British Museum celebrates $1.5m Picasso etchings gift

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British Museum celebrates 'unexpected and incredibly generous' gift

Complete set of Pablo Picasso's Vollard Suite etchings donated by friend of museum

$1.5m bequest in memory of donor's father, Major Horace Parker, who died last year

All 100 etchings are to go on display at the museum next summer

London CNN —  

A complete set of 100 etchings by Pablo Picasso – never before seen in public – is to go on display at the British Museum after an “extraordinary” $1.5 million gift.

Businessman Hamish Parker – a long-term fan of the London museum – donated the entire Vollard Suite in memory of his father, Major Horace Parker, who died last year.

The Vollard Suite – one of the 20th century’s most highly prized collections of etchings – was created by Picasso between 1930 and 1937.

It features pictures of the artist’s young lover, Marie-Therese Walter, depictions of the Minotaur, the half-man-half-beast from classical myth who would become a regular feature in Picasso’s works, and also a number of portraits of art collector Ambroise Vollard, for whom the collection is named.

A spokeswoman for the museum said Parker – a friend of the prints and drawings room – had learned of the museum’s hopes of acquiring the suite of etchings at an event there last year.

“We already owned a few individual plates from the collection, five or so out of the 100, and one of those was on display,” she told CNN.

“Stephen Coppel, the prints and drawings curator, had placed a note beside it explaining that it was a long-term ambition of the British Museum to own the complete set.

“But it was pie-in-the-sky stuff really – we hoped to be able to add to the collection piece by piece over time. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine it would happen so quickly.”

After his father died, Parker surprised museum bosses by telling them he planned to offer them the money to buy the full set, in memory of the Major.

“It was very unexpected, and incredibly generous,” the spokeswoman said. “We are delighted.”

The Vollard Suite will go on display at the British Museum in London from May 3 to September 2, 2012, the first time a complete set of the etchings has been shown in the UK for half a century.

The collection will be shown alongside examples of the classical sculpture, Rembrandt etchings and Goya prints which inspired Picasso in creating it..

The suite was commissioned by Parisian collector Ambroise Vollard, who planned to print and sell editions of it; however he died in a car accident in 1939 before the task was completed.

After his death most of the prints were sold to fellow art dealer Henri Petiet. The British Museum’s set, which has never been shown in public before and is in pristine condition, was bought from the Petiet family.