Old man thinking of his youth, 347 seriesThis original sugar-lift aquatint, Untitled (Old Man thinking of his youth) (Vieil Homme Songeant À Sa Vie: Jeunesse Galante, Age Mar de Peintre Célèbre, De Uvre Creie Dans Un Taudis et Trônant Maintenant Sousin Dais), 1968 is plate 123 from the 347 Series. This etching was signed by Picasso and is number 1 of 17 artist proofs.  An edition of 50 also exists. 

The Marina Picasso Collection oval stamp is on the back side of this etching.  Marina is Picasso's grand-daughter, born in 1951 to Olga and Picasso's son Paulo (Paul).   She now makes her home in New York, Geneva, and her grandfather's house in Cannes.  In her collection remain about 400 Picasso paintings and over 7,000 sketches, drawings, and sculptures.  This etching is an artist proof from her collection.

Between March 16 and October 5, 1968, Picasso created 347 etchings and aquatints (some days completing 2 or 3 etching plates), an astonishing outpouring of energy when Picasso was 86 years old.  The series began
shortly after the death of his companion and friend, Catalan poet Jaime Sabartés (1881-1968).  Picasso dedicated a set of proofs in his memory.

In this large group of images Picasso references earlier subjects such as French writer Honoré Balzac (1799-1850) , Rembrandt (1606-1669), El Greco (1541-1614) and also his family -- parents, wives and mistresses -- who often appear as performers, sometimes set in circus scenes. 

This image is a portrayal of the now old artist reflecting on the passage of time since his youth from the bordellos of Paris in the early 1900s to his fame as an artist more than 60 years later.

With irony and ribald humor Picasso reviewed his life in this series, his failing powers and his place in history.  In fact, Picasso is often observed in many of the 347 Series images as voyeur in these images of fantasy and imagination.

The 347 Series was printed in collaboration with brothers Piero (1934-2001) and Aldo Crommelynck who, in 1963, set up a studio in Mougins when Picasso was 82 years old.  Picasso's prolific production relied on the absolute trust he had between himself and the master engravers.   The series was exhibited and published by the Galerie Louise Leiris (Paris) in late 1968 and 1969.  The etchings were not given titles by Picasso as the artist usually had no use for them.

This etching is an excellent example of Picasso's sugar-lift aquatint technique of printing.  The advantage of sugar-lift aquatint as a printmaking method is its ability to achieve tonal qualities and a painting-like quality where etching alone more normally is very linear.

Picasso began by painting his metal etching plate with a solution of sugar and black ink.  The entire plate is then coated with an acid-resistant varnish.  The plate is then immersed in warm water which causes the sugar to melt, lifting the varnish ("sugar-lift") and exposing the metal plate in the areas that were originally "painted".

The artist would then powder or paint acid-resistant particles over certain areas of the metal plate.  The aquatint particles are then fused to the plate with heat.  When the plate is immersed in a bath of acid the particles prevent the surface from being eaten away resulting in a tiny polka dot-like texture that creates the illusion of tonal range.

Picasso was famous for the sugar-lift and aquatint technique in several of his 347 Series etchings, this being one of the best examples.