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Picasso’s Femme accroupie (Jacqueline), 1954

Rarely seen in public since 1954, the artist's vivid celebration of his lover, Jacqueline Roque, remained in the artist’s collection for many years. It comes to auction for the first time in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 13 November in New York

In early autumn, 1954, Pablo Picasso was living in the south of France with Jacqueline Roque, his lover, whom he had met in 1952. They would soon return to Paris, where they would live together in Picasso’s studio before marrying in 1961.

Femme accroupie (Jacqueline), painted on 8 October 1954, is one of three large-easel-format canvases that Picasso executed in a rapid burst of activity on that day. The October paintings proudly celebrate his new mistress, cementing her newly established pride of place in the artist’s life and work.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme accroupie (Jacqueline), 1954. Oil on canvas. 57½ x 44⅞ in. Estimate $20,000,000-30,000,000. This work will be offered in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 13 November in New York

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme accroupie (Jacqueline), 1954. Oil on canvas. 57½ x 44⅞ in. Estimate: $20,000,000-30,000,000. This work will be offered in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 13 November in New York

In this work, as in each of the three October paintings, Jacqueline crouches on the floor, clasping her knees. Light streams in from an open window. The space is probably a corner of Picasso’s studio on the rue du Fournas in Vallauris, in a building that had previously housed a perfume factory.

The brilliant primary colours and distinct colour forms reflect Picasso’s admiration for Henri Matisse’s signature cut-outs. At once a longtime rival and an admired friend, Matisse was the only living artist whom Picasso recognised as his peer. Matisse would die less than a month after Picasso completed Femme accroupie.

‘We are thrilled to be bringing to market for the first time this powerful portrait of Picasso’s great love’ — Jessica Fertig, Impressionist and Modern Art specialist

One month after his friend’s death, Picasso would begin work on his painted variations on Eugène Delacroix’s Les femmes d’Alger. Ostensibly a tribute to Matisse’s Delacroix-inspired odalisques, that series was also a declaration of affection for Jacqueline.

An homage to Delacroix had been on Picasso’s mind for more than a decade; meeting Jacqueline, Picasso became intrigued by her resemblance to an odalisque figure from one of Delacroix’s harem scenes. Matisse’s death, and the arrival of Jacqueline in his life, inspired Picasso to undertake his own series of odalisques.

‘It is Jacqueline’s image that dominates Picasso's work from 1954 until his death, longer than any of the women who preceded her,’ observed Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson. ‘It is her body that we are able to explore more exhaustively and more intimately than any other body in the history of art.’

This museum-quality painting hung in Picasso’s private collection for many years and has rarely been seen in public since 1954. ‘We are thrilled to be bringing to market for the first time this powerful portrait of Picasso’s great love Jacqueline,’ says Jessica Fertig, Impressionist and Modern Art specialist at Christie’s. On 13 November Femme accroupie (Jacqueline) will be a central highlight of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale  in New York.