Pablo Picasso - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, April 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'When I was a child, my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk, you'll end up as the Pope.' Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.' —Pablo Picasso

    Executed in 1970, Le Peintre is a double-sided work which displays an artist sitting in his studio, working on a canvas rested on an easel. On the recto, Picasso narrates the scene in a black wash. Perhaps alluding to himself through self-portraiture, this refers to the historical tradition of artists painting oneself in the act of creativity as validation to their craft. On the verso, the artist holds a palette with bright colours reflecting the rest of the tones in the painting. The composition of both sides is well defined through the clear use of outline showing the figure in the foreground. The partial use of colours appears somewhat translucent, and not intended for full coverage. This is reminiscent of the pentimenti, seemingly unfinished works by Picasso, yet deemed final in its visual representation. Often colours sparingly used in such works delicately elude to forms of what could be, yet is missing. In this way, the artist deliberately creates illusion of space through the selective play on colours.


    The present work was conceived during the last years of Picasso’s life. It was amid this tumultuous time when he incorporated a mixture of styles into his body of work which was hardly accepted by the public. This is possibly a message embodied by the duo faceted picture contrasting the sentiments of Picasso as the recto is devoid of the joie de vivre shown in the verso. Le Peintre exemplifies the constant influx of styles used by Picasso during these years that reflected neither his celebrated practice of Cubism nor Surrealism. It was only after his death that works from this period was later seen as the start of Neo-Expressionism. This specific cartoon-like image embodies a sense of urgency where time was of essence to the artist. The quick finishing touches allow the viewer to imagine the moment Picasso had lifted his own paint brush, mirroring the scenes. Having covered such depth of subjects in his body of work throughout his career, it is only natural that Picasso would turn inward to visually express the simple truth that is his identity as a painter.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
      Private Collection, Florida (acquired from the above in 1982)
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2013)
      Dominique Levy, New York (acquired from the above in 2015)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 32 oeuvres de 1970, Paris, 1977, vol. 32, no. 158 (recto) and no. 159 (verso), n.p. (illustrated, pl. 58)

    • 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


Le Peintre

recto: dated '21.6.70 IV' upper right; verso: signed and dated '21.6.70 V Picasso' lower left
recto: graphite and ink on cardboard; verso: oil pastel and ink on cardboard, double-sided work
21.6 x 27.8 cm (8 1/2 x 10 7/8 in.)
Executed on 21 June 1970.

Full Cataloguing

£180,000 - 250,000 ‡♠

Sold for £201,600

Contact Specialist


Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065



20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 16 April 2021