at once tender and passionate. However, it is also complicated by emotional pain and erotic impulses.
Pablo, the Minotaur
Having grown up in Spain, the land of bullfighting, Picasso developed a strong connection to the sacrificial figure of the bull, which first appeared in his production as early as 1896. Because of its fighting and fertilizing power, the bull/Minotaur became essential to the construc¬tion of Picasso’s self-identity. As The Vollard Suite shows, this beast was, for Picasso, not simply a visual motif but an avatar of deep psychological importance.
Picasso was adept in the planographic technique of lithography, the relief techniques of wood¬cut and linocut; and many intaglio techniques. Within The Vollard Suite, Picasso exploited a range of intaglio methods: drypoint; etching; its drawing-like derivative, soft-ground etching; as well as its tonal cousins, aquatint and lavis. Additional expressive effects were achieved with other engraving tools (burin, scraper) and through burnishing.
NGCmagazine.ca, the National Gallery of Canada’s online magazine, is a frequently updated source of information on the Canadian art world and events at the National Gallery of Canada. Correspondents from across the country provide engaging and exclusive content on historical and contemporary art in Canada. This online magazine also includes interviews with artists.
Until April 30th, the Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Open every day from May 1st to September 30th. The Gallery will still be open until 8 pm on Thursdays.
Admission to Picasso: Man and Beast. The Vollard Suite of Prints is included in admission to the Gallery’s Collection. Adults: $12; Seniors and full-time students: $10; youth aged 12-19: $6; families (two adults and three youth): $24. Admission is free for children under the age of 12 and for Members. Free admission Thursdays between 5 pm and 8 pm. For more information: 613.998.8888 or 1.888.541.8888.
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The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit
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