Pablo Picasso - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "La Galloise, the little bicoque [“shack”] where Picasso and Françoise set up house in Vallauris, was almost impossible to find."
    —John Richardsoni
    Le transformateur was painted in the summer of 1953 from Pablo Picasso’s Villa La Galloise, the home where he and artist-girlfriend, Françoise Gilot, moved to in the late 1940s. The painting belongs to a group of thirteen works which Picasso painted while living in the Cote D’Azur region, landscapes which mark key moments in the artist’s life and career. Previously housed in the collection of Herman C. Goldsmith, a collector who owned several works by Picasso as well as others by Henri Matisse and Giorgio Morandi, the present work, which depicts the countryside surrounding the Vallauris commune in southeastern France, displays the typical playfulness of form and surety of line that is central to Picasso’s practice. Yet, despite the tranquility reflected in the lush greenery of the villa atop a hill, Le transformateur was painted at a particularly tumultuous time in the artist’s life, thus functioning as an important documentation in the life of one of the world’s great artists.


    Picasso outside La Galloise, 1948. Image: Robert Capa © International Center of Photography 1948

    "His procedure was anti-hierarchical, subordinating no one form to any other, but instead adding element to element to produce the pictorial continuum which was at the heart of Picasso’s concerns at the time."
    —Werner Spiesii 
    The present work is one of two depictions of the same vista, which the artist painted on the same day, June 10, 1953. In both, Picasso’s loose style suggests the works were completed quickly, an immediate response to his surrounding French countryside. But the speed with which the paintings may have been made takes nothing away from their power. Instead of a realistic rendering, the viewer is offered an impression of the moment, and specifically, of the artist’s emotions in that moment. In this work, Picasso has drawn into the canvas with the back of his brush, scraping paint away and leaving a dappled, textured surface. These active marks exist outside and on top of the architectural framework of the villa’s red roof, as well as the cables that hang across the two poles. Such boundaries exist in direct opposition, both visually and symbolically, to the natural foliage around the structure, contrasting the natural landscape with the man-made structure. The certainty of these lines is a hallmark of Picasso’s oeuvre in general, which Rosalind Krauss attributes to what “the invention of collage and cubism had made permissible,” namely “the flatness of physical space.”iii Here, we have a highly stylized version of landscape painting only made possible through Picasso’s own Cubist innovations.


    Pablo Picasso, Jardin a Vallauris, 1953, Solomon R. Guggeheim Museum. Artwork: © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York  

    By November of 1953, Gilot and their two children left Picasso and La Galloise, ending a 10-year relationship. The mood of his paintings changed after she left, as happy family portraits shifted to something more sinister; one canvas displayed the shadow of Picasso looming over a naked Gilot, lying in bed. The Vallauris landscapes, in contrast, provide insight into Picasso’s relationship to the peaceful villa—a place where he likely found a safe haven from times of emotional upheaval.


    i John Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Painter of Modern Life, New York, 1996, vol. 2, p. 93.
    ii Picasso’s World of Children, exh. cat., Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 1995, p. 48.
    iii David Breslin, "The Map and the Territory: Notes on Picasso’s Cartographic Line" in Picasso The Line, exh. cat., Menil Collection, Houston, 2016-2017, p. 28.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
      Herman C. Goldsmith, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1983)
      Sotheby’s, New York, November 3, 2010, lot 311
      Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
      Christie’s, London, February 7, 2013, lot 508
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Literature

      Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1946 à 1953, vol. XV, Paris, 1965, no. 273, p. 150 (illustrated)
      Klaus Gallwitz, Picasso: The Heroic Years, New York, 1985, no. 65, p. 66 (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 of an Esteemed Private Collector


Le transformateur

signed “Picasso” lower right; dated “10 juin 53” upper left
oil on canvas
8 3/4 x 10 1/2 in. (22.2 x 26.7 cm)
Painted on June 10, 1953.

Full Cataloguing

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $504,000

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 November 2022