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Picasso The Giant of Provence.

Picasso loved Provence until his death. Provence still loves him by commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his death on 8 April 1973.

On this occasion, several communes in Provence where he lived since his discovery of the region in April 1912, are organising events; among them, the commune of Vallauris Golfe-Juan where he painted, drew, sculpted, crossed new techniques such as ceramics (which proves that he was one of the rare artists to have consented to the multiple edition of his works as he declared to André Malraux: "I made plates; you can eat in them") and gemmail.

This gemmail technique is the least known and the most original in the work of the Master: it is the contraction of two words "gem" -precious stone- and "enamel" -the binder used to assemble them- which gave it this name.

Picasso discovered the completely new technique of gemmail in 1954 through his friend Jean Cocteau (nicknamed the Fou de la Couleur) who took him to the workshop of Emmanuel Malherbe Navarre (nicknamed the Fou de la Lumière).

In the 1930s, the painter Jean Crotti had the idea of superimposing glass elements in order to obtain colour mixtures, but he did not have the technical process for fixing them. He was a friend of Emmanuel Malherbe-Navarre, a physicist, who had just produced the first cold electrodes at "very high intensity". They are applicable to all luminous and fluorescent enclosures. These are the ones that will be used to light his gems.

Private collection.

Picasso realised the immense possibilities of this new medium which would allow him to illuminate the masterpieces of his life. He therefore decided to create his first gemmail "Woman in a wicker chair" in 1954. He was captivated by the light, the material and the transparency obtained and subsequently created his self-portrait "Yo", followed by "Femmes d'Alger", for which he produced variations at the same time.

It was at this point that Picasso, who with Malraux had sought through cubism to introduce volume and a new perception of form into painting, realised the importance, novelty and modernity of this new means of expression; he enthusiastically declared "a new art was born: the gemmaux" and decided to create some sixty works, thus revisiting the paintings that were most dear to him.

Braque, also on the lookout for new techniques and materials, was naturally won over by gemmail and produced several works. It was the same for Rouault.

The composition of a gemmail required (it does not seem to have changed much today' ) that the artist draw a sketch on the ground, then climb a ladder and indicate, in this case to Malherbe, how to place the glass fragments on the motif because the originality of the gemmail is based on the superimposition of glass fragments. Their variable thickness determines the passage of light and colour. Gemmail is in fact a full-colour work, crossed by the light, and above all in relief, unlike stained glass which is an assembly of coloured glass on the same plane.

A first exhibition representing a retrospective of Picasso's works was organised in March 1957 at the Grande Galerie du Faubourg Saint Honoré. The event was a great success and more than half of the works were acquired by major collectors such as: Raymond Loewy, Stanley Marcus, Nelson Rockefeller, Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Rothschild family, the Weisweiller family, the Emperor of Japan etc...

Today a few rare Picasso gemmails can still be found at auctions or with private collectors, for prices ranging from 4 to 6 million US Dollars.

Please note: "Picasso Celebration. Direction Paul Smith" from 7 March to 27 August 1923 - Musée National Picasso Paris

Rights reserved : " La Provence ".

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