Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Tête d'homme

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête d'homme
dated '21.01.72' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
28¾ x 23 5/8 in. (73 x 60 cm.)
Painted on 21 January 1972
The Artist's Estate.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. XXXIII, Paris, 1978, no. 281 (illustrated p. 97).
The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture: The Final Years 1970-1973, San Francisco, 2004, no. 72-016 (illustrated p. 270).
Avignon, Palais des Papes, Picasso 1970-1972, 1973, no. 158.
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Lot Essay

Picasso's works often feature a sense of fun and play, and this increased greatly in his later paintings, which were often peopled by a huge range of eccentric, dashing and imaginary characters. This was made especially evident in the celebrated exhibition held at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, which featured Tête d'homme, showing the explosive personalities of the varied, playful, eccentric rakes and musketeers of Picasso's late paintings. In Tête d'homme, a bearded man in a hat stares from the canvas like some lurid reincarnation of one of Rembrandt's subjects. The picture is filled with colour and movement. The brushstrokes in the hat are bold and gestural, while the hair and beard appear almost scribbled, recalling the art of children rather than that of an old and legendary avant garde artist. Of course, it is in this, his manipulation of the viewer's expectations and understanding of the notion of 'fine art' that Picasso displays himself ever the revolutionary. Even the background has been painted in such a way that the viewer is intensely aware of the brushstrokes themselves. Looking at Tête d'homme, Picasso's own movements and actions are recorded in an almost archaeological manner we trace each stroke.

Many of Picasso's images of men from throughout his artistic career were self-portraits to some extent, and this is no less true in Tête d'homme. Here, the artist's features are disguised, hidden behind the Old Master features and accoutrements of his subject. This sense of play, of costume and of entertainment, is punctured by the gaunt eyes and the pale hue of the face. Faintly skull-like, Tête d'homme shows Picasso contemplating death, yet his sense of humour and the intense actions evidenced by his brushstokes show him remaining defiant until the end.


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