Pablo Picasso - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
    Private Collection, acquired from the above, October 12, 1968
    Private Collection, by descent from the above
    Christie's, London, Impressionist and Modern Day Sale, February 7, 2006, lot 343
    Richard Green Gallery, London
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Geneva, Musée d'Art Moderne, Picasso, Passion et création, Les 30 dernières années, July - October 1998

  • Literature

    C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1967 et 1968, vol. 27, Paris: Éditions Cahiers D'Art, 1973, no. 219, p. 85 (illustrated)
    Passion et création, Les 30 dernières années, exh. cat., Musée d'Art Moderne, Geneva, 1998, no. 32
    Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: The Sixties III 1968-1969, San Francisco, 2003, no. 68-054, p. 17 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Frustrated by the desperate working conditions he faced in Paris during the War years, Picasso retreated to the south of France with his muse Françoise Gilot. Unlike the gray skies that invaded his Parisian studio earlier in his career, the sunlight of the Cote d’azure literally changed the artist’s palette. Picasso changed residences and studios from time to time in order to escape from his muses as well as flee from the encroachment of increasing population in the towns he dwelled. It was not until 1961 that he settled into his final home, Notre Dame de Vie, in Mougins where working conditions there were far more to his liking. His new home provided much needed seclusion, where he could focus on painting. Indeed, it was during the period of the 1960s, an intensely productive time, when Picasso produced many of his most revelatory paintings. At Notre Dame de Vie, he would spend the remainder of his days with his wife, Jacqueline Roque. Together they renewed old friendships with dealers, scholars and artists including, one in particular, the renowned photographer David Douglas Duncan. It was Douglas Duncan who would be responsible for documenting the twilight years of Picasso, both in the studio, recording the master’s artistic production, as well as capturing the tender moments outside the atelier with his wife and entourage.

    Although Picasso had admired and reinterpreted the works of Velázquez, Rembrandt, Goya, and Manet, amongst others, it was not until the 1960s when he actively set out to acquaint himself with the famed Musketeer and other court subjects associated with the Old Masters. His earliest foray into the theme of the Musketeer was in 1962, when Picasso began painting the present work. In 1967 he executed a number of pencil drawings of the same theme (Zervos, vol. XXV, nos. 246, 257, 258). The present lot, Buste de Mousquetaire, with its protagonist adorned in a plum coiffure and intense and unerring gaze, encapsulates the artist’s unparalleled commitment to challenging not only his own stylization, but also the viewer’s very intimate and very real relationship with a portrait.

    In Le Mousquetaire, 1967, Picasso inscribed the reverse side of the work Domenico Theotocopulus van Rijn da Silva. By providing direct references of the Old Masters to his own work, Picasso anointed himself as the heir to the throne in the long line of great painters who preceded him, among them El Greco, Rembrandt and Diego Velázquez. Indeed, in the canon of works produced by the aforementioned painters, Francisco de Goya and Edouard Manet also provided source material for Picasso to explore. Given Picasso joy for hosting parties in which he and his guests wore elaborate costumes, it comes as no surprise that the artist produced his likeness in not only his depictions of Musketeers, but more blatantly in his self-referential Peintres series where the sitter was adorned in the trappings of Old Master painters he so much admired. These introspective works open a window into the artist’s psyche that provides a glimpse into Picasso’s own regard for his place in art history.

    Not surprisingly, the last decade of Picasso’s life was a time during which he produced a prolific body of work in a wide variety of media: painting, drawing, sculpture and ceramics. The subject matter he depicted had a more fantastical content, some of which can be perceived as more prosaic. Influences oscillated over a wide range: owls, clowns and Greek warriors, as well as imagery inspired by Rembrandt and Velázquez. His interest in these European masters is not surprising, given the fact that throughout his oeuvre, he returns to the European traditions which had greatly influenced him, and-in turn- allowed him to develop his personal style in countless directions.

    Picasso depicted imaginary individuals, such as musketeers and matadors, personages of great sexual prowess he admired and longed to emulate in his waning years. Indeed, in early 1966, while convalescing at his home in Mougins from surgery, Picasso reread Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. (Late Picasso, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 82). This literary diversion must surely have been the catalyst for his delving into that subject matter. Over time, Picasso would create or recreate fantastical subjects while conversing with friends or conjured them from dreams or imagined from his extensive reading of literary genres such as novels from the Spanish Golden Age (Siglo de Oro) or authors like Shakespeare and Dumas. These impulses constituted the genesis of his creativity, in addition to the many other influences from characters and personalities in the annals of art history. Nonetheless, the highly imaginative content of Mousquetaire, 1968 still reflects the unparalleled technique and innovations he introduced to the canon of Western art.

    The 1960s also marks a curious time when Picasso painted obsessively, locking himself up in the second floor of his house and painting, time and time again, variations of different subjects. It is in this context of obsessive production, coupled with compulsive experimentation with myriad variations of colors and subject matter that we appreciate the musketeer series which were exhibited to great acclaim at the eponymous exhibition held at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, 1970-72. We must continually remind ourselves of the incredible stylistic contributions Picasso made to further contextualize this period and its content matter. Picasso is an artist of inimitable skills. He was a creator whose unique styles had already become an automatic, reflexive part of his lexicon and, up to a point, an extension of his persona. Up to that point in time, he had already invented Cubism, an innovation that arguably changed traditional representation to a degree unrivaled since the Renaissance, a time of drastic reconstruction of “light and shadow, mass and void, flatness and depth.” In Buste de Mousquetaire, 1968, we see remnants of the Cubist style in the fragmentation of the subject’s face, rendered in deep thick strokes of lush green. Picasso must be understood in this context, as a grand master, a consummate artist who commands the painted medium.

    Another aspect to bear in mind is that Picasso, in general, was quite removed from the 20th century. In retrospect, one could say that only the Spanish Civil War had an immediate impact or was of personal concern to him. Yet, as Jean Sutherland Boggs aptly states, “…apart from war most of the problems of our society – mechanization, poverty, illness – have not been reflected in his painting since the Rose period.” In fact, his works were concerned with what was closest to him: his lovers and wives and objects that were familiar to him. In this sense, what are fundamental to his work during the last period of his oeuvre were the transcendent practice of art, and the distilling of form. Ultimately, Picasso portrays myriad characters, which he compulsively represents time and time again through the pictorial language he had invented, and applied to the different periods of his oeuvre: Blue and Rose Periods, Cubist, Surrealist and Neoclassical Periods.

    Upon viewing the musketeers Picasso was depicting during the 1960s until his death in 1972, one can see them as parodies and as well as ferocious self-portraits that reflect Picasso’s preoccupation with death. They can also be interpreted as emulating Rembrandt’s idea that our faces are an imprint of our lives, revealing our signs of aging and excesses in life. As we gaze upon Picasso’s protagonist in the present lot, we see a determined eye, a proud stance, and unwavering sense of pride. Although the subject matter of these musketeers can be somewhat prosaic, it continues to reiterate and exhibit his ongoing reinvention of his craft and skills as related to the history of his own production. Analyzing the present work, Buste de Mousquetaire, 1968 one can immediately see the influence of Cubism, that with time became increasingly abstract in appearance, and see a more subtle undertone which evokes a self referential pictorial language. This is clearly exemplified in Buste de Mousquetaire, where Picasso’s masterful use of simple lines and curves, basic pictorial elements, almost have a childlike directness to depict the nose and mouth. In turn, this creates a multi-viewpoint perspective and frames the face of the musketeer without having to literally outline it for the viewer. At the same time, these seemingly simple curves and lines, rendered in cerulean blue, mauve, emerald green, and crisp ivory, are boldly applied and with intense confidence.

    Picasso’s influence on artists in the 20th and 21st century has been enduring. Jean-Michel Basquiat, like Picasso, also wrestled with his demons during his all too brief artistic career. Both men were consumed with the outcome of their destinies. They also questioned their own validity as artists, resulting in each producing a monumental outpouring of work. When we view Self-Portrait as Heel (fig. 6) by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Picasso’s Buste de Mousquetaire, both exuberant works are triumphs in the final ensemble of both artists’ celebrated lives. These expressive works from their respective oeuvres provide a visual testament to the masters’ virtuosity with brush and paint.

  • 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. 

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Buste de Mousquetaire

oil on panel
32 x 23 7/8 in. (81.4 x 60.8 cm)
Signed "Picasso" left corner; dated "6.2. 68." left center.

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $2,629,000

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Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm