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  • Quatre femmes nues et tête sculptée (Four Nude Women and a Carved Head) (1934), is one of 100 etchings from Picasso’s La Suite Vollard series. Spanning a period of production between 1930 to 1937, the series was commissioned by Ambroise Vollard (1866 – 1939) in exchange for two paintings by Pierre Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne. Famed art dealer and publisher renowned amongst the European bourgeoisie for his wit, vanity, and love of the arts, Vollard enjoyed a close relationship with Picasso, having curated the then 19-year-old artist’s first solo show in 1901. Considered to be one of the most prolific and significant examples of Picasso’s works on paper, La Suite Vollard offers a unique look into the changing nature of Picasso’s preoccupations, including the rise of fascism in Europe and the anxieties of an impending civil war in Spain (1936-39).

    'In the years Picasso worked on the series, fascism spread through Europe, and civil war erupted in Spain. These anxieties also found their way into the Vollard Suite, so that by the time you reach the end of the show and the last images of the blind minotaur, you feel that you are in a different emotional universe from the sunlit arcadia you encountered at the show’s beginning.'
    —Richard Dorment for the Daily Telegraph

    Pablo Picasso, Minotaure aveugle guidé par Marie-Thérèse au pigeon dans une nuit étoilée (Blind Minotaur Guided Through a Starry Night by Marie-Thérèse with a Dove), pl. 97, from La Suite Vollard, 1934   © Succession Picasso/DACS, London, 2021
    Pablo Picasso, Minotaure aveugle guidé par Marie-Thérèse au pigeon dans une nuit étoilée (Blind Minotaur Guided Through a Starry Night by Marie-Thérèse with a Dove), pl. 97, from La Suite Vollard, 1934 
     © Succession Picasso/DACS, London, 2021

     In this etching, we see four young women at rest. Two figures recline in a manner reminiscent of classical antiquity, while the other two sit upright in close proximity. A fifth, barely visible figure who emerges in the foreground is likely to be a pentimento, a term used to denote the remaining outlines of a form which has been modified or brushed over. The sculpted head of a bearded man resembling a character from Greek mythology further situates this work within the aesthetic parameters of Neoclassicism. Nevertheless, several stylistic irregularities instil the piece with an avant-garde quality which transcends art historical assumptions. As the two sitting figures embody the canons of classical beauty, the reclining women are affixed with contemporary features. Like Picasso’s ground-breaking  painting Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907), which combined classical features with African masks, the two lounging figures in Quattre femmes nues et tête sculptée bear hyperbolic depiction. Similarly, their bodies reject naturalistic proportions, while the background’s flatness and lack of detail contrasts with the depth of the forms in the foreground.

     

    Picasso’s close colleague, the celebrated master printer Roger Lacourière (1892-1966) printed the entire edition of 50 sets on large format paper and 260 sets on smaller sheets. The edition took two years to print, but only weeks after completion Vollard tragically perished in a car accident, leaving the future of the series uncertain. The works were acquired by Vollard’s competitor Henri Marie Petiet (1894-1980) and has since been fragmented, with complete sets rarely seen by the public.

    • Provenance

      The Redfern Gallery, London
      Private Collection, U.K., acquired from the above in 1972
      By descent to the present owner

    • Literature

      Georges Bloch 219
      Brigitte Baer 424

    • 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 from a Private UK Collection

101

Quatre femmes nues et tête sculptée (Four Nude Women and a Carved Head), plate 82 from La Suite Vollard (Bl. 219, Ba. 424)

1934
Etching, on Montval paper watermarked Vollard, with full margins.
I. 22.3 x 31.5 cm (8 3/4 x 12 3/8 in.)
S. 34.1 x 44.8 cm (13 3/8 x 17 5/8 in.)

Signed in pencil, from the edition of 260 (there was also an edition of 50 with wide margins), published by Ambroise Vollard, Paris, 1939, framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for £17,640

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 14 - 15 June 2021