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Picasso & Delaunay: The Book as Inspiration
Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Russian (1885-1979) and Blaise Cendrars, Swiss (1887-1961). Frontispiece, La Prose du Transsiberien et de la petite Jehanne de France, France, 1913. Gouache and colored pencil with graphite underdrawing Purchase: Leigh Schadt and Edwin Schadt Art Museum Trust Fund, 2000.

ALLENTOWN, PA.-The Allentown Art Museum presents Picasso & Delaunay: The Book as Inspiration. This exhibition features a rare portfolio of thirteen prints by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), the result of a collaboration with legendary Parisian fine art publisher Ambroise Vollard to produce an illustrated edition of Honore de Balzac's 1931 novel, Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu. In it, Balzac tells the story of an old artist who worked in anonymity for ten years on a painting that was to be the epitome of feminine beauty, but the painting on which he labored proved to be incomprehensible to anyone but the artist. Picasso did not literally illustrate the Balzac tale but provided eleven exquisitely simple line compositions that play off a favorite subject—the artist and his model—and one bullfight scene. Picasso's twelve etchings and sixty-seven wood engravings, coupled with Vollard's impeccable taste as a producer of limited editions de luxe (only 340 numbered copies of the book were made) resulted in one of the most beautiful books of the twentieth century. The 12 etchings from the book along with two frontispiece pages are included in the exhibition.

Accompanying these elegant works will be an unusual and compelling work, a “simultaneous book” created by modernist designer Sonia Delauney-Terk (1885-1979) and poet Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961). Inspired by the forms of cubism and by the colors of French painter Paul Gauguin and Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, Delaunay (as she is better known) developed a style based on the juxtaposition of bright prismatic colors. She exhibited paintings, fabrics, and bookbindings in this style, and she also created costumes for theatrical productions. Delaunay became a fashion designer in the 1920s, when her brilliant hand-painted fabrics helped to revolutionize textile design. For these prints, Delauney employed a stenciling technique called “pouchoir,” which gives extraordinarily vivid colors to the work.

Jacqueline M. Atkins, the Kate Fowler Merle-Smith Curator of Textiles, is the curator for this exhibition, which will feature prints drawn from the Museum’s extensive collection of works on paper.

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