Pablo Picasso’s Suite Vollard

By: Albert Scaglione

I began collecting Picasso works in the 1960s, and in the 1970s I was lucky enough to spend time with Parisian art dealer Henri Petiet, who purchased Picasso’s Suite Vollard and paid the artist to sign his significant pieces over time. As I learned more about the artist’s unique relationship with Petiet, I began to develop a passion for Picasso’s art. The time I spent with Petiet also launched my fascination for Picasso’s most notable graphic achievement, The Suite Vollard.

The Suite Vollard originated in 1933 when Picasso asked French art dealer Ambroise Vollard if he could purchase two paintings from his private collection. Instead of selling the works to Picasso, however, Vollard suggested a trade: 100 copperplates that included three portraits of Vollard in exchange for a Renoir and a Cezanne. Picasso chose significant works that he felt Vollard would enjoy to create the copperplate collection. Suite Vollard is unique in that it demonstrates Picasso’s exploration of classical mythology and features creatures such as the Minotaur, with whom Picasso deeply identified as an artist.

Other themes featured in Suite Vollard include the battle of love, the artist and etching master, Rembrandt, the sculptor’s studio, and the aforementioned portraits of Vollard. There are only 313 examples of each work of Suite Vollard in existence, and Musee Picasso owns the canceled copperplates. Hand-signed Suite Vollard prints remain rare and highly sought-after. Vollard and Picasso’s agreement did not include signatures on the prints. They were signed later as in the example of Petiet.