Leonard stars as Professor Henry Higgins in The Old Globe's 100th anniversary production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, directed by Nicholas Martin, Jan.
Picasso’s Suite Vollard has long been understood as the artist’s interpretation of the main theme behind the ancient myth of Pygmalion. In the story, a sculptor who has forsworn the female sex creates an ideal woman out of ivory and falls in love with it. He showers the figure with gifts and occasional caresses. Later, he prays to Venus to bring her to life and his wish is granted; they are married and bear a son. The central story—the love of the artist for his art—has captured the imaginations of artists and writers for centuries and many versions exist in painting and literature. Picasso’s interpretation is carried out by a sculptor whose features recall classical sculpture and a beautiful young model who resembles his mistress at the time, Marie-Thérèse Walter. However, Picasso goes beyond the basic myth and populates his scenes with sculptures of differing subjects and styles, as well as the presence of a living model that competes for his attentions. In so doing, he goes beyond the simplicity of the original story to create a grand allegory of the connection between art, life, and love.
The pose of the sculpture in this etching bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the standing nude in Rembrandt’s famous etching The Artist and His Model, ca. 1639, which has also been interpreted as the Dutch artist’s version of the Pygmalion myth. Art historian Lisa Florman has successfully argued that Rembrandt’s plate was likely a source of inspiration for the Suite Vollard.i