Modernism was an art form largely based on improvisation, experimentation and bravado. Pablo Picasso reigned as the undisputed god of modernity for most of the Twentieth Century. He excelled and is most noted as a painter but he also equaled and many times exceeded every practitioner of sculpture, ceramics and print of his era. His series of bull lithographs created in late 1945 are an astonishing example of the man’s genius. He titled the series of eleven drawings simply “Bull.” Each work extraordinary as individuals but as a group without peer. The set of eleven profiles are all of essentially the same size and point of view but each is an amazing variation on the theme of the standing bull. The lithographs follow something of an arc beginning as representational pieces that evolve into more stylized and even decorative depictions. The works begin to become less defined taking on a more cubist look and more minimal in appearance until the final line drawing is by contrast the least complicated and a fine example of what would once have been described as primitive. The series “Bull” is a striking virtuoso performance and a pure pleasure.
“A picture is not thought out and settled beforehand. While it is being done it changes as one’s thoughts change. And when it is finished, it still goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it. A picture lives a life like a living creature, undergoing the changes imposed on us by our life from day to day. This is natural enough, as the picture lives only through the man who is looking at it.”
When I look at Picasso’s “Bull” I sometimes think: why eleven and not an even dozen? I can imagine Picasso saying “…eleven is enough; I have said what needs to be said.” With that I leave you to enjoy the work and bring to it what you will.