Visage de Marie-Thérèse1928 by Pablo Picasso

1928 (Probably October, Paris)

This lithograph is one of Picasso’s earliest portraits of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, aside from sketches and drawings of a more personal nature. It was also his first major achievement in lithography, a method that would become more important to his printmaking oeuvre in the 1940s when he met the printer, Fernand Mourlot. As such, it stands as an isolated early masterwork in the technique. The image served as the frontispiece for the deluxe edition of André Level‘s 1928 biography on Picasso (the first to be issued)—a bold yet secretive declaration of the obsession for Marie-Thérèse that had overcome him. He did not reveal the identity of the sitter or his relationship with her, and for many years this print was simply known as Visage. Another year passed before he dared to portray her again.

The rapturous and tenderly rendered portrait glows with the artist’s fresh ardor for his new lover, who was eighteen at the time. The three-quarters profile perspective accentuates his lover’s sculpted nose, alabaster skin, delicate mouth, and elegant eyes. Picasso’s intimate framing and cropping of her face imparts a sense of both monumentality and familiarity to the image. Perhaps related to the personal nature of the subject, the delicate, soft hatching Picasso used here is a departure from the energetic and dynamic line that characterizes a majority of his work from this period.
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