Etching with drypoint, 1904, from La Suite des Saltimbanques, a rich, atmospheric impression from the deluxe edition of 27 or 29 on laid japan paper, printed by Louis Fort, published by Ambroise Vollard, Paris, 1913
Ex coll. Richard Harris, his stamp verso (not in Lugt)
The Repas Frugal constitutes one of the most important prints in the graphic oeuvre of Picasso and was only the second work produced by the artist in the field of printmaking.
Executed at the end of Picasso's blue period, the work was included in the Saltimbanque Suite, a set of fifteen etchings and drypoints created between 1904 and 1905. The Repas Frugal, the most popular and strongest image in this series, distinguishes itself from the fourteen other etchings, which feature a group of circus performers (cf. lots 24-26) and mark the beginning of the Rose period, by depicting a destitute couple sharing a dismal meal of bread and wine.
Picasso's poor living conditions at this time probably pushed him to reuse a plate that had been previously etched by his friend Joan Gonzales to make a print of a landscape; ghostly traces of Gonzales's image can be seen in the upper part of the image. The theme depicted is filled with melancholy, reinforced by the use of elongated proportion derived from El Greco, and the effect of light and shadow contribute to the making of this stunning etching. Picasso was only 23 years old, living in Montmartre at the famous Bateau-Lavoir when the Repas Frugal, an undeniable masterpiece, entered the history of printmaking.
The suite was printed in a small edition by Eugène Delâtre and offered for sale by the dealer Clovis Sagot. Relatively few seem to have survived and even less have remained in private collections. The publisher Ambroise Vollard acquired the plates in 1911 and had them steel-faced, to reduce the wear on the plates during the printing process, and pulled by Louis Fort in 1914 in an edition of 250 on Van Gelder paper. There were another additional 27 or 29 printed on japan paper of which the work presented here is a fine example.
Provenance: this work as well as lots 73 and 74, the Femme à la Fennêtre and the Egyptienne, bears the collector's mark of Richard Harris, an antique dealer in Chicago specialising principally in natural history. Following his retirement, Richard Harris sold his personal collection of prints by Rembrandt, Matisse and Picasso which he had carefully collected over three decades through a series of exhibitions and catalogues from 2001-2003 at C. G. Boerner, in New York and Düsseldorf.
"If I were a very wealthy man, I would have kept Picasso's La Femme qui Pleure and Le Repas Frugal,"
Richard Harris quoted in Lovely Bones, in Art+Auction, USA, October 15, 2008.
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