Picasso produced more than 150 color linoleum cuts in the 1950s and 60s, but none stood out more for their boldness of execution and sheer artistry than his colorful, semi-abstract portraits of his second wife, Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986). Picasso’s entry into the medium coincided with his introduction to Jacqueline in the early 1950s.
Abandoned by her father, Jacqueline was 18 years old when her mother died of a stroke. Following a short marriage to an engineer named André Hutin, Jacqueline settled in southern France and took a job at the Madoura pottery workshop in Vallauris. Picasso met Jacqueline, then 27 years old, in 1953 while he was beginning what would become a creative outburst of limited-edition pottery at the Madoura workshop. They were married in 1955, following the death of Picasso’s first wife, Olga Koklova.
In these color linoleum cut portraits of Jacqueline, Picasso exaggerates her dark eyes, arching eyebrows and high cheekbones. These characteristics would become steadfast in his later portraiture. Picasso’s series of paintings derived from Eugène Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers was said to be inspired by Roque’s beauty. Picasso declared that “Delacroix had already met Jacqueline,” referring to his painting her into the famous series. Similarly inspired was Picasso’s portrait of Jacqueline as Lola de Valence, an ode to her beauty playing on Édouard Manet’s iconic portrait of the famed Spanish dancer.
Jacqueline’s later years with Picasso were fraught with hardship and contention. After his death in 1973 she spent years in litigation with the artist’s mistress Françoise Gilot and his children over his estate. Sadly, she committed suicide 13 years after Picasso’s death, on the eve of the opening of an exhibition of her private collection of Picasso’s work in Spain.