Pablo Picasso’s Portrait de Famille Ingresque, III, 1964. Part of the Masters on Paper – From Picasso to Sanyu selling exhibition at Sotheby’s in Beijing from 30 May-1 June.

BEIJING – This summer, Sotheby’s Beijing will offer a special exhibition of graphic art and works on paper by some of the most important artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The works express major artistic and thematic concepts, among them the artist and model, the female nude, abstraction and colour and line. Conceived in ink and paint, these works on paper, including drawings and prints, are frequently intimate, personal depictions by the artists, for whom they held great significance.

Beginning with Picasso, many great artists in the 20th century were prodigious printmakers and superb creators of works on paper. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse and Sanyu created thousands of graphic art and works on paper throughout their prolific careers. Prints and drawings were an outlet for these artists to employ different techniques to achieve images which could not have been produced with a brush. 

These Modern masters were continually alternating between printmaking and drawing, painting or sculpting to work out conceptual and compositional ideas. Indeed, the definition of the “Modern master” was that of an artist who was proficient in many different media, including printmaking and drawing. The variety of techniques for drawing (ink, pencil, charcoal, watercolour, coloured crayons), and printmaking – and by this we mean woodcut, etching, engraving, and lithography – provided a cornucopia of many different types of line, tone and shading, all being dependent on how the artist manipulated his medium on different surfaces to achieve the desired effect. 


Charles Sorlier After Marc Chagall, Nice and the Cote d'Azur: Couple in Mimosa, 1967. Part of the Masters on Paper – From Picasso to Sanyu selling exhibition at Sotheby’s in Beijing from 30 May-1 June.

Collecting prints and works on paper is the ideal approach to creating an art collection, as wonderful pieces by renowned artists can be acquired at accessible and reasonable price points. Collectors are able to continually refine their tastes and preferences while pursuing any number of styles and aesthetics. And while prints are not necessarily unique works of art, they are certainly original works of art – each print is a finished piece, hand signed by the artist indicating his approval. Moreover, prints which are multiples can signal quite valuable information to a collector regarding the piece’s art historical or aesthetic merit if, for example, another version of the same print is known to be in a reputable collection or museum. Prints and drawings are also imbued with as much emotion as works of other media, which is readily evident in this exhibition: these works are frequently intimate, personal depictions by the artists, to whom they had clearly great significance. But most important of all are the images themselves: colorful at times, full of energy, the human form, abstraction and lines and shapes.  They are easily understood by the viewer and accessible to all. 

The selling exhibition Masters on Paper – From Picasso to Sanyu will be on view from 30 May-1 June in Beijing.