Thursday, August 5, 2010

Balzac and Picasso

Balzac, etching, 1952, Pablo Picasso

In 1927 Picasso was commissioned to do a series of illustrations for a novella by Balzac called The Unknown Masterpiece or The Hidden Masterpiece(Le Chef-d’Ĺ“uvre inconnu ). After reading the novella Picasso became obsessed with this uncanny tale of a painter's obsession to create a masterpiece.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso, 1937

Picasso identified with the painter Frenhofer and became obsessed with The Unknown Masterpiece. In 1934 he moved into a house that he and his friends believed was the actual setting of Balzac's story. There he painted his most famous work, Guernica, in 1937. Some art historians have suggested he conceived Guernica as his own unknown masterpiece.

Picasso would later claim he was haunted by Balzac. Themes from Balzac's story appear in many of Picasso's works over the years. The etching above is one of a long series of Balzac portraits done by Picasso in 1952.

A drawing from 1934 was discovered in a junk shop in 1972. The 1934 drawing may offer a key to symbolism in many of Picasso's paintings. Contraversy regarding interpretations of the drawings symbolism and it's authenticity has been ongoing for years. The 1934 drawing has become known as Picasso's Unknown Masterpiece.

1934 drawing

Art historian Mark Harris has written a brilliant comprehensive analysis of the symbolism in Picasso's Unknown Masterpiece. Visit his website to read all about it and visit the Picasso Conspiracy website for up to date information on the ungoing battle to authenticate Picasso's Unknown Masterpiece.

The Balzac Conspiracy:

The Mark Harris Picasso site: