BROTHEL SCENES: THE ARTIST AS VOYEUR

Pablo Picasso, "Prostitute with a Bracelet and Degas with His Hands behind His Back," 30 March 1971. Etching (Artist proof I/XV). Museu Picasso, Barcelona (MPB 112.233). © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, New York

The monotypes depicting life in Parisian brothels that Degas created in the late 1870s had a unique appeal for Picasso, whose own earliest images of prostitution were produced shortly before his first visit to Paris in 1900. It may have been Ambroise Vollard—the gallery dealer who hosted Picasso's first Parisian exhibition in 1901—who introduced the young Spaniard to this little-known aspect of the Frenchman's work. Between 1958 and 1960 Picasso realized a longstanding ambition when he acquired nine of Degas's brothel monotypes for his collection, and it was in Picasso's late work that his admiration found its most explicit expression. Echoes of Degas's imagery and technique abound in numerous prints Picasso produced in 1968, and in March 1971 he began a series of thirty-nine etchings in which Degas appears as a client visiting a brothel. Degas continued to appear sporadically as an alter ego in Picasso's drawings until a few months before the Spaniard's death, at age ninety-one, in April 1973.

Edgar Degas, "Resting on the Bed," c. 1876–77. Monotype. Private collection, Switzerland.

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