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Artists and their special books

Picasso, Braque and L├ęger exhibited at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale

October 19, 2012|By Terri Martin
  • Fernand L&etilde;ger's "Feasts of Hunger," a 1949 lithograph on display at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale.
Fernand L&etilde;ger's "Feasts of Hunger,"… (Courtesy of 2012…)

If you think all paper books can be replaced by a Nook, iPad or Kindle, take a good look at “Picasso, Braque, & Léger: Twentieth Century Modern Masters,” an exhibition of works on paper at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale. Three early founders of Cubism, the most catalytic movement in modern art, engaged with poets, writers and printers to produce “livre d'artises” (artist books), not only as bound volumes, but as folios, scrolls, fold-outs, loose items in a box and concertinas. The variations were as creative as the content.

Seventy-three original prints by three masters of lithography and etching — Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Fernand Léger — are exhibited in the Glendale show.

“The printed medium was an extension of the artist's talent beyond painting, drawing and sculpture, and expanded the scope of ownership,” says Forest Lawn curator Joan Adan. “The nature of prints, particularly etching and lithography and the potential for multiplicity, impelled artists to plan themes [series] for illustration and to master new skills. The print medium extended the reach of museums and private collections throughout the world who could own original works by modern masters, which would not have been possible with the more limited production of paintings.”

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The show is really about the print medium, as these artists provided visual metaphors for literature: Picasso's “Les Métamorphoses d'Ovide” ( 1930-31) interprets the mythological poetry of Ovid; Braque illustrates the poetry of René Char with “Lettera Amorosa” (1963); and Léger illustrates the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud in “Les Illuminations” (1939). And though the show is not specifically about Cubism, it is an axis for its founders.

The conceptual intersection in the show is 1911's “Braque's Pale Ale,” one of Cubism's largest and most important etchings during the High Cubism period (1910-12), also called Analytic Cubism.

The subject title seems to foreshadow Pop Art, with a bottle of Bass Ale and a glass on a table top, and the lettering on the label is legible. Adding the glass was an innovation by Braque, noting that looking through it created an optical distortion.

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