During 1933–34, Pablo Picasso produced a series of paintings, drawings, and etchings devoted to the subject of the bullfight, inspired by a trip to Barcelona. This work was painted in Picasso’s studio in Château Boisgeloup, France, on July 27, 1934. It is related to other colorful and gestural works from this moment that show the vicious battle of a lanced bull savaging a frightened horse that rears on its hind legs. The horse and bull may signify polarities in life, such as good versus evil. Picasso often identified with the bull, an important subject in his paintings, and an animal synonymous with cruelty and creativity. He believed that, “A picture lives a life like a living creature....[A]s the picture lives only though the man who is looking at it.”
For Duncan Phillips, this painting vividly expressed the light, color, and excitement of a bullfight in the Spanish sun.