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Confronted by old age and impotence, Picasso was defiantly productive. These works are drawn from the series of 156 prints which he made between 1970 and 1972, around the age of 90. The series has been compared to a private theatre, in which the actors are Picasso himself, his close friends, and his favourite artists of the past. In the works shown here, Picasso appears as both a gnarled satyr, and as a shadowy silhouette looking on at two prostitutes. The face of his wife Jacqueline is portrayed in an artist’s sketchbook, as he watches a group of top-hatted clients enter a brothel. The Impressionist artist Edgar Degas appears as a frock-coated voyeur. The fixation with sexuality and voyeurism is bound up with an awareness of mortality. For Picasso, art had become the only means to defy the approach of death.

August 2004