Picasso’s Animals: From an Illustrated Book Based on Buffon’s Natural History

National Museum Of Western Art, Tokyo

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Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), world-renowned for masterpieces such as Guernica, created a massive number of art works in diverse media, from paintings to sculpture and ceramics. His print oeuvre numbers more than 2,000 images, including his fascinating series of illustrations based Buffon’s Natural History.

Thanks to its concise and witty prose, Natural History (1749–67), an encyclopedic work by 18th century French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon (1707–1788), remained extremely popular as late as the early 20th century. The Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard capitalized on its fame by proposing that Picasso illustrate a small selection of the descriptions of various animals found in it. Accepting this commission, Picasso produced around 30 prints depicting animals, birds, and insects.

While Buffon’s Natural History illustrated each entry with intricate and accurately rendered images of its subject, Picasso chose not to base his prints on those images, but instead produce his own creative series of illustrations. At times short on details, these works express the vitality and dynamic sensibility of each subject. Picasso was fond of animals and is said to have kept a variety of pets throughout his life. That interest in and affection for living things may have contributed to the fascinating expressions found in this print series.

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From 2013-07-09 To 2013-08-25

Artist(s)

Pablo Picasso

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