Another side of Picasso

A rare exhibition of the artist’s engravings provides a deeper insight into his passion and personality.

Picasso engraving 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Picasso engraving 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It is not every day that we get to see a quality collection of Picasso engravings on our doorstep, but next week (opening September 15) the Sissman Gallery in Tel Aviv will unveil 30 such works of art for our viewing pleasure in the “Picasso – Engravings” exhibition.
Gallery owner Joseph Sissman is, naturally, delighted to have obtained the works, which come from the collection of New York gallery owner John Szoke, the world’s leading collector of Picasso engravings.
Sissman points out the importance of the format in the art world. “Any self-respecting artist, from Chagall to Matisse, Braque and, of course, Picasso, incorporated the printed medium in their work, and there were workshops in France, Switzerland and Spain,” he explains.
The items in the new exhibition were created over the course of half of a century of Picasso’s long career and appear in a catalogue of the artist’s works compiled by renowned Picasso researcher Georges Bloch.
“Bloch was the first person to compile a catalogue of Picasso’s engravings, and the book is an important source of information for collectors of engravings all over the world,” notes Sissman.
He says that the works at his gallery were also selected with a view to representing as wide a range as possible of Picasso’s printed oeuvres.
“We brought an engraving from his Minotaur series, another from the works he made of his various lovers and partners, and one from his Artist in the Studio line. These are highly prized works valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars or even over a million dollars each.”
The gallery owner also aims to introduce local art lovers to a side of Picasso’s work, and personality, they may not have encountered before.
“This is an opportunity to put the spotlight on an exciting technique that has not been adequately addressed in this country,” says Sissman.
The new show focuses on the rich compositions portrayed in Picasso’s trademark clean lines and depicts the way the artist utilized his unique techniques to create a wide range of textures, as well as aesthetic and topical depth. The latter was core to Sissman’s considerations in choosing which works to bring here.
“The engravings represent topics that engaged Picasso over the years and offer the viewer a means of connecting with the various periods of his life,” says Sissman. “These include, for example, the years between the two world wars, the time of the Civil War in Spain and lesser-known topics, such as Picasso’s allegiance to the communist movement. There is a story behind each of the engravings.”
Besides being one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Picasso was a highly vivacious character whose passion for life – and his sense of humor – comes through strongly in his works of art.
“He was an artist who celebrated the vitality of life on all levels,” says Sissman. “You sense the comedy in his works and, sometimes, even some degree of scorn. That was the man and the artist.”
Sissman is also keen to note the great effort Picasso invested in developing his printing skills. “He put a lot into cultivating highly complex printing techniques. This enabled him to achieve a visual richness comparable with that of his oil paintings. And don’t forget, some of his engravings actually provided the basis for some of his best-known oil works.”
Besides offering the public a rare view of such high-quality works, Sissman hopes Israeli art lovers will come away from the exhibition with a better understanding of the artist and a keener appreciation of his engraving skills.
“I hope that people who come to the show will understand more clearly the importance of engravings in Picasso’s work,” says the gallery owner, “and the place of engravings in the art world as a whole.”
The “Picasso – Engravings” exhibition opens at the Sissman Gallery at 98 Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv on September 15. The show will close on November 4. For more information: (03)522-2325 and