Picasso and the Gemmail

Picasso discovered the Gemmail in 1954 through his friend Jean Cocteau at the Malherbe art studio where he had the opportunity to discover the technique of this original and new form of art. Picasso contemplated the great possibilities that this new artistic expression could offer him to illuminate all his master pieces. He decided to create his first Gemmail art work « Femme dans un fauteuil d’osier » in 1954. He was fascinated by the light , the material and the transparency achieved and then created his self portrait « yo » , followed by the « Femme d’Alger » which he produced several variations at the same time. It was at this time that Picasso realizes the importance , the novelty and the modernity of this new form of artistic expression; he stated enthusiastically :
« A new art is born: The Gemmaux » . He then decided to create sixty major works, reproducing his most prized paintings.

Picasso shared his discovery and his creations with George Braque.The two artists had tried to introduce volume and a new perception of shapes through cubism. Braque who was always looking for new artistic techniques and materials was won over by the Gemmail and created several works himself. He stated : « If I were thirty years old , I would be known as the Gemmist Braque ».
The first exhibition representing a retrospective of Picasso’s works was held 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 important collectors such as: Raymond Loewy, Stanley Marcus, Nelson Rockefeller, The Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Rothschild family, the Weisweiller family, the emperor of Japan etc…

In the years 1950-1960 the Gemmaux works of Picasso traveled the United States being exhibited in the most important museums : Metropolitan Museum of Art – Art Institute of Chicago – Denver Museum of Art – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh etc … today some of these works can be found in private collections in the United States, in Japan and in Europe as well as in other museums. The remainder of these works are still in the possesion of the same family; the owners unwilling to part with these art works, knowing the importance given by Pablo Picasso to this work which has been exhibited in important museums.
In 1964 Raymond Nacenta organised an exhibition of a retrospective of Picasso’s Gemmaux works at the the « Galerie Charpentier « , the most famous gallery for contemporary art of that time and which is today known as Sotherby’s.

Pierre Daix


Femme dans un fauteuil d’osier
First Gemmail from Pablo Picasso