'These Picassos from Vauvenargues are done with a constructivism entirely [Picasso’s] own.’
(P. Daix, Picasso: Life and Art, New York, 1993, p. 430)
By far the world's most famous living artist, Picasso in the final decades of his long career increasingly contended with random well-wishers, bothersome paparazzi, the persistently importunate and the simply curious – interlopers all – for whom the artist, ever more deeply engrossed in his late work and painting against time, had little interest and certainly no time to spare. Enforcing his privacy had become a pressing concern. The construction of high-rise apartment buildings in Cannes would soon impede the view from his villa La Californie and foretold the influx of even more residents into the vicinity. In order to help Picasso escape the world that was relentlessly encroaching upon him, in late 1958 Douglas Cooper and John Richardson suggested to the artist that he consider purchasing the vacant Château de Vauvenargues, located on a property encompassing two thousand acres of pine-forested slope on Mont-Sainte-Victoire, the emblematic massif of Provence that Cézanne had made famous in his late paintings. ‘At first sight he had been enchanted by the austere dignity of the ancient building, with its towers and robust masonry perched high on the rocks in the center of a wild and beautiful valley,’ Roland Penrose has written. ‘Its noble proportions and rugged surroundings reminded him of a Spanish castillo, and its remoteness promised to make it the refuge he had dreamt of, far from the frivolities of Cannes’ (R. Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, Berkeley, 1981, p. 428). A week later he became the château's new owner. He immediately telephoned his dealer Kahnweiler to tell him that he had bought Mont-Saint-Victoire. Unaware that any such painting by Cézanne was available on the market, Kahnweiler congratulated him and enquired ‘Which one?’ to which Picasso replied, ‘the real one!' (Picasso, quoted in P. Daix, Picasso: Life and Art, New York, 1993, p. 339).
Picasso retained La Californie as his primary residence, using Vauvenargues as his remote mountain retreat. The artist and his companion Jacqueline Roque installed themselves and a portion of their furnishings at Vauvenargues during their initial stay in February 1959. The large rooms of the château offered Picasso convenient space in which to gather and store his vast inventory of work, hitherto kept in diverse locations, and especially those paintings by other artists whom he had collected and rarely had the opportunity to display and enjoy at his leisure – Le Nain, Matisse, Courbet, Renoir, Gauguin, the Douanier Rousseau, and now most suitably, Cézanne himself. The chief drawback to the building was that it was drafty and difficult to properly heat during the winter, especially whenever the icy mistral blew in from the northwest. Kahnweiler had warned Picasso that his new residence might prove to be unbearably dreary, to which the artist – who was now officially entitled to call himself the Marquis de Vauvenargues – simply replied, ‘I'm Spanish,’ alluding to his own windswept native land.
Picasso's first paintings that feature motifs at Vauvenargues served as a means for him to stake out and take possession of this new domain. In March he made a series depicting the château's dining room, with the compositions centered on a grandiose, ornately carved Henry II sideboard – ‘a spectacularly monstrous piece of black spiky furniture,’ John Richardson called it (J. Richardson, Picasso: The Mediterranean Years, exh. cat., London, 2010, p. 40) – contrasted with the lively spotted presence of his new dog, the Dalmatian he named ‘Perro’ (Zervos, vol. 18, no. 379). Following a sequence of scenes depicting an Eastertide bullfight he had attended, the artist returned to the domesticity of Vauvenargues, now devoting his attention to a small cast of still-life objects – a jug, glass, and mandolin – which he painted in a series of canvases completed on 10 April 1959 (Zervos, vol. 18, nos. 400, 434 & 435).
The still-life genre clearly captivated Picasso and he spent the following days painting a number of works on this theme. On 16 April, he began three more still-lifes, including the present Broc et verre (Zervos, vol. 18, nos. 441, 442 & 444). In addition to the jug and glass, Picasso has painted on the wall in the present work a stylised fleur-de-lis, a decorative device he made particular to his interiors at Vauvenargues. The fourth painting Picasso commenced on 16 April is a bust of Jacqueline seen in profile (Zervos, vol. 18, no. 443).
Many of these paintings, including the present Broc et verre, were shown at Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, during January-February 1962, in an exhibition devoted to works painted at Vauvenargues. The collector and curator Maurice Jardot pointed out the distinctive Spanish quality of these paintings in his introduction to the catalogue: ‘Spain of profound depths... It is from that very Spain that originates, and to it doubtlessly returns, the sort of powerful song composed by the ten still-lifes that were painted at that moment; a simple variation done without the effect of virtuosity, focusing nearly always and solely on three objects and three colours... Yet the tone, the timbre and the thrust of the voice, I believe, are like no other work of Picasso; nothing anywhere else equals this profound chant, this cante jondo, which is inspired but tempered, ample and vigorous’ (trans. Alyssa Ovadis). The Galerie Leiris exhibition contained some thirty paintings in all, not many considering the three-year time frame during which Picasso used his studio in Vauvenargues. As Jardot noted, ‘The exaltation ceased suddenly: Picasso was to paint only four more pictures at Vauvenargues between 13 May and 24 June  and only five during the years 1960 and 1961’ (M. Jardot, quoted in R. Penrose, op. cit., p. 430). In June 1961, Picasso and Jacqueline, then recently married, moved into a new home, known as Notre-Dame-de-Vie, in Mougins, located on the hills above Cannes, where the artist lived and painted until his death in 1973.
‘These Picassos from Vauvenargues are done with a constructivism entirely [Picasso's] own,’ Daix observed, ‘which has no flavour of Cézanne’ (quoted in ibid. p. 430). This is not to say, however, that Picasso, then residing in the very heart of Cézanne country, was not mindful of the master of Aix, especially as he had suddenly turned once again to painting still-lifes in series. There would be no point circa 1960, of course, in reprising Cézanne's ‘constructive stroke’. There would be validity however, in taking the constructive principle beyond Cézanne and even Cubism as well, to a more radical state of representation, in which colour and form are employed in the most fundamental way, which Picasso has done in Broc et verre. Such a conception is indeed in the spirit of Cézanne, a painter whom Picasso had long admired. ‘Do I know Cézanne!’, he had exclaimed years earlier. ‘He was my one and only master! Don't you think I've looked at his paintings...I spent years studying them... Cézanne! He was like the father to us all. He was the one who protected us’ (Picasso, quoted in Brassaï, Conversations with Picasso, Chicago, 1999, p. 107).