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Picasso Prints: Myths, Minotaurs, and Muses

May 24–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.

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

Picasso Prints: Art Imitates Life

Picasso Prints: The Artist as Romping Minotaur

Picasso Prints: The Blind Minotaur

Picasso Prints: The Spanish Bullfight

Main Building


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

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