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Le Jouer de Flute
Le Jouer de Flute, 1959
Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, Spanish
Image: 25 x 19 3/4 inches (63.5 x 50.2 cm) Sheet: 27 1/2 x 20 3/4 inches (69.9 x 52.7 cm)
Purchased with the Print Revolving Fund, 1960
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Picasso Prints: Myths, Minotaurs, and Muses
May 24, 2014 - August 3, 2014
This exhibition focuses on Pablo Picasso’s response to the world of classical antiquity in nearly fifty prints from four critical decades of his career. His wide-ranging interests in ancient art, mythology, and literature were a continual source of inspiration for the compulsively creative artist, who infused them with his personal mythology.

Long intrigued by the Louvre’s classical sculptures and vases, Picasso was enthralled with the ruins and antiquities he saw during his first trip to Italy in 1917. In the 1920s, he revisited these experiences by making etchings evocative of Greco-Roman statues and Greek vase painting, including The Spring of 1921 and Marie-Thérèse in Profile of 1928.

Archaeological excavations at the palace of Knossos in Crete in the 1930s captured widespread public interest and introduced Picasso to the Minotaur, the famous mythical creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. The artist immediately adopted the Minotaur as an alter ego, portraying it in more than sixty works in the following decades. Fifteen prints from the Vollard Suite, one hundred etchings completed by Picasso in 1937 for art dealer Ambroise Vollard, show the Minotaur as a symbol of energy, passion, and violent subconscious desires. Additional selections explore the connection between the aggressive beast and the bloody tradition of Spanish bullfighting, while others present Picasso as a contemplative classical sculptor with a nude model as his muse.

Picasso’s engagement with ancient literature and drama are further highlighted in his etchings for two book illustration projects from the 1930s, a 1931 adaptation of Ovid’s epic poem Metamorphoses and a 1934 retelling of Aristophanes’s comedy Lysistrata. In the 1940s and 1950s, the artist addressed more lighthearted aspects of mythology, creating lithographs and posters of playful fauns and centaurs while making ceramics in Vallauris, an ancient Roman pottery town in southeastern France.

Exhibition Minutes

Curator Introduction to "Picasso Prints: Myths, Minotaurs, and Muses"

Exhibition curator Nora Lambert explains why Picasso began to explore classical mythology and printmaking during the 1930s.

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Picasso Prints: Art Imitates Life

See how Picasso was inspired by both his personal relationships as well as classical antiquity and mythology to create timeless artworks.

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Picasso Prints: The Artist as Romping Minotaur

In the 1930s Picasso adopted the Minotaur—the half-man, half-bull of classical antiquity—as his alter ego. Explore how this print of the Minotaur with his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter offers a stark contrast to the artist's more conventional lifestyle with his wife, Olga Khokhlova.

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Picasso Prints: The Blind Minotaur

Learn how Picasso’s intense fear of blindness led him to intertwine the myth of the Minotaur with that of the tragic hero Oedipus.

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Picasso Prints: The Spanish Bullfight

In this dramatic print from 1934, Picasso places himself, his wife, and his mistress within the ring of a Spanish bullfight.

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Picasso responds to the classical past.


Nora S. Lambert, Dorothy J. del Bueno Curatorial Fellow, with John W. Ittmann, The Kathy and Ted Fernberger Curator of Prints


Berman Gallery, ground floor

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