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    Sale 1902

    Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper

    7 November 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 221

    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

    Au bout de la jetée

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    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
    Au bout de la jetée
    signed and dated 'Picasso le 12 Septembre 37.' (upper right) and titled 'au bout de la jetée' (upper left)
    pen and black ink over pencil on paper
    11¼ x 8 3/8 in. (28.6 x 21.3 cm.)
    Drawn on 12 September 1937


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    Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

    Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

    Au bout de la jetée is a rare example of Picasso's illustrated poetry from a private source. Most of Picasso's writings remain in the collection of the Musée Picasso, Paris. It is also among the finest of similar such works from his hand, for while the artist occasionally drew sketches in the margins of some of his texts, here he has deliberately and beautifully composed the sheet as a unified expression of word and image.

    Picasso began to write poetry at the age of 54 in his château at Boisgeloup on 18 April 1935. His first day's effort resulted in a 34 page long poem. Further torrents of words flowed from his pen during a period of crisis in his life and work. Kathleen Brunner has observed,
    For reasons that are not known and will probably never be completely understood, he gave up art almost completely and continued in this state of abstinence for nearly a year. Biographical accounts cite the separation from his wife Olga, and his impending fatherhood [the birth of Maya, his daughter by his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter], as the traumatic events that precipitated this artistic hiatus. Either for legal or personal reasons, Picasso stayed away from his studio at rue la Boétie while the separation proceedings were in progress. Or perhaps Picasso fell prey to the 'misère morale' of the mid-1930s, as he described the mood of that era of political crisis and cultural stalemate. The texts, dated like a diary, sometimes to the hour of the day, describe obliquely Picasso's life as he was living it at that moment, even at the very instant of writing...relying on the medium of writing to come back from the void (in Picasso Rewriting Picasso, London, 2004, pp. 19 and 26).

    Picasso continued to write poetry after he returned to his studio in 1936. He would experiment with this pursuit during the war years in the next decade and occasionally in the 1950s. The poems with which Picasso filled his notebooks were usually comprised of long, unpunctuated prose lines, written in Spanish or French. These pages bustle with a kaleidoscopic tumult of images, as might be expected from a supremely visual creator, that rush by with little sense of apparent logical sequence or development. Picasso's method was neither automatic writing as the Surrealists practiced it, nor Joycean stream-of-consciousness. It is more akin to a process of free association, driven by the artist's obsessions, recollections and acutely observed details of life around him.

    By the time Picasso wrote and illustrated Au bout de la jetée in mid-September 1937, he had transformed the private despair to which he gave vent in his earlier poems, into the monumentally dramatic, public cry of outrage against the horrors of the Spanish Civil War seen in his mural Guernica (Coll. Museo de la Reina Sofía, Madrid), which he painted in May-June. His famous series of 'Weeping Women' followed. In late July he and his lover Dora Maar went to stay at the Hôtel Vaste-Horizon in Mougins, near Cannes, where they had vacationed the previous summer. Picasso brought along his new Afghan hound Kazbek, and they were soon joined by Roland Penrose, the poet Paul Eluard and his wife Nusch, Man Ray and his companion Ady, Christian Zervos and the photographer Lee Miller. This menagerie filled the small hotel, and Picasso as their ringmaster was in decidedly good spirits. Penrose wrote, "As a reaction to his recent preoccupation with tragedy, he was seized with a diabolical playfulness" (in Picasso: His Life and Work, Berkeley, 1981, p. 311).

    And so Picasso very fittingly turned to Père Ubu as the subject of the drawing in Au bout de la jetée, where he associated "the gentleman so correctly dressed" with the grossly monstrous, despotic, megalomaniacal, but ineptly silly character invented by Alfred Jarry in his trilogy of Ubu plays written around the turn of the century. This drawing is certainly Picasso's most definitive and archly characterized rendition of Ubu. While Picasso never met Jarry, who died in 1907 at the age of 34, he became, probably through the influence of his friends, the poets Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob, a devotee of his writings, and acquired the manuscript of Jarry's second Ubu play, Ubu cocu. John Richardson has pointed out that, "When Picasso temporarily abandoned painting for writing, he would turn again to Jarry. His poetry of the late thirties bubbles with Jarryesque images" (op. cit., p. 367). This drawing of Ubu was used to illustrate the programme of Jarry's final Ubu play, Ubu enchaîné, which received its posthumous premiere at the Comédie des Champs-Elysees on 22-26 September 1937.


    Mougins Vast Horizon
    12 September 37

    at the end of the promenade jetty
    behind the casino the gentlemen
    so correctly dressed so gently
    stripped of his pants eating his
    bag of fries of turds
    graciously spits
    the pits into the face
    of the sea
    threading his
    prayers on the cord
    of the flag grilling
    at the end of the swear word
    that illuminates the scene
    the music hides its
    maw in the arena
    and unnails
    its fright
    from the frame of wasps
    legs spread
    the fan melts
    its wax on the anchor

    (translated by Pierre Joris, in op. cit.)

    Provenance

    Lee V. Eastman, New York; Estate sale, Christie's, New York, 2 November 2005, lot 104.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    Literature

    M.-L. Bernadac and C. Piot, eds., Picasso: Collected Writings, Paris, 1989, pp. 176 and 410 (illustrated, p. 177; titled Le Père Ubu).
    J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: 1881-1906, New York, 1991, vol. I, p. 365 (illustrated).
    The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: Spanish Civil War 1937-1939, San Francisco, 1997, p. 80, no. 37-192 (illustrated).
    J. Rothenberg and P. Joris, eds., Pablo Picasso: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and other Poems, Cambridge, Mass., 2004, pp. 152-153 (translated text).


    Exhibited

    New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Dada, Surrealism and their Heritage, March-December 1968, pp. 94 and 241, no. 279 (illustrated, p. 95, fig. 127).
    London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, 1978.
    New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso--A Retrospective, May-September 1980, p. 341 (illustrated).
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Picasso and the Weeping Women: The Years of Marie-Thérèse and Dora Maar, February 1994-January 1995, pp. 104 and 106 (illustrated, p. 107, fig. 70).