All 20 editions of each plate have been sold out for years. It took the collector several years to unite all twenty-four plates.
Paris to Cannes – Golden Years in the 1950s
Pablo Picasso is undoubtedly one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and the influences of his versatile works and career as a painter, sculptor, ceramicist, and even stage designer are crucial to the development of modern art. A prolific artist, Picasso worked with an endless variety of subjects and motifs across mediums and artistic styles, with the 1950s proven to be a crucial period in Picasso’s artistic career when numerous masterpieces were conceived and executed. An integral part of his artistic output, the medium of ceramics was first introduced to the artist in 1946 when Picasso visited the annual potters’ exhibition in Vallauris, France – a centre for the production of pottery dating back to the Roman era. The visit incited a life-long passion for and dedication to ceramics working alongside Suzanne and Georges Ramié of the Madoura workshop. The Ramiés made and sold all of the artist’s ceramics and provided Picasso with the resources he required to fashion his works. The affiliation with the Madoura Pottery ended up lasting for 25 years, generating an incredible volume of work, over 633 of which were created in limited editions and engraved with the Madoura stamp.
The complete set of twenty-four silver plates is the impressive result of Picasso’s work in this medium. The present work is unique because not only are his silver plates more precious in material and rare in quantity, this is the first time that all twenty-four silver plates are united and offered as one group. Conceived between 1956 and 1967, the plates were designed by Picasso and François Hugo together, then casted by Hugo as well as his son Pierre Hugo afterwards on request by private individuals. All editions having been sold out for years, this is a unique opportunity to contemplate the result of this fruitful collaboration.
François Hugo – Silversmith, Friend & Collaborator
A Frenchman born in 1899 in Rovezzano, Italy, François Hugo was the great-grandson of Victor Hugo, the French romantic poet, dramatist and novelist considered to be one of the most eminent French writers. François Hugo was one of the most accomplished gold- and silversmiths in France in the second half of the twentieth century, and between 1950’s and 1960’s, the master-craftsman was commissioned by Picasso to execute a series of platters, dishes and medallions in gold and silver after original models and designs by the artist himself. Picasso was the first artist to officially work with Hugo.
Picasso was first introduced to François Hugo in the 1910s through the artistic and literary avant-garde circles of the time in Paris, but the two artists met again on September 25, 1956 through their mutual friend and art historian Douglas Cooper when Picasso expressed a keen interest to cast some of his ceramic plate designs into silver. The plate Dormeur became the model for their first experiment in silver, where the two artists embarked on a trial and error process with technique and equipment design in September of 1956. The very first plate was completed and approved by Picasso at the end of January 1957. For many years, Picasso refused to exhibit the work they made, but eventually, in September of 1967, on the occasion of an exhibition at the Galerie le Point Cardinal in Paris, he granted François Hugo the authority to create certain casts in limited editions for sale and to sign the works with their joint names. Because the limited edition plates were only offered to a small circle of connoisseurs and friends and dispatched directly to the purchaser upon completion, the public was largely unaware of the existence of such plates until they were shown for the very first time at Picasso’s solo exhibition at the Lever Galleries, London and Galerie Matignon, Paris in the “Picasso – 19 silver platters” exhibition in 1977. The blockbuster exhibition became a highly significant milestone in the artist’s career because not only did it put Picasso back on the map of international stardom, the unveiling of the silver plates at their very first appearance in public placed a newfound appreciation and importance to the artist’s ceramic works.
Sources of Inspiration
A leading figure in the revolution of modern art in the first half of the 20th century, Henri Matisse had significant influence on Picasso. In the 1940s, Matisse resorted to cutting paper as his primary medium, resulting in a radical simplification of forms and lines in his late works. When Matisse died on November 3, 1954, his departure brought tremendous impact on the stylistic development of Picasso who started incorporating ornamental forms and organic lines into his work. Traces of Matisse can be seen in the decorative motifs of Visage aux feuilles and Joie de vivre where the abstract ornamentation along the perimeter of the plates recalls Matisse’s most famous cut-outs. Joie de vivre is needless to say, a tribute to Matisse’s most famous painting La Danse from 1909.
Bulls, horses and horsemen have always enamored Picasso and motifs of these animals feature promptly in many of Picasso’s most iconic works as well. Since a young age, the artist often attended bullfights in his native country of Spain and continued to do so often throughout France. The action and gory nature of these events are evidenced in many dynamic paintings the artist created throughout his life, and such fixation is referenced in the designs of four silver plates – Faune cavalier, Joueur de flute et cavaliers, Taureau, and Centaure. Whether through bulls, horseback riders or Minotaurs, Picasso draws upon the dynamism of these animals to add movement and vigour into his imageries.
At Vallauris Picasso developed a love affair with Jacqueline Roque who soon became his second wife as well as one of the artist’s greatest muses. Although Jacqueline was only 26 years old and Picasso 72 when they met, their marriage lasted for eleven years until his death, and during this time Picasso made over four hundred portraitures of her, one of which is seen in Profil de Jacqueline. The complex composition and exaggerated neck and feline face in profile are reminiscent of the famous painting Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Jacqueline Kneeling which the artist painted at Vallauris in 1954.
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