The Vollard Suite (1930–37) is the most significant prints series made by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). Containing one hundred etchings, a selection of which are on view, it was commissioned by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard in Paris. Inspired by his work in sculpture, Picasso made the relationship between artist and model in the sculptor’s studio the suite’s central theme.
This relationship is one of the most symbolically charged in the history of art. Many male artists have regarded the studio as a masculine space of creativity and have viewed the female model’s body as a source of inspiration and a symbol of their ability to transform life into art. Picasso draws from these art historical precedents and the world of classical mythology to explore the nature of creativity.
In the suite, Picasso’s studio is a sanctuary for aesthetic contemplation, self-discovery, and artistic mastery. In this imagined space, Picasso scrutinizes the philosophical and psychological underpinnings of his relationship to the model and, by extension, to art. Melding various styles, media, and art historical references, Picasso destabilizes fixed notions of artist and model. Both are shown in various physical and mental states as figures caught in a free-flowing process of creation. He mythologizes the artist’s creative power to direct his ever-changing relationship with the model, life, and art. Despite the suite’s expanded sense of creativity, Picasso is still grounded in an art historical tradition in which creativity is a gendered activity that the male artist enacts on the female body.