• Property from the Collection o auction at Christies

    Sale 2410

    Property from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody

    4 May 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 15

    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

    Vieillard debout les bras croisés

    Price Realised  

    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
    Vieillard debout les bras croisés
    signed 'Picasso' (lower left)
    pen and ink and colored wax crayons on card
    5 1/8 x 3½ in. (13 x 8.9 cm.)
    Drawn in 1902-1903


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    Vieillard debout, les bras croisés is closely related to La Tragédie, a major Blue Period canvas that Picasso painted in Barcelona in 1903, depicting a man, woman, and young boy huddled at the edge of the ocean (Zervos, vol. 1, no. 208; fig. 1). La Tragédie is the definitive statement of a theme that Picasso had begun to explore in Barcelona the previous year, that of les misérables on the seashore (Z., vol. 1, nos. 197 and 381; vol. 6, no. 478; Daix, nos. VII.19 and IX.4). In 1902, he painted destitute mothers and their children, wandering sadly and silently on the beach; the following year, he added a male figure to the grouping. John Richardson has written about this series, "The bluer Picasso's paintings become, the more they are permeated by the sea. Picasso had grown up in a succession of seaports, and when he lived in Barcelona he liked to prowl the beach of Barceloneta, behind the harbor, where the homeless subjects of his work were to be found. Picasso had a way of using the sea to amplify the mood of a subject: in these early years to enhance the melancholy; later, to very different ends. For Picasso of the Blue Period, beaches had the advantage of no specific associations; they were outside time and place--a blue limbo" (A Life of Picasso, New York, 1996, vol. I, p. 238).

    The figure in the present drawing has the same scraggly hair and beard, furrowed brow, and hooded eyes as the father in La Tragédie. He stands in an analogous pose: chin lowered, shoulders hunched, and arms tightly crossed, with the body turned slightly toward the viewer's left and the weight on the proper right leg. Even his costume--a long-sleeved tunic that falls to mid-thigh, with pants beneath--is comparable. Instead of standing on the beach, however, the man in Vieillard debout is positioned in a dimly lit location beside an arched opening, probably the entrance to a tunnel or culvert, or the underside of a bridge, through which a sketchily rendered tree can be seen.

    The ultimate source for these images of wretchedness and alienation is Puvis de Chavannes's iconic painting of 1881, Le pauvre pêcheur (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), which depicts a gaunt fisherman in a boat, his head bowed and his arms crossed in a posture of melancholy and constraint. Picasso would have had ample opportunity to study this painting in the Louvre, where it had hung since 1887, and may also have known it from a lithograph published by Vollard in 1897. A bearded old man with an anguished expression also appears in the foreground of Puvis's Famille du pêcheur (The Art Institute of Chicago), which Picasso would have seen at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, during his first trip to the French capital. Picasso had been introduced to the work of Puvis in the late 1890s by the Catalan painter Santiago Rusiñol, who described Puvis as "the most universal genius of the art of our time" (quoted in R. Wattenmaker, Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition, exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1975, p. 168). The influence of Puvis's work is palpable in Picasso's work from the Blue Period; in 1902, Max Jacob described seeing the artist's bed "covered with drawings recalling those of Puvis de Chavannes" (quoted in S. Lemoine, Toward Modern Art: From Puvis de Chavannes to Matisse and Picasso, exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2002, p. 148). Richardson has declared, "Puvis's amalgam of neo-classicism and romanticism, which had had such an influence on Gauguin's work a few years earlier, would henceforth be a major ingredient of the Blue Period style" (op. cit., p. 257).

    (fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, La Tragédie, 1903. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

    Special Notice

    On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.


    Provenance

    Sebastià and Carles Junyer-Vidal, Barcelona.
    Acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, 23 August 1957.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please see the Special Payment Instructions for Brody Evening Sale Lots 1-28 which are printed in the Saleroom Notice for Lot 1 above.

    Please note the amended literature reference:
    C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1932, vol. 1, p. XLIV, no. 139 (illustrated, p. 68).


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody

    Picasso's vie bohème: Six Important Drawings from 1903-1903

    The following six drawings, executed in Barcelona in 1902 and 1903, represent a veritable compendium of the themes and motifs that preoccupied the youthful Picasso at the height of his celebrated Blue Period (fig. 1). The drawings were made on the reverse of business cards belonging to Picasso's close friends Sebastià and Carles Junyer Vidal, who had inherited a prosperous yarn and stocking shop in Barcelona from their uncle. Sebastià, the elder of the two brothers, enjoyed some success as a painter, exhibiting a group of Mallorcan landscapes in the autumn of 1902 at the Sala Parés, Barcelona's most fashionable gallery. Carles Junyer Vidal was an art and drama critic and the founder of the newspaper El Liberal, which published one of the earliest favorable appraisals of Picasso's art in March 1904. The two brothers, especially Sebastià, were Picasso's constant companions between 1902 and 1904. The artist spent countless hours in the Junyer Vidals' shop, gossiping with the proprietors and sketching on their trade cards or on large sheets of wrapping paper. Chronically broke at the time, Picasso welcomed the brothers' hospitality and sporadic financial help, and he supplied them with drawings in exchange.

    Sebastià Junyer Vidal's image, which is easily recognizable from his curly hair and handlebar moustache, pervades Picasso's work during this period, testament to the close friendship that the two painters enjoyed. In 1903, Picasso painted a large canvas depicting Junyer Vidal seated at a café table alongside a bony prostitute, identified by the telltale red flower in her hair (Zervos, vol. 1, no. 174; fig. 2). He also portrayed his friend in an oil portrait on paper (Z., vol. 1, no. 214; Museu Picasso, Barcelona) and in at least twenty drawings, including a parody of Manet's Olympia (Z., vol. 6, no. 343; see also Z., vol. 6, nos. 147, 343, 345, 346, 480, 485-489, 497-499). When Picasso left Barcelona for Paris in April 1904, it was Sebastià Junyer Vidal who accompanied him. The two shared a studio at the Bateau Lavoir for a few weeks, before Junyer Vidal returned to Barcelona and faded from Picasso's life.

    The drawings that Picasso made on the reverse of the Junyer Vidals' business cards, of which more than thirty are extant, run the gamut from depictions of the same huddled, wretched souls that populate his Blue Period canvases to sardonic parodies of contemporary types and scenes of overt sexuality. The six drawings that follow embody this range in microcosm. Vieillard debout, les bras croisés (Lot 15) is closely related to La tragédie of 1903 (Z., vol. 1, no. 208; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), the definitive statement of a theme that had preoccupied Picasso since the previous year, that of destitute families wandering the deserted beach. Likewise, Femme assise aux bras croisés (Lot 16) fits neatly within the series of seated and crouching women that Picasso painted in 1901 and 1902. These have their genesis in the depictions of syphilitic prostitutes incarcerated at Saint-Lazare that Picasso made at the very outset of his Blue Period. Other drawings in the group attest to Picasso's close study of the neo-classical master Puvis de Chavannes during this formative period in his career. The scene of two men in a boat (Lot 20) was likely inspired by Puvis's celebrated frescoes in the Panthéon in Paris, while two depictions of women in profile (Lots 17 and 18) employ a quintessentially classicizing figure type that would persist in Picasso's work during the Rose Period and re-surface in earnest following the First World War. In contrast, the sixth drawing in the group (Lot 19), an erotic scene of a nude couple, reveals a side of the youthful artist completely at odds with the grave imagery of the Blue Period paintings. Josep Palau i Fabre has written about the prevalence of sexual imagery in the Junyer Vidal corpus, "This indicates the general tone of these convivial evenings and the opportunity they afforded Picasso of refreshing his spirit through drawing" (Picasso: Life and Work of the Early Years, 1881-1907, Oxford, 1981, p. 351).

    Later in his life, Sebastià Junyer Vidal gave up painting and devoted himself to collecting Catalan sculpture, which he kept in his museum-like house at Vallcarca, west of Barcelona. He also became, to quote John Richardson, "a vociferous keeper of [Picasso's] flame" and a minor dealer in his work (ibid., p. 282). In an effort to obtain better prices for the authentic Picasso drawings in his collection, Junyer Vidal embellished many of them with apocryphal signatures. In the case of the following lots, these signatures were later removed, and Picasso himself subsequently signed the works with his own hand.


    (fig. 1) Photograph of Picasso in 1904. Musée Picasso, Paris.

    (fig. 2) Pablo Picasso, Sebastià Junyer Vidal, 1903. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


    Literature

    C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1932, vol. 1, p. XLIV, no. 139 (illustrated, p. 68).


    Exhibited

    Los Angeles, UCLA Galleries, "Bonne Fête" Monsieur Picasso, from Southern California collectors, 1961, no. 56.
    San Diego, Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, Masters of Modern Spanish Art, January-March 1969, p. 3.