Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Le Repas Frugal (The Frugal Meal) by Pablo Picasso

Le Repas Frugal, 1904
Image: 46.3 x 37.7 cm

Poised between Pablo Picasso’s two most significant periods, Le Repas Frugal (The Frugal Meal) by Pablo Picasso represents a pivotal point in the Pablo Picasso’s printmaking oeuvre. As part of Picasso’s first suite/series of etchings, entitled La Suite des Saltimbanques, Le Repas Frugal contains elements of both Picasso’s Blue Period, marked by its melancholic introspection, and Picasso’s Rose Period, characterized by Pablo Picasso’s fascination with strolling acrobats or players. The bohemian life of those who lived on the edge of society was important to the young struggling Picasso as he too frequented the circus, the theater and music halls to escape from his impoverished lifestyle.

Les Pauvres (Saltimbanques Suite), 1905
23.6 x 18 cm
The Frugal Meal portrays an iconic image of a starving couple with a meager spread. The nearly skeletal man looks to the side as he comforts his female companion, perhaps denying their dire circumstance and blind with the hope of a better tomorrow. The woman stares with tired but tearless eyes, engaging an empathy that can only be acquired by a human diligently struggling to maintain dignity in the face of destitution. Other etchings from the Saltimbanques Suite also portray these scenes of insolvent social outsiders.

The Frugal Meal
displayed at the MOMA, April 2010
Executed in only two states, The Frugal Meal etching possesses a remarkable confidence and skill that belies Picasso's lack of formal training in printmaking. Having just learnt the etching technique from Ricardo Canals, a fellow resident of Montmartre, it is astonishing that Pablo Picasso produced this icon in the history of printmaking at the age of only twenty-three. Le Repas Frugal is considered one of Pablo Picasso’s masterpieces as a printmaker and was only Picasso’s second work created in the medium. The medium of etching would fascinate Pablo Picasso for the remainder of his life.

First printed in small numbers by the printer Eugene Delatre in 1905, The Saltimbanques etching plates were later acquired by art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard. Vollard had the fragile copper plates steel-faced and, in 1913, the edition of 250 was printed by Louis Fort. Together with an additional eleven drypoints and two etchings made by Picasso between 1904 and 1906, these early prints are commonly known as the Saltimbanques Suite.

Le Repas Frugal was recently exhibited at the Pablo Picasso Prints and Paintings exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Frugal Meal is a part of the permanent collections of the following museums and institutions:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Musee Picasso, Paris
The Museo Picasso, Barcelona