What might it have been like to be a fly on the wall in Pablo Picasso’s studio? A new show at the Norton Simon Museum, “States of Mind: Picasso Lithographs 1945-1960,” aims to provide an idea.
The exhibit centers on the artist’s lithography, a flexible form of printmaking that is prepared so that the ink sticks only to the design intended for printing. Eighty-six prints will be on view until Feb. 13, many of them for the first time in 40 years. The museum’s namesake acquired them in 1977 from the collection of Fernand Mourlot, the man who ran the print shop in Paris where Picasso made them.
“We’re fortunate to have every state of these lithographs, so we can watch a composition develop,” associate curator Emily Beeny said, referring to prints that show the sequential evolution of works as they were revised. “It’s sort of like a flip book. We’re looking over his shoulder as he reworks a composition.”
The lithographs are discrete pieces of art, not preliminary studies for paintings. Although Beeny said Picasso’s prolific postwar work in multistate lithography contributed directly to the emergence of the artist’s serial paintings, including his 1955 grouping of 15 paintings titled “Les Femmes d’Alger” (“Women of Algiers”).
Picasso felt it was important to show all the pictures that may be underneath the picture, said Beeny, adding that while Picasso was experimenting with lithography, Henri Matisse was addressing a similar problem in another way by bringing a photographer into his studio to take a picture of his canvas each day.
In Picasso’s case, he worked up a design and printed up a small batch of impressions.
“And he does it again and again and again,” Beeny said.
“States of Mind: Picasso Lithographs 1945-1960”
Where: Norton Simon Museum, 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; ends Feb. 13.
Information: (626) 449-6840, www.nortonsimon.org
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