Pablo Picasso - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Pablo Picasso, 'Femme assise dans un fauteuil', Lot 7

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (stock no. 011889)
    Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in 1966)
    Acquired by the family of the present owner circa 1972

  • Exhibited

    Milan, Palazzo Reale, Pablo Picasso, September - November 1953, no. 126, p. 66 (illustrated, p. 248)
    Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Picasso, Works from 1932-1965, February - April 1967, no. 28, n.p. (illustrated)
    Musée d'Unterlinden Colmar, Picasso, oeuvres récentes, July - September 1967, no. 29, n.p.
    Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso, September 21 - November 10, 1968, no. 67, p. 68 (illustrated, p. 56)
    Museo d'Arte Moderna Città di Lugano, Passioni d'Arte da Picasso a Warhol, September 22 - December 8, 2002, p. 216 (illustrated, p. 217)

  • Literature

    Wilhelm Boeck and Jaime Sabartés, Picasso, London, 1955, no. 272, p. 484 (illustrated)
    Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 15, Paris, 1965, no. 103, p. 164 (illustrated, p. 58)
    Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and Roland Penrose, Worte und Gedanken von Pablo Picasso, Basel, 1967-1968, no. 73, p. 207 (illustrated, p. 109)
    Jean Leymarie, Picasso: Métamorphoses et unité, Geneva, 1971, p. 294 (illustrated, p. 79)
    Elizabeth Servan-Schreiber and José Bergamín, Picasso Laureatus, Son oeuvre depuis 1945, Paris, 1971, no. 77, pp. 69, 221 (illustrated)
    Pierre Daix, Picasso: Life and Art, New York, 1993, p. 430, note 7
    Carsten-Peter Warncke, Pablo Picasso 1881-1973, Cologne, 1997, p. 474 (illustrated, p. 475)
    Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot and Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, fig. 926, pp. 376, 522 (illustrated, p. 375)
    The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, A Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue 1885-1973, Liberation and Post-War Years, 1944-1949, San Francisco, 2000, no. 48-032, p. 235 (illustrated, p. 204)
    Picasso and Françoise Gilot, Parils-Vallauris, 1943-1953, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2012, fig. 32, p. 180 (illustrated, p. 181)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I paint the same way some people write their autobiography” – Pablo Picasso

    We are grateful to Charles Stuckey, Art Historian and former curator of French Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and 20th Century Painting and Sculpture, Art Institute of Chicago, for his expertise and assistance with the research of this work.

    Pablo Picasso’s portraits of his lovers are among the masterpieces of his oeuvre. His obsessive paintings of Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar from the 1930s and 1940s are often considered among his greatest output; and yet, his portraits of Françoise Gilot such as the present work are perhaps the most tense and explosive of his meditations on any of his partners. Painting many images of his lover over their near decade-long relationship, Picasso’s depictions of Gilot are special masterworks in their own right, uniquely infused with the passion and jealousy, which fueled their relationship. This notion is encapsulated in Femme assise dans un fauteuil, 1948: the portrait aptly captures the complexities Picasso faced as a man in his sixties living with a woman in her early twenties. Gilot was all the more challenging a partner in her refusal to fit readily his caricatured depictions of her as muse, lover, object—she was an artist in her own right and in her prime. Last shown publicly almost two decades ago, Femme assise dans un fauteuil has remained in the same family collection since circa 1972, one year prior to the artist’s death in 1973.

    Dated October 24, 1948, Femme assise dans un fauteuil was conceived during a particularly fractious time in Picasso and Gilot’s relationship—with her pregnant with their second child, Picasso had been away from their home in Vallauris for an extended period. In Femme assise dans un fauteuil, Picasso revisits his earliest iconographic representations of Gilot but reinterprets them in a new light that perhaps betrays the difficulties in their relationship at that time.

    From his first paintings in 1944, Gilot plays two roles: the voluptuous standing nude, often with a pinhead, and the fashionable seated figure, a composition that recurred in his renderings of Dora Maar. Here, Picasso depicts Gilot seated in a chair with round finials on the back, using swathes of blue, red, black and green. The column of her neck and the triangle of her shoulders and trunk lend her body a vivid monumentality within the confines of the canvas. A reprise of caricatural sexist distortion that Picasso mastered in the late 1920s, the pinhead appeared to Picasso in a recurring dream, according to Gilot’s memoir, Life with Picasso, in which arms, legs and necks stretched and bulged. Here her pinhead is thrown into relief by a mass of hair rendered with eight striations.

    While Picasso had long admired Diego Velázquez, his invocation was more personal when it came to depictions of Gilot. In her memoirs, she recalled visiting Picasso alone in his studio, and appearing with “[my] dark-red hair done up in a coiffure I had taken from a painting of the Infanta by Velázquez. Picasso let me in. His mouth dropped open. ‘Is that the kind of costume you put on to learn engraving?’ he finally asked. ‘Certainly not,’ I told him. But since I was sure he hadn’t the slightest intention of teaching me engraving, I had put on the costume that seemed most appropriate to the real circumstances. In other words, I was simply trying to look beautiful” (Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso, London, 2004, p. 40). Viewing this painting of Gilot in light of that memory emphasizes Picasso’s ability to create a painting that explores the overlap between the canon of the history of art and their own shared personal mythology and iconography.

    And yet, by 1948, there appears to be an awareness on Picasso’s part that Gilot does not have any interest in role-playing. What was at first a shared joke between two artists in the thralls of early love is now the reluctant realization on Picasso’s part that his young wife demands her own sovereignty. In an almost sheepish acknowledgment of her potential critique, Picasso paints over the stylized breasts that were once present in Femme assise dans un fauteuil, which now peek out only as pentimenti.

    At first excited to win her, Picasso imagined Gilot as a comically busty nude in his copy of Nicolas Poussin's Bacchanale painted to celebrate the Liberation of Paris. After introducing her to Henri Matisse as part of his courtship in early 1946, Picasso took inspiration from his rival’s idea to paint her with green hair, resulting in La Femme Fleur (Z XIV 167, Collection Françoise Gilot). Shortly after she moved in with Picasso in 1946, he made another Old Master-inspired image with Gilot as Europa on the back of his own hallmark bull god. Although she insisted that the work be destroyed, Picasso managed to save a second version in which one of her hands fondles one of his horns while the other wields a castrating knife (PP 46 059b, Macklowe Collection, New York).

    This presentation strongly recalls his images of Marie-Thérèse Walter dressed as a toreador in his Minotauromachy. These dueling iconographies—evidence of the inevitable challenges Picasso must have felt due to their age difference—would continue to vie for supremacy in his paintings of Gilot throughout the period, though in no other painting as stridently as in Femme assise dans un fauteuil.

    In the late 1940s Picasso was spending more time in the South of France where he came into contact with the Madoura studio in 1947. In 1948 he and Gilot relocated to Vallauris, a Mediterranean town with a renowned ancient potting industry, one of the earliest surviving forms of painting. His newfound passion for pottery inevitably focused his attention on historical examples of this art form, many of which had anthropomorphic features. Indeed his stereotyped presentation of Gilot especially lent itself to exploitation in terracotta, with her exaggerated features often appearing in his standing figures from this period. It is no surprise that this inspiration would flow back into his paintings, with the present work retaining some visual affinity with the archaic ceramics that proliferated the region.

    That Picasso’s artistic license was constantly pitted against Gilot’s desire to maintain agency by not appearing as a caricature in his art is what ultimately bore such highly charged representations of their near decade-long relationship. Indeed Femme assise dans un fauteuil is as much a portrait chargé of Gilot as of their relationship at that moment in time. Given the fervor in which she inspired his creativity during this time, it is of no surprise that Picasso devoted nearly an entire exhibition to images of Gilot at the Communist Maison de la pensée française in 1949. This painting was withheld from that show, perhaps for its deeply personal characterization of their relationship at that time.

    Furthering this painting’s autobiographical reading, Picasso seemingly placed himself in the center of the composition, literally in Gilot’s clutches. The black negative space in her claw-like left hand is a premonition of the large shadow of himself featured in two paintings made as meditations on Gilot’s departure from his life in 1953 (Z XVI 99, Musée Picasso, Paris and Z XVI 100, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem). Picasso had incorporated the shadow of his profile in a group of paintings from the late 1920s that explore his own distorted images of women.

    Indeed, the keyhole-like shape of the shadow of Picasso’s head and shoulders would re-appear enlarged in the series of seated portraits of Gilot painted in March 1949, now disguised as her alternatively blue or red dresses. The shadowy presence in Françoise’s hand in Picasso’s October 24, 1948 portrait shows the artist as sexual captive, personifying the idiomatic expression Il lui mange dans la main (he is eating out of her hand). Satirical to say the least, the enormous hand in Picasso’s October 24, 1948 portrait of Gilot is seemingly based on the prominent hand in Leonardo da Vinci’s celebrated Lady with an Ermine, which Picasso had made a point to see during his visit to Poland that year. Picasso went so far as to dedicate a detailed study of this symbolic hand, which, curiously enough, is dated November 8, 1948 (PP 48 038a), two weeks after the date inscribed on the painting where it is featured.

    Looking at this hand, it appears to carry myriad potential meanings. It is Gilot’s left hand, and the bulk of it recalls some of Picasso’s earlier depictions of an artist’s palette, with the thumbhole prominent. In this sense, it may relate to her own career as an artist: although she had briefly abandoned painting during the early years of parenthood, she continued to draw. The fact that her hand is rendered as a large claw also hints at weaponization, or violence. In Life with Picasso, Gilot recalled how she slapped Picasso when he finally returned from a three-day trip to Poland that had lasted nearly a full month at the beginning of her second pregnancy.

    While Picasso’s lifetime biographies have long served as the foremost authorities on his life and art, they also present his biased retelling of the profound influence Gilot played as muse and partner during this period. This was undoubtedly a result in no small part to her decision to take the children and leave him in 1953. Despite the cast of women in his life, Gilot was the only one to leave him. Her memoir, published in 1964 and reprinted this year as a classic, infuriated Picasso because it told her side of their story. His paintings, like Femme assise dans un fauteuil, give his side of the story, both as her troubled lover and as an artist.

  • 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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Property from an Important European Private Collection


Femme assise dans un fauteuil

signed "Picasso" upper right; dated "24.10.48" on the reverse
oil on canvas
39 3/4 x 31 7/8 in. (101 x 81 cm.)
Painted on October 24, 1948.

$5,000,000 - 7,000,000 

Sold for $4,820,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019