British Museum buys Picasso linocuts

Still Life under the Lamp, linocut by Pablo Picasso Still Life Under the Lamp was made in 1962 - Courtesy of Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2013.

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The British Museum has acquired two "important and unique" sets of linocuts made by Pablo Picasso in 1962, aged 80.

They feature the finished prints Still Life under the Lamp and Jacqueline Reading, along with proofs showing their step-by-step evolution.

They were bought with the support of the Art Fund and private donations.

Picasso explored the linocut technique during the late 1950s and early 1960s and these are regarded as two of his most important pieces.

The progressive proofs, which go on display from 10 January, show how Picasso created his linocut images, building them up into their final form.

One of Europe's most influential and celebrated artists of the 20th century, he made more than 2,500 prints throughout his long career - using etching, lithography and linocut.

The British Museum said there are 13 new linocuts in total and they "reveal another facet of Picasso's astonishing creativity, and deepen the museum's coverage of his work as a printmaker".

The artist, who died in 1973, began producing linocut posters for ceramic exhibitions and bullfighting events during the mid 1950s when he was living in the South of France.

He quickly found new ways of producing them which dispensed with the orthodox method of cutting a separate block of linoleum for each colour.

'Extraordinarily rare'

The first of the British Museum's new sets is one of Picasso's best known linocut prints, Still Life under the Lamp, which depicts apples next to a glass goblet, lit up by a lampshade at night.

The set contains nine stages of "extraordinarily rare" proofs, which originally came from the printer Hidalgo Arnera who worked with Picasso on the linocuts.

A set of four black and white proofs accompanies Jacqueline Reading. The print features the artist's second wife Jacqueline Roque, whom he lived with in the last years of his life and who became his final muse.

"The visual impact, rarity and exceptional quality of the Picasso linocut sets makes them a fantastic acquisition for the British Museum, and one which we are delighted to be supporting," said Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, which contributed to the purchase.

The works will be on display at the British Museum until 6 May 2014, where director Neil MacGregor said they would join the Prints and Drawings collection.

It already includes a complete set of 100 Picasso etchings known as the Vollard Suite (1930-1937).

"These two exceptional sets of linocuts are a significant addition to the British Museum's holdings of Picasso's graphic work," said Mr MacGregor.

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