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

Femme assise au chapeau

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme assise au chapeau
dated '1.1.61.' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
45¾ x 35 in. (116 x 89 cm.)
Painted in Vauvenargues, 1 January 1961
Estate of the artist.
Jacqueline Picasso, Paris.
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
Private collection, Japan (by 1992).
Yoshii Gallery, New York (by 1997).
Private collection, Arizona (acquired from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 1 November 2005, lot 62.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
H. Parmelin, Picasso: Woman, Cannes and Mougins, 1954-1963, Paris, 1967, p. 115 (illustrated in color).
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1968, vol. 19, no. 418 (illustrated, pl. 131).
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: The Sixties I, 1960-1963, San Francisco, 2002, p. 114, no. 61-002 (illustrated).
Reykjavik Art Museum, Picasso, exposition inattendue dédiée aux peintres, May-July 1986, no. 21 (illustrated in color, p. 51).
Caracas, Centro Cultural Consolidado, 5 grandes de España: Picasso, Gris, González, Dalí, Miró, August-September 1992, pp. 49 and 172, no. 4 (illustrated in color, pl. 4; titled Mujer sentada con sombrero. Jacqueline con sombrero).
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Summer exhibition, June-July 1998.

Lot Essay

Picasso painted Femme assise au chapeau on New Year's Day, 1961--it was the very first work he executed that year. He had not done any painting since 21 December 1960, when he completed the last of three heads and busts of women (Zervos, vol. 19, nos. 401-403). He appears to have taken a break for the holiday season, after which he painted the present canvas. He finished another painting as well on 1 January, Femme assise, which he numbered 'II'--this was his final working of a canvas he began on 19 December 1960, which represents the downward extension of the earlier heads and busts into a half-length seated figure (Zervos, vol. 19, no. 409; fig. 1). Picasso had the gotten the year off to an excellent start--it was a propitious moment for what looked to be an especially eventful year, as the artist neared his eightieth birthday, which would take place on 25 October.

Femme assise au chapeau depicts Jacqueline Roque, the artist's companion since 1954, whom he married in Vallauris three months after this painting was done. Jacqueline was fond of tending the gardens on the grounds of La Californie, their residence overlooking Cannes, and here she is shown wearing a sun hat with a floppy brim. Having made its debut appearance here, the sun hat would feature in more than a dozen paintings and drawings during the next two months, and then again--as if to round out the year--in a drawing and painting at the end of December (Zervos, vol. 20, nos. 164 and 170). When he painted Femme assise au chapeau, Picasso was perhaps thinking of Van Gogh's Peasant Woman in Wheatfield, 1890 (De La Faille, no. 774, Hulsker, no. 2053; fig. 2), in which the subject wears a similarly shaped hat. Picasso had been fond of painting woman in hats since his early years, and especially during the 1930s, when he shared the surrealists' fascination with women's headwear as a revealing manifestation of their inner lives. Hats can help one identify the subjects in Picasso's portraits of the thirties: Marie-Thérèse had her particular prim style of head dress, and Dora Maar had hers, which gave her an altogether more insect-like and menacing appearance. The sitters in Van Gogh's portraits often wear a hat, which becomes an emblem that indicates their place in society, while also proclaiming an attitude of personal identity and pride. John Richardson has drawn attention to Picasso's affinity for Van Gogh:

"Of all the artists with whom Picasso identified, Van Gogh is the least often cited but probably the one who meant most to him in later years. He talked of him as his patron saint, talked of him with intense admiration and compassion, never with any of his habitual irony or mockery. Van Gogh, like Cézanne earlier in Picasso's life , was sacrosanct--'the greatest of them all,' he said... At first glance Van Gogh does not manifest himself very overtly in Picasso's work, certainly not as overtly as Manet or Velázquez. But that is largely because his influence is not a superficial stylistic question of borrowed compositions or anecdotal trappings, but a matter of deep spiritual identification" ("L'Epoque Jacqueline," Late Picasso, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 32).

In contrast to the swirling and striated baroque forms seen in the Femme assise Picasso completed as number II on 1 January, the present painting is unadorned and straightforward in its structure; it comes across as being economical, even austere, in terms of color and visual detail, as if Picasso had made up his mind to refrain from adding anything that would distract the eye from following the clarity of his conception, the essential interlocking rhythms of his forms. Picasso seemed especially interested in the planar construction of Jacqueline's head. Here he contrasts the brightly illuminated side of her face with the opposing side seen in deep shadow. He juxtaposes Jacqueline's rigidly zigzag profile with the wavy, flowing outlines of her hair and the brim of her hat.

The varied and contrasting forms in Femme assise au chapeau are decidedly sculptural, and for good reason. Only two months before Picasso had resumed the production of sculptures in cut, bent and folded sheet metal in the Vallauris workshop which had done similar work for him in 1954 and 1957. Lionel Prejger, a local contractor, had recently taken over the business and persuaded Picasso to return. Four works in painted, cut-out steel were completed by the end of 1960, and as Picasso likely had more such works in mind (see lot 9), he may have painted the present Femme assise au chapeau in for the express reason of trying out the three-dimensional possibilities of this subject. Picasso continued this process in a series of drawings he executed on 3 January (Zervos, vol. 19, nos. 410-411, 414-416). He then executed a painting on 27 January (Zervos, vol. 19, no. 422; fig. 3), which--despite the addition of stronger color than previously--might have easily served as template just waiting to be converted into a paper maquette. Picasso did in fact fashion a cut and folded paper model of the seated woman in a hat (Spies, no. 626-1) and brought it to Prejger, who had his workmen construct four metal cut-out sculptures titled Femme au chapeau. The first version was painted in multiple colors, the next was painted white (fig. 4), another was done in brown, and final one was left unpainted (Spies, nos. 626-2a-d, respectively). Unlike the tabletop size of most of Picasso's steel cut-outs of women's head, the four Femme au chapeau sculptures measure 50 in. (127 cm.) in height, slightly taller than the present painting.

Roland Penrose has written, "Throughout the great diversity of his work it is noticeable how closely knit are all forms of expression and in particular the two major arts in question--painting and sculpture. It is impossible to consider one without the other since there are so many drawings and paintings that are virtually projects for sculpture or in which the form is so emphasized as to appear solid... The result is a frequent reversal of techniques and his disrespect for conventions is rich in unexpected combinations..." (E. Cowling, ed., Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose, London, 2006, p. 305). The activity of painting revealed to Picasso possibilities for sculpture; the making of sculpture in turn encouraged a certain leaning toward concise, constructive form in his paintings. Werner Spies has observed, "Here Picasso the painter anticipated effects that could only be attained in sheet metal... the synthetic character of these works recalls the second phase of Cubism with its constant interchange between painting and sculpture" (Picasso: The Sculptures, Stuttgart, 2000, p. 296). After the early 1960s, this active process of dialogue, interaction and translation between the disciplines of painting and sculpture would become less apparent in Picasso's work--apart from enlargements of some earlier works, Picasso produced no new sculptures during his final years.

(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Femme assise, 19 December 1960-1 January 1961 (II). Private collection.

(fig. 2) Vincent van Gogh, Peasant Woman in Wheatfield, Saint-Rémy, 1890. Private collection. USE FIG SALE 2164 6 May 09 lot 32 FIG. 1

(fig. 3) Pablo Picasso, Femme assise au chapeau, 27 January 1961. Private collection.

(fig. 4) Pablo Picasso, Femme au chapeau, painted sheet iron, 1961. Musée Picasso, Paris.

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