Pablo Picasso - Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I New York Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | Phillips
  • Executed in 1939, just a few weeks after the Nazi invasion of Poland, Femme accroupie exemplifies many of the pictorial and thematic concerns that defined Pablo Picasso’s oeuvre at the outbreak of World War II. The work is a robust rendering of his mistress and muse, the French Surrealist photographer Dora Maar, instantly recognizable by her long dark hair. Her radically distorted body and face—the figure’s chin and right breast are outlined by the same stroke—characterizes Picasso’s expressive approach to the human figure throughout the 1930s. Executed on September 20, the composition appears to have evolved from a gouache he painted the same day, which is now housed in the Musée Picasso, Paris. Though the initial image depicted a nude bathing next to the artist himself, represented in his iconic Breton striped shirt, the current work presents her alone against an ambiguous grisaille expanse, her arms clutching her knees to her chest.


    Pablo Picasso, Nu et homme assis au tricot rayé, 1939. Musée Picasso, Paris. Artwork: © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

    Picasso’s relationship with Maar was one of the most tumultuous and mythologized of his life, with their passionate romance spanning from 1936 to 1943. First meeting the Surrealist photographer in the autumn of 1935, Picasso was immediately captivated by Maar’s confident presence and intellectual prowess, which stood in direct contrast to the sweet and gentle nature of Marie-Thérèse Walter, his previous lover and muse. Maar, who famously documented Picasso’s process behind the creation of his masterpiece Guernica in 1937, was credited with galvanizing Picasso to produce more politically engaged work. He found her mysterious and self-assured demeanor endlessly inspiring: she became his muse for seven years, her likeness appearing in hundreds of his images from this period. “The name Dora Maar, for most true enthusiasts of Picasso's work,” Brigitte Léal wrote, “conjures up one of the greatest moments of his creative efforts.”i Their intense affair was marked by a rich intellectual exchange Picasso had not yet experienced with any partner, and his portraits inspired by her—including the present work—betray Maar’s daring and conspicuous influence.


    Dora Maar, Autoportrait, circa 1935. Musée national d'Art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Image: © CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    As war broke out during the height of their romance in early September, 1939, Picasso and Maar rushed south to the small resort town of Royan in the Bay of Biscay, where he had installed Walter and their shared young daughter Maya in relative safety a couple months prior. He set up a provisional make-shift studio in a ground-floor room in the villa Gerbier-des-Joncs; lacking virtually any art supplies, he hurriedly scoured local shops for paper and some tubes of gouache. These media, utilized for Femme accroupie, became Picasso’s primary vehicle for expression during his so-called “Royan period.” Characterized by its dark palette concentrated with browns, greys, and blacks, this body of work reflected the torment and anxiety of global conflict without explicitly portraying it. “I have not painted the war because I am not the kind of painter who goes out like a photographer for something to depict,” Picasso would later explain. “But I have no doubt that the war is in these paintings I have done.”ii 


    Picasso's wartime portraits of Dora Maar—including Weeping Woman, 1937, Tate, London, and Dora Maar in an Armchair, 1939, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York—are among the most celebrated of his corpus and have come to personify the tumult of Europe during the war years. Full of pathos and agony, these pictures achieved a sense of tragic beauty that was unmatched by the rest of his vast repertoire.



     Brigitte Léal, Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 385.

    ii  Pablo Picasso, quoted in Picasso and the War Years, exh. cat., California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1998, p. 13.

    • Description

      Please see main sale page for guarantee notice

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Japan
      Galerie Hopkins-Custot, Paris
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007

    • Exhibited

      The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Pablo Picasso: Ik zoek niet, ik vind, February 5–May 29, 2011, p. 51 (illustrated; titled Nu accroupie)

    • Literature

      Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso. Œuvres de 1939 à 1940, Paris, 1959, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 2, 177 (illustrated, p. 2)
      Avant gardes 1870 to the present: The Collection of the Triton Foundation, exh. cat., Kunsthal Rotterdam, Brussels, 2012, pp. 343, 558 (illustrated, p. 343; titled Woman Washing Herself)

    • 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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Femme accroupie

signed and dated "20 septembre 39 Picasso" lower left
gouache on paper
10 3/8 x 8 1/8 in. (26.4 x 20.6 cm)
Executed on September 20, 1939.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $330,200

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1206

Living the Avant-Garde: The Triton Collection Foundation, Evening Sale Part I

New York Auction 14 November 2023