An IMAS collection favorite returns this spring. Picasso: Imaginary Portraits consists of a series of lithographs designed by Pablo Picasso in the final years of his life, in collaboration with the renowned lithographer and chromist Marcel Salinas (1969-1972). Under Picasso’s direction, Salinas produced a limited edition of twenty-nine “Imaginary Portraits.” Picasso painted the images on scraps of cardboard and then hired Salinas to produce the technically involved lithographs for world-wide distribution.
One day in 1969, a shipment of art supplies was delivered to Pablo Picasso’s studio in France. As the packages were opened, the corrugated cardboard and sheets of heavy wrapping paper immediately became a challenge to Picasso, transforming the packaging into Imaginary Portraits, a series of 29 pictures that have the energy of an artist just beginning his career.
Some of the portraits are like his earlier images of characters from Shakespeare’s plays, and French author Honore de Balzac, musketeers, and even the wildly hallucinated heads of his past Cubist work. These subjects and styles were important throughout the artist’s life. Each portrait was originally drawn from Picasso’s imagination in bold and brilliant colors of gouache, an opaque paint mixed with water and thickened with a glue-like substance.
Picasso was very happy with these painted portraits and asked Marcel Salinas, one of France’s best lithographers, if he would reproduce each portrait onto a lithographic block under Picasso’s supervision. After approving each block, Picasso put his recognizable signature and “bon à tier” (meaning “good to pull”) on it and Salinas began printing them. The entire process took over a year to complete, and once the prints were made, each lithographic block was destroyed.
The prints in this gallery are one of only three complete sets of the 29 prints in the permanent collections of museums in the United States one in Florida and California, and this one in Texas, at the International Museum of Art & Science.