La Model Accoude sur un Tableau(Bloch 151) is yet another visually dynamic and imaginative print from the Vollard Suite, namely the “Sculptor’s Studio” series. These prints are heavily inspired by elements of the classical world: carved marble, idealized nude figures, enticing bowls of fruit and flowers, tangles of vines, and even direct references to Greco-Roman myth. Combined on the page, these motifs present the “studio” as a grand concept with no sense of time or space, lending a dream-like quality to this very real act. Sculpture was one of Picasso’s many avenues of expression; in this era, as his affair with Marie-Therese was taking flight, he returned to it as a medium. Thus, the early 1930s saw the artist exploring not just what it meant to be in love and inspired by a new muse, one with youthful, refreshing energy, but what it meant to be an artist at all.
The “Sculptor’s Studio” prints overall demonstrate a remarkable lightness, a stark and purposeful contrast from the heavy moodiness of the Minotaur prints within the same Suite that declares an internal duality of an artist. This series displays the idyllic joy of creation, rather than an artistic burden, and Bloch 151 is no exception. In the process of etching, Picasso created delicate, thin lines which echo the classical standard of beauty and exalt its softness. Mimicking the figures of antiquity, the sculpted and painted figures appear as soft and life-like as the living ones.
The light presence of these figures creates a misleading air of simplicity. On the surface of Bloch 151 exists three figures: a large sculptural bust on a table, a voluptuous nude female model who sits on a bed/chaise, and the young boy in the painting. But where is the Sculptor? As our main character, it seems Picasso has purposefully excluded his alias from the scene. Looking closer, we realize that the only truly living figure, the model, is in repose–is she waiting for the artist to return and finish their session? The boy in the painting is almost as life-like as she. Thanks to his clever positioning, he thoughtfully gazes up in admiration at the imposing grace of the bust to his left. The clusters of heavy strokes on and around his head and face stop at the neck suggesting he too is waiting for the Sculptor to finish his work. A cup of paintbrushes and a palette sit at his feet. Finally, there is the laurel-clad bust whose regal presence appears to radiate light from the top of her head. Yet, she too remains partially unfinished. Without a completed eye, she cannot gaze back into her surroundings.
Amongst the more general themes of antiquity and creation, this series presents a collision of materials (sculpture, painting, still life sets, nature) interacting with “real” people (models and the sculptor/painter himself) each other in the studio space. These combinations bring inanimate objects to an almost anthropomorphized state, which Picasso uses to create a visual metaphor for the ways life intertwines with art. As the Sculptor works, his creations come to life, blending his sense of reality with the powerful, almost trance-like state he is drawn into. More so, in the act of representing life, “the artist creates himself.” We especially know this to be true considering the way Picasso inserted himself into these studio scenes. However, as previously touched on, the Sculptor is absent from this vignette. The sense of mobility is not entirely done, only paused.
As far as we can tell from this scene, these pieces will remain forever suspended in their unfinished state. But that does not mean the creator-artist has not done his job well; in fact, it is quite the opposite. These half- or nearly completed projects occupy an essential part of the creative process; by acknowledging their existence Picasso injects the dream of the Sculptor’s Studio with honesty. He himself, like most if not all artists, filled his studio with a plethora of unfinished pieces, knowing there is always magic in creating, no matter where it leads.