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


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
signed 'Picasso' (upper left); dated and numbered '30.10.55 I' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
31 7/8 x 25 5/8 in. (81 x 65 cm.)
Painted at La Californie in Cannes in October 1955
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (photo no. 60111).
Private collection, Geneva, by whom acquired from the above and thence by descent; sale, Christie's, London, 27 June 1994, lot 45.
Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York.
Private collection, New York, by whom acquired from the above.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso: oeuvres de 1953 à 1955, vol. XVI, Paris, 1965, no. 495 (illustrated pl. 169).
The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, A Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue, 1885-1973: The Fifties I, 1950-1955, San Francisco, 2000, no. 55-217a (illustrated p. 336).
Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, Picasso peintures 1955-1956, March - April 1957, no. 8.
Geneva, Musée Rath et Cabinet des Estampes, Art du XXeme siècle - Collections genevoises, June - September 1973, no. 37.
London, Helly Nahmad Gallery, Picasso: Artist of the Century, September - December 1998, no. 54 (illustrated p. 120).
Rotterdam, Kuntshal, Picasso Artist of the Century, March - April 1989, no. 76.
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Picasso, Las Grandes Series, March - June 2001, no. 18.
New York, Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, Modern Masters, March - May 2006.
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Lot Essay

Painted in October 1955, L'atelier is a light-bathed picture in which Picasso invites the viewer into that hallowed realm, the artist's studio. This is revealed as a place of almost Oriental exoticism: through the ogee-forms of the window peek palm trees, filling the painting with a sense of the tropical. In the foreground, painted almost in reserve, is the form of a figure which resembles the artist's sculpture of Dora Maar which can be seen in the photograph of the atelier (see above). L'atelier, then, provides the viewer with an insight into the charmed atmosphere of Picasso's recently-purchased villa near Cannes, La Californie.

Picasso had only owned La Californie for a matter of a few months by the time he painted L'atelier. Discussing the home of his friend, Roland Penrose wrote only a few years later of the charms that this building held for the artist:

'When Picasso bought La Californie, though he had seen it only by twilight, he realised that its most precious asset to him, in addition to its nearness to Vallauris, was the light that penetrates into every corner of the house. He was happy at once in the luminous atmosphere of the lofty rooms, and as he had done before, he began to paint pictures inspired by the objects that lay around and the tall windows with their art nouveau tracery, through which a yellow-green is filtered by the branches of the palm trees. Day after day he saw his studio anew' (R. Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, London, 1958, p. 358).

It is this light that fills L'atelier, and this sense of novelty, this sense of satisfaction at discovering a new home and beginning a new life with Jacqueline.

The deliberate simplification of forms in L'atelier, where the paint is formed into large swathes of colour against a light background, recalls the cut-outs of Picasso's friend and fellow artist, Henri Matisse, who had died less than a year earlier. In the wake of the death of this master, whom Picasso considered his only rival or equal as an artist in the Twentieth Century, Picasso reacted with a great number of works in which he paid tribute to his friend both in the picture's resemblance to the cut-outs that Matisse had executed increasingly during the final decade of his life, and in the lyrical exoticism of the rarefied studio.

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