The figure of the Minotaur; half man, half bull, appears on multiple occasions throughout Pablo Picasso’s (Málaga, Spain, 1881 - Mougins France, 1973) career. According to the original myth, this strange animal is born from the encounter between a bull and Pasiphae, wife of Minos. On hearing about his wife’s adventure Minos orders Daedalus to construct a labyrinth where the Minotaur is taken prisoner and is eventually killed by Theseus.
Picasso creates other legends surrounding the Minotaur that have become known through his partner, the painter Françoise Gilot. For him, the Minotaurs are rich people that come from the coast of Crete. Their houses, full of art and beautiful women, often host festive gatherings that end in orgies, which make women happy and with whom they maintain sentimental relationships. On Sundays, the Minotaurs are killed at the hands of Greek gladiators.
This exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía brings together virtually all the works referring to this mythological figure of great significance in the artist's creative universe. A total of seventy works, divided into five sections from the first appearance of the Minotaur in 1928 -the beginning to a period of fullness in Picasso’s global production which lasts until 1937- until the final representations in 1958, where the Minotaur reappears liberated from the previous theoretic responsibility, after the Guernica experience.
As Picasso said, the Minotaur is the line that connects the various routes he walked over the years, the artist’s alter ego, like the harlequin during the Rose Period. Added to Picasso's iconography is the mythological aspect of the Spanish bullfighting tradition, deeply rooted in the artist's work when the Minotaur makes its appearance.
The exhibition, presented in chronological order, begins with the first drawings and collages, where the Minotaur is represented as a bull's head, between two legs that seem to be running. The cover of the magazine named by André Masson and Georges Bataille as Minotaure and commissioned to Picasso in 1933, like the series of etchings in which the Minotaur takes a dagger in his hands, are the start of the definite imagery of the monster. Then there are the prints from the emblematic Suite Vollard, where the theme is developed in depth, and the Minotaur is part of the sculptor’s life at his studio, represented by Picasso. In a series produced between late 1933 and mid-1934, the work considered the direct precedent to Guernica appears, where there is a violent encounter between the Minotaur and the horse. Following this is a series of ten scenes, where Picasso condemns the Minotaur to suffer blindness as punishment, and Minotauromaquia (1935) is another clear precedent to Guernica. The final set of representations of the Minotaur from 1936 and 1937 together with the works from 1958 close the exhibition, where the importance of this iconography throughout the artist's production is apparent.