“The Bull” is a series of eleven lithographs created by Pablo Picasso in 1945. The series depicts a bull in various forms and positions, showcasing Picasso’s mastery of line, form, and movement. This series is considered one of Picasso’s most important works of the 1940s and is considered a masterpiece of modern art. The series was created using a technique known as “pointillé,” where individual dots of color are used to build up a picture. This gives the images a unique and recognizable look, making them instantly recognizable as Picasso work. “The Bull” series remains a popular and widely recognized work of modern art, and continues to be displayed in museums and galleries around the world.
It is a fresh and spontaneous image that lays the foundations for the developments to come. Picasso used the bull as a metaphor throughout his artwork but he refused to be pinned down as to its meaning. Depending on its context, it has been interpreted in various ways: as a representation of the Spanish people; as a comment on fascism and brutality; as a symbol of virility; or as a reflection of Picasso’s self image.
Picasso stops building the beast and starts to dissect the creature with lines of force that follow the contours of its muscles and skeleton. He cuts into the form of the bull much in the same way as a butcher would cut up a carcass. In fact, he was known to have joked with the printers about this butcher analogy. Also at this stage, Picasso introduces the use of a lithographic crayon to add more detail to the surface texture of the animal’s skin. The overall effect is reminiscent of Dürer’s famous image of a rhinoceros.
Ten years earlier Picasso had said that, “A picture used to be a sum of additions. In my case a picture is a sum of destructions.” In view of this statement, lithography seems to be the most natural choice of media for this series of prints. One of the technical advantages of lithography over other printmaking techniques is that you can both add to and subtract from the image with relative ease.
Picasso starts to erase sections of the bull in order to redistribute the balance and reorganize the dynamics between the front and the rear of the creature.
Picasso introduces more curves to soften the network of lines that crisscross the creature. Once again he adjusts the line of the back which now begins as wave on the shoulders and flows like a pulse of energy along the length of its body. The two counterbalancing lines discussed in the previous plate are extended down the front and back legs to act like structural supports for the weight of the bull. All three of these lines intersect at a point that suggests the bull’s centre of balance. Through the development of these drawings, Picasso is beginning to understand the displacement of weight and balance between the front and rear of the animal.
He then encases the essential elements that remain in a taut outline.
Only the creature's reproductive organ retains its shading in order to emphasize its gender.