Minotauromachy – Picasso’s Master Print

By A. Lee

Artistic genius Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) achieved supremacy in every medium he worked in: painting, ceramics, sculptures, drawing and print making. As one of the most prolific artists at all times, he made a large volume of works in every medium.

Printmaking has been central in Picasso’s artistic life. He is one of the finest and most prolific print makers of all time. Today, I want to talk about ‘Minotauromachy’ which is often cited as the most important print of the twentieth century.

It is interesting to observe that often artists make their most astounding works at times that their personal lives are at a low. Picasso was no exception. 1935. Not quite yet divorced from his first wife Olga, and his new girl friend Marie-Therese already pregnant. It was without a doubt a difficult personal year for Picasso.

Minotauromachy - Etching by Picasso.jpg

And so that year became a special artistic time for Picasso. He stopped painting early that year, and devoted himself to print making and writing poetry. It was also the year that Picasso produced what would become his most-famous print, the Minotauromachy — meaning ‘Minotaur’s battle’.

This large, intricate etching of a provocative scene is just brimming with Picasso’s personal symbolism. It is a multi-layered, universal allegory of good and evil, violence and innocence, suffering and salvation.

A multitude of actions are taking place in a small space. The artwork depicts a bull-headed Minotaur (Picasso’s alter ego throughout the ’30s). The animal is silhouetted against sea and sky. He stretches out one arm towards a young girl who stands calm in the face of his approach. She holds a lit candle in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other. While the Minotaur appears threatening at first glance, he actually seems to shield himself from her candlelight.

In between them, is a terrified horse (a symbol for Marie-Thérèse) who rears on his hind legs. The horse has a gash in its belly, which seems to be caused by the Minotaur. Across the horse’s back lies an unconscious female matador. Her (pregnant?) body is half-naked and her face looks exactly like Marie-Thérèse. She holds a sword between the Minotaur and the horse. Also in the artwork is a man on a ladder against a wall, who observes the scene. His head is turned around facing out, giving him a crucified Christ-like appearance (a symbol for Picasso) Two young girls with doves (symbol of peace), looking through a window, also observe the scene.

The most important symbol is of course the minotaur itself. The minotaur stands for a oneness of man and bull. It appears increasingly in Picasso’s etchings of the 1930s. This being represents the duality in all men and in the artist himself; the opposing forces he wanted to put together as person and as artist.

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Guernica, c.1937
Pablo Picasso

Two years later, Picasso adopts much of the print’s imagery for his world famous mural painting ‘Guernica’ – his outraged response to the Spanish civil war. The answer to ‘Why did Picasso paint Guernica?’ is kept for another article…

About Artist Astrid Lee

Astrid Lee makes spiritual art, for purposes of healing and personal growth and of course, visual contemplation! Review her work at http://www.astridlee.com. She is a frequent writer for http://www.eArtfair.com/blog , an online fine art magazine.

More Picasso Art Prints for Purchase

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Joie de Vivre
Pablo Picasso
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Still Life with Candle, Pallette and …
Pablo Picasso
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Woman with Book
Pablo Picasso
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Mediterranean Landscape
Pablo Picasso


  1. […] presents Minotauromachy – Picasso’s Master Print, saying, “This article can help you better understand and appreciate one of Picasso’s […]

  2. […] picture of the discussed artwork, ‘Minotauromachy’, can be found in this fine art magazine’s article. A real print of the artwork can be found at the Museum of Modern Art in New York […]

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