Spain 1881 – France 1973
Femme torero. (Female bullfighter.)
[Femme torero II (Female bullfighter II): from The Vollard Suite [SV no. 22]] 20 June 1934
Collection Title: from the Vollard Suite (22)
Materials & Technique: prints, intaglio etching, printed in black ink. Support: paper
The National Gallery of Australia is fortunate to own a complete set of 100 etchings, engravings and aquatints from the 1930s known as the Vollard Suite and made by the incomparable twentieth-century artist, Pablo Picasso. It is named after Ambroise Vollard, his sometime art dealer and publisher. The suite contains many themes that were close to Picasso’s heart: dominating are the classically derived subjects of the Minotaur (the irrational half man–half beast) and Pygmalion (the artist obsessed by his model); as well as the bullfight.
In this series, Picasso explored legends depicting mythic themes of love and bestiality, in all kinds of mutations: the figure of the bullfighter may be either male or female; the bull, the horse or the Minatour may appear in the ring of a bullfight, or in related scenes of erotica or acts of rape and carnage. For this composition, Picasso depicts a naked female toreador lying slain on the back of a bull, her terrified horse rearing up over her. The composition is brutal and the frenetic etched marks and cross-hatching evoke darkness and dread. Yet in the midst of the fray, as if lit from above, the beautiful young bullfighter is shown in classical profile, at peace, using spare, delicate lines.
By chance, in 1927, Picasso met a young woman, Marie-Thérèse Walter, outside the department store of Galerie Lafayette. He was immediately taken with her physical appearance and her pronounced classical profile. She became both lover and inspiration for Picasso’s art and appears in many of the images of the Vollard Suite including this female bullfighter.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014