Fundacio Juan March: Pablo Picasso and Honoré de Balzac‘ s „The unknown masterpiece“

Pablo Picasso and Honoré de Balzac' s "The unknown masterpiece"

From 1937 to 1955, Pablo Picasso lived and worked in a 17th century townhouse located at 7 Rue des Grands-Augustin, in Paris‘ 6th Arrondissemont.  The house had a storied history, particularly for artists: Honore de Balzac chose this „house on the rue des Grands-Augustin“, as the opening scene in The Unknown Masterpiece, a short story from 1837.

The thirteen etchings Picasso (himself identifying with Frenhofer) originally produced to accompany Balzac’s work were commissioned and published by Picasso’s dealer Ambroise Vollard as a folder series in 1927.

„Set in the 17th century in the Parisian studio of an ageing artist, Frenhofer, Balzac’s story revolves around the painter’s obsession with a work which he has secretly spent years struggling to finish. When two painters, admirers of the artist’s work, finally manage to get a glimpse of the painting, they are dismayed to discover just an indecipherable jumble of brush strokes and layers of paint in which they can barely distinguish a foot: the creation of a madman, of someone obsessed with achieving perfection who refuses to accept the imperfection inherent to even the most sublime works of art.“



Fundacio Juan March: Picasso Grabados


This gallery is dedicated to the rotating exhibitions of Picasso´s grafic work belonging to the permanent collection deposited in the Fundacio Juan March.

Picasso always gave great importance to the art of printmaking. He employed this medium through all of his life, but in the 30s he executed several series of etchings that were immediately recognized as among the most significant creations in the history of printmaking.

The above prints demonstrate Picasso’s interest in the old masters, particularly in the figure of Rembrandt. Picasso converts the celebrated 17th century painter and engraver into a character, reinterpreting the singular style of the Dutch master and setting him against the classicism that he himself practiced.