Nature morte sus la lampe – Mature morte a la suspension (Still life below a lamp)

Pablo Picasso

Nature morte sus la lampe – Mature morte a la suspension (Still life below a lamp)



64 x 53 cm


Simon Theobald Ltd


+44 (0) 207 629 0629

Price upon request

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In 1958, Picasso bought the 13th century Chateau de Vauvenargues, just outside Aix-en-Province. He enjoyed the way of life and his domestic happiness, with Jacqueline Roque, inspired an extraordinary outburst of reinvigorated creativity.

Throughout his career, Picasso had expressed himself in innovative and sought-after prints but, removed from his lithography and intaglio print studios in Paris, he looked to explore a new means of expression in linocuts. In 1952, whilst living at Vallauris, he had produced a series of simple posters under the guidance of a talented local printmaker, Hidalgo Arnéra. Picasso had enjoyed the artistic challenge and, in 1958, he engaged with the technique more intensively, re-imagining Lucas Cranach the Elder’s  Portrait of a Young Girl, 1528, as a stunning and ambitious linocut. Although the final image excited him, Picasso found the process extraordinarily labour-intensive and complicated, requiring the cutting and registering of six different colour blocks to be printed precisely one on top of the other. The complexity of the process distanced him from the creative process so he developed an innovative solution whereby he printed the whole image from just one block in the so-called ‘reduction’ method. The block was printed in the lightest colour, then cut further and printed successively from the lighter to the darker colours. While making the task of registration much simpler, it required a tremendous power of imagination to foresee how each change in the block would impact on the composition as a whole. Over the next five years, from 1958 to 1963, Picasso developed and refined his oeuvre, transforming the linocut medium into a unique form of expression unlike anything previous artists had produced, largely by placing increased emphasis on multiple colours and form.

Nature Morte sous la Lampe, 1962, represents a culmination of Picasso perfecting his linocut technique. The image depicts a still life of apples next to a glass goblet, brightly illuminated under a lampshade at night. The piece was planned as an edition of 50 and was printed in nine stages, beginning with a blank tabula rasa or blank state on white Arches wove paper. From there, Picasso progressively cut and printed the large, single lino block, gradually building up the layers with colour and increasing complexity. The flat colours rarely sit in their pure form; the citron yellow, acid green and bright red vibrate next to each other whilst the black ties them together and adds chiaroscuro and depth to the image. The bulb of the lamp the only large area where the Arches paper glows through, dramatically accentuating the contrast between the lit scene and the shadows beyond. The medium of linocuts allowed Picasso to explore how colours respond to each other with differing levels of saturation and, at their edges, exciting vibrancies. The medium also inspired more ambitious compositions than his oil paintings of the period. As part of his inspiration, Picasso turned to existing artworks by other artists, for example, as mentioned, Lucas Cranach’s Portrait of a Young Girl, 1528 or Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1863. Picasso reinvented the painted image and interpreted it through linocut. In the words of Picasso’s dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, ‘This need to transform was certainly an important characteristic of Picasso’s genius.’