The influence that the classics have had on the world is timeless. In MU’s Special Collections and Rare Books department, there are a variety of texts that have been translated and transmitted in order to carry so many of these classical stories through time. This has enabled artists and authors alike to be inspired by these texts and give their own interpretations to the stories.
A perfect example of this and one of my personal favorites from our signature collection is our copy of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Published in 1934 by the Limited Edition’s Club and translated by Gilbert Seldes, this particular edition is illustrated by none other than Pablo Picasso.
The Limited Editions Club, founded by George Macy in 1929, was a publishing company whose goal was to give classical literature a new spin with limited illustrated editions. Macy hired many illustrators and artists of the time to participate in his projects such as: Arthur Szyk, Edmund Dulac, Thomas Hart Benton, Henri Matisse, and of course Pablo Picasso.
With fifteen hundred copies printed, Lysistrata is one of the more popular books published during Macy’s time containing not only Picasso’s illustrations but also his signature. The illustrations include six original etchings along with thirty-four line block reproductions of his work, and is the only example of an American publication of any of Picasso’s original etchings.
Macy had the following to say about Picasso’s work for Lysistrata:
“To illustrate Lysistrata, Picasso has given us six etched copperplates and forty pencil drawings. Each plate, each drawing, bears witness to his mastery of method and technique. His line is sure, confident; it cries out to the world that the man who drew it knows what he was about. And the line is pure, it is that sort of line of which even the Greeks used to say that this is “pure Grecian line.”
An artist from Malaga, Spain, Picasso created beautiful pieces reflecting many different styles. Though he is often remembered as an abstract artist and one of the founders of cubism, the time between the years 1918 and 1927 was deemed his “classical period”. During this time, he created works such as “Three Women at the Spring” (1921) and “The Pipes of Pan” (1923). A truly remarkable artist both of his time and still today. His contribution to this particular edition makes it a rarity worth checking out!
- Kayla T.
Lysistrata / by Aristophanes ; a new version by Gilbert Seldes ; with a special introduction by Mr. Seldes ; and illustrations by Pablo Picasso. New York : The Limited Editions Club, 1934. MU Ellis Special Collections Rare Vault PA3877 .L8 1934