The Old Masters


Las Meninas by Pablo Picasso, 1957. Museu Picasso, Barcelona, MPB 70.479, Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1968 © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2016

The patron saint maker of angels alongside three young ladies. Degas with his hands on his back by Pablo Picasso, 1971. Museu Picasso, Barcelona, MPB 112.234, Gift of the Estate of Pablo Picasso, 1980 © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2016

Old man seated by Pablo Picasso, 1971. Musée national Picasso – Paris © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2016 © RMN-Grand Palais (musée Picasso de Paris) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

After the Second World War, Picasso’s dialogue with the work of other artists intensified and became explicit when he painted free variations after particular old-master paintings, such as the series inspired by Velázquez’s Las Meninas. He spoke of the painters who absorbed his thoughts as companions, who crowded his studio while he worked, commenting on developments. Because they seemed so alive to him, he did not think twice about caricaturing them, just as he had caricatured his intimate friends.

Both Raphael and Degas were the subject of extended sequences of scurrilous prints in which Picasso imagined episodes from their private lives. Rembrandt, the exemplary painter-draftsman-printmaker, haunted Picasso’s imagination, and when he made free variations after Rembrandt’s selfportraits the element of identification, both personal and artistic, was inescapable.