Pablo Picasso - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, June 8, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "All of the paintings are of Jacqueline […] she has within her that wonderful power on which the painter feeds."  
    — Hélène Parmelin

    In 1954, Picasso met his muse and last companion Jacqueline Roque, signalling the start of a renewed and robust engagement with the art of the past that would characterise his much-celebrated final period. Immersing himself in an exhaustive sequence of variations of iconic masterpieces by Delacroix, Velázquez and Manet, Picasso also renewed his focus on certain themes and motifs that had preoccupied the great masters before him, most notably that of the relationship of artist and model. Including an avatar of the artist himself alongside his sleeping muse, Nu couché et musicien presents a remarkably contemporary interpretation of this historic theme. 

    Nudes, Musicians and Musketeers



    Pablo Picasso, The Artist and his Model, 1964

    Collection of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York



    From the roughly hewn figures that informed Picasso’s earliest experiments with Cubistic modelling through to the voluptuous sensuality of Marie Thérèse’s biomorphic reimagining and beyond, the reclining or sleeping nude proved to be of central importance to Picasso, his radical stylistic shifts announced primarily through his treatment of the female form. Reflecting increasingly on his own mortality and his artistic legacy in these later years, the complex and compelling relationship between artist and model, configured in the present work as the more lyrical musician and nude motif, allowed Picasso to more fully explore themes of ageing, sexuality and the art of creation itself; to ‘re-examine his relationship with the world, as embodied in the model’i


    Édouard Manet, Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863

    Collection of Musée d’Orsay, Paris



    Executed in the spring of 1967, after Picasso and Jacqueline had married and taken up residence at Notre Dame de Vie above the small town of Mougins, Nu couché et musicien represents a particularly lively engagement with these ideas, its musical theme emphasising the bucolic sensuality that permeates Picasso’s work from this period. Despite the idyllic overtones however, the work vibrates with an explosive erotic energy, captured in the taut contrast between the rigidly upright self-possession of the musician and the rapid, broken brushstrokes charging the space between the man and the open curves of his sleeping muse. 

    With cool harmonies of tinted whites, greys, brown-blacks and jade greens, the present work immediately recalls the verdant palette used across Picasso’s masterful Déjeuner sur l’herbe, d’après Manet series, created in response to Manet’s scandalous 1863 canvas. The musical theme also draws on Titan’s Le Concert Champêtre. A clear influence on Manet’s later canvas, in establishing this artistic lineage, Picasso confidently positions himself in direct relation to these European masters. 



    Pablo Picasso, Déjeuner sur l’herbe, d’après Manet, 1961

    Collection of Musée Picasso, Paris



    Odalisques and Old Masters 

    Purchasing the impressive Château de Vauvenargues in 1958, Picasso found himself reflecting more pointedly on history, and of his place within it. Nestled in the foothills of the imposing Montagne Sainte-Victoire, the rich medieval history of the château took on a more sharply defined aspect for Picasso, placing him in a direct dialogue with Cézanne and allowing him to think more philosophically about his relationship to the Old Masters, and of his own artistic legacy:


    "I have a feeling that Delacroix, Giotto, Tintoretto, El Greco, and the rest, as well as all the modern painters, the good and the bad, the abstract and the non-abstract, are all standing behind me watching me at work." 
    — Pablo Picasso


    In its compositional and thematic arrangement, Nu et musicien immediately evokes Ingres and his 1839 masterpiece L’Odalisque à l’esclave, the exaggerated twist of the languorous nude’s torso marvellously reimagined in his 1967 canvas.



    Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, L’Odalisque à l’esclave, 1839

    Collection of Fogg Art Museum, Harvard, Massachusetts 



    The sudden death of Henri Matisse in 1954 also impacted directly on Picasso’s thinking with regards to the reclining nude and Orientalist fantasy. Wary to employ the pictorial device while Matisse was alive, after his death Picasso took it over in tribute, claiming ‘[w]hen Matisse died, he left his odalisques to me as a legacy'ii.  The following month Picasso commenced his masterful Women of Algiers series, blending compositional and thematic elements from Delacroix’s 1834 Femmes d’Algiers dans leur appartement with a sense of Matisse’s decorative patterning and bold use of colour, to which certain compositional elements of the present work can be directly related. 




    Henri Matisse, Nu bleu, Souvenir de Biskra, 1907

    Collection of Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland 


    Nevertheless, despite the incredible richness and scope of these allusions, the subject of Nu couché et musicien remains Picasso himself, the historical allusion merely a ‘vehicle, a point of focus just as Jacqueline provided a point of focus rather than the subject in the many portraits of her done from 1954 until the artist’s last paintings in 1972’iii




    Pablo Picasso, Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”), 1955


    As Jean-Louis Andral has described, the extraordinary pose of the nude in the present work ‘appears, paradoxically, to allow both the sleeping woman and the guitarist to view the former’s anatomy from both sides’iv ensuring that she – like Jacqueline herself – was always turned towards the artist.  More than erotic conquest, or the final flare of virility, the musician and artist motif allowed Picasso to think directly about his artistic legacy, a point that is subtly made but significantly felt when we notice that the impossibly contorted form of sleeping nude has been directly informed by the guitar in the musician’s hands.



    Picasso and Jaqueline

    Photograph by David Douglas Duncan




     Jonathan Feineberg, ‘The Sensual Garden of Picasso’s Late Work’, in exh. cat. Picasso & Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style, Pace Gallery, New York, 31 October 2014 – 10 January 2015, p. 12. 

    ii Pablo Picasso, quoted in Marie-Laure Bernadac, ‘Picasso 1953 – 1972: Painting as a Model’, in exh. cat., Late Picasso: Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings, Prints 195 – 1972, Tate Gallery, London, 1988, pp. 55 – 56

    iii Jonathan Feinberg, ‘The Sensual Garden of Picasso’s Late Work’, in exh. cat. Picasso & Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style, Pace Gallery, New York, 31 October 2014 – 10 January 2015, p. 12

    ivJean-Louis Andral, ‘Varaition X: Air Varié’, Picasso in the Nahmad Collection, Paris, 2013, p. 308


    • Provenance

      Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
      Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in May 1968)
      Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in July 1968)
      Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in November 1975)
      Private Collection, France (acquired from the above in August 1985)
      Christie's, London, 9 December 1998, lot 703
      Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
      Christie's, New York, 14 May 2019, lot 389
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Madrid, Fundación Juan March; Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Picasso , 23 September 1977 - January 1978, no. 30 (illustrated)
      Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Picasso: A Centennial Selection, April - July 1981, no. 59, p. 119 (illustrated, p. 92, titled as Musicien et femme couchée)
      Vienna Town Hall, Pablo Picasso: Bilder, zeichnungen, plastiken, November 1981 - January 1982, no. 72 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1965 à 1967, vol. XXV, Paris, 1972, no. 314, pl. 137 (illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Pablo Picasso

      Spanish • 1881 - 1973

      One of the most dominant and influential artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso was a master of endless reinvention. While significantly contributing to the movements of Surrealism, Neoclassicism and Expressionism, he is best known for pioneering the groundbreaking movement of Cubism alongside fellow artist Georges Braque in the 1910s. In his practice, he drew on African and Iberian visual culture as well as the developments in the fast-changing world around him.

      Throughout his long and prolific career, the Spanish-born artist consistently pushed the boundaries of art to new extremes. Picasso's oeuvre is famously characterized by a radical diversity of styles, ranging from his early forays in Cubism to his Classical Period and his later more gestural expressionist work, and a diverse array of media including printmaking, drawing, ceramics and sculpture as well as theater sets and costumes designs. 

      View More Works

Property from an Important Collection


Nu couché et musicien

signed 'Picasso' lower left; further numbered and dated '24.3.67. I' on the reverse and dated '24.3.67' on the stretcher
oil and Ripolin on canvas
50 x 61 cm. (19 5/8 x 24 in.)
Painted on 24 March 1967.

Full Cataloguing

HK$9,000,000 - 14,000,000 

Sold for HK$11,745,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 8 June 2021