Baer 1326/III/B/a (from c)
Picasso created his first major multi-colored linocut in Vallauris in 1958. That work, Bust of Woman after Cranach, was made in six colors, each necessitating a separate piece of linoleum. The resulting linocut was an aesthetic failure in that the colors harmonized poorly. It was a technical failure as well in that the forms and colors did not correlate satisfactorily as a result of the individual plates not registering correctly. Part of Picasso’s problem with that work was that he had to cut and print each lino-block separately. This lengthy procedure resulted in a discontinuity of the creative process and took away much of the spontaneity, so essential in Picasso’s most successful works. Through sheer artistic necessity, therefore, Picasso was driven to invent a new technique for producing multi-colored linocuts. Instead of using one block for each color, as had been the case in all the various forms of relief printing since the Renaissance, Picasso devised a reductive technique to produce all the colors from only one piece of linoleum on which a preliminary, detailed guide-drawing first had been executed by the artist. One problem with this method is that after each color (or “state”) has been printed and the lino-block has been cut away to prepare for the printing of the next color, it becomes impossible to amend or revise the previous state. In the Italian Renaissance, indeed in the whole history of relief printing, the techniques utilized had always made it possible for the artist to re-work individual color blocks. In Picasso’s method of the multi-colored linocut, however, there was no way to return to a previous state and the work could only be corrected progressively. Picasso’s unique artistic abilities allowed him to overcome this technical difficulty, a difficulty that he turned to his advantage as evidenced by his increasingly simplified and powerful multi-colored linocuts.