Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Baigneuse sur la plage
charcoal and grattage on gessoed canvas
25¾ x 31 7/8 in. (65.3 x 81 cm.)
executed on 8 January 1931
Estate of the artist.
Marina Picasso (by descent from the above).
Jan Krugier, acquired from the above.
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: Surrealism, 1930-1936, San Francisco, 2009, p. 40, no. 31-001 (illustrated; with incorrect medium).
Venice, Centro di Cultura di Palazzo Grassi, Picasso: opere dal 1895 al 1971 dalla Collezione Marina Picasso, May-July 1981, p. 320, no. 212 (illustrated).
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Pablo Picasso, October 1988-January 1989, p. 236, no. 47 (illustrated, p. 92).
New York, PaceWildenstein, Picasso and Drawing, April-June 1995, p. 117, no. 45 (illustrated; with incorrect medium).
Hanover, Sprengel Museum, Pablo Picasso, Wege zur Skulptur: Die Carnets Paris und Dinard von 1928 aus der Sammlung Marina Picasso, August-October 1995, no. 8 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume; Montreal, Musée des Beaux-arts and Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Picasso érotique, February 2001-January 2002, p. 235, no. 109 (illustrated in color; with incorrect medium).
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Pablo Picasso Metamorphoses: Works from 1898 to 1973 from the Marina Picasso Collection, May-July 2002, p. 124, no. 42 (illustrated, p. 43).
Bern, Zentrum Paul Klee, Klee rencontre Picasso, June-September 2010, p. 276 (illustrated in color, p. 156; with incorrect medium and with inverted illustration).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, Picasso Black and White, October 2012-May 2013, p. 220, no. 41 (illustrated).
Sale room notice
Please note that Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Please note that Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Lot Essay

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

Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Following a series of successful summer vacations that he spent painting and drawing by the sea--Cannes in 1927, Dinard in 1928 and 1929, Juan-les-Pins in 1930--Picasso could seemingly summon up at will similarly favorable conditions when working in his Paris studio, even during the very depths of winter. The Andalusian in Picasso hated the gray winter cold more than anything else about Paris; his ability to conjure the summer sun and warmth of the Mediterranean when needed in his work became an effective remedy for the drab realities of winter in the city. By 1930-1931 one could look at one of Picasso's seaside bathers and more often than not learn that it had been done not by the sea during high summer, but in his Paris studio on one of the darkest, coldest days and longest nights of the year.

Such is the case with the present Baigneuse sur la plage, drawn not during the previous summer in Juan-les-Pins, but as his very first work of the New Year 1931, done on 8 January in Paris. The subject is, of course, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso's young mistress. Exactly four years earlier, on 8 January 1927, Picasso "came upon the femme-enfant of his dreams: an adolescent blonde with piercing, cobalt-blue eyes and a precociously voluptuous body," John Richardson has written. "She was seventeen and a half years old. For the next nine years or so, she would be Picasso's greatest love" (A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, New York, 2007, p. 323). Baigneuse sur la plage, this evocation of Picasso's year-round sun, moon and sea goddess, is moreover his anniversary portrait celebrating this young woman's momentous entrance into his life. Marie-Thérèse loved to sunbathe, sleep and dream; Picasso loved to sit by her side and gaze upon her, as she lay sleeping as close to him as she is to the viewer here. "The sleeping blonde paintings of her are lunar," Picasso told Roland Penrose, "her long neck carries her head like the moon racing through the a ball, a satellite" (quoted in ibid., p. 425).

One of the powerful images Picasso had recently been exploring was that which Richardson has called "the bifurcated head," a single head divided into two, which may represent two people facing off against one another, or some aspect of an individual personality at war with itself (fig. 1). The impetus for Picasso's interest in the outward manifestation of such an internal psychological struggle was his wife Olga's apparent bipolar condition, which increasingly in the late 1920s made her presence in his life difficult to bear, especially when Marie-Thérèse had become available as a much more gratifying alternative. This conflict of wills, this struggle for fulfillment between competing personal sexual imperatives, often shows up in Picasso's depictions of lovers generally, especially those in seaside settings, a primal backdrop against which Picasso most relentlessly and violently laid bare the nature of sexual desire as he saw it. The result was some of Picasso's most profoundly surrealist paintings, such as that of two serpentine lovers wrestling in a convulsive embrace (fig. 2).

The artist's treatment of Marie-Thérèse, however, was always of an altogether different quality, at least in his art, where he often shows himself to be tenderly protective, while caught up in awestruck rapture at her natural beauty and gentle, compliant manner. Picasso appears to have created in the visage of the Baigneuse his own version of a yin and yang symbol, which represents the ultimate conciliation of opposing states, hers and his, two distinct halves which are intimately enmeshed and dovetailed within one another, here in an embrace framed by an enveloping arc of protective arms and giant hands.

As the recent exhibition Picasso Black and White has revealed (exh. cat., op. cit. 2012), Picasso liked to draw directly on canvas, not as any preparatory action for later applying paint, but simply for the way the tooth of the bare or primed linen caught the graphite and charcoal from his drawing sticks. As the Guggenheim exhibition catalogue has noted, Picasso also employed in Baigneuse the technique of grattage: he scraped into the applied charcoal to accentuate the weave pattern of the canvas, and heighten the textural appearance of the drawn surface. This was one of the techniques which surrealists such as Max Ernst practiced in their work to create random and unpredictable effects. In using grattage and the weave of the canvas to this end, Picasso appears to have been suggesting in this drawing the grainy surfaces of the relief-assemblages he created in Juan-les-Pins six months earlier, in which he coated the entire picture with a sand infused binder (Spies, no. 75; fig. 3). The canvas tone in Baigneuse approximates the color of sand; the simulated, rendered shadows in the drawing give the effect of real shadows in the relief.

The presence of the cabana at upper left is no mere incidental architectural decoration; it frequently appears in Picasso's paintings as a potent signifier of sex and desire (Zervos, vol. 8, no. 147; fig. 4). In 1935 Picasso authored what has become known as the "Cabana Text," in conjunction with the freely associative poetry he began writing at that time. Lydia Gasman has discussed at length the cabana as a significant motif in Picasso's work during the late 1920s and 1930s (see Mystery, Magic and Love in Picasso, 1925-1938, doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, New York, 1981, chapters I-V). Peak-roofed wood cabanas were actually rare on the Côte d'Azur during this period, gaily striped canvas tents having replaced them long before. Picasso was actually conjuring up childhood memories of the casetas, the little bathers' houses that lined the beach at Corunna where his family lived during the early 1890s.

The cabana represented for Picasso his unconscious, unfulfilled desires, which during his souring marriage had become locked away in a hidden and neglected self. Exactly four years earlier, as if by some fortuitous twist of fate, Marie-Thérèse arrived in his life, and brought him back to love and life.

(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Le Baiser, Dinard, 26 August 1929. Musée Picasso, Paris. BARCODE: ART320400_dhr

(fig. 2) Pablo Picasso, Figures au bord de la mer, Paris, 12 January 1931. Musée Picasso, Paris. BARCODE: 28857235

(fig. 3) Pablo Picasso, Composition au gant, Juan-les-Pins, 22 August 1930. Musée Picasso, Paris. BARCODE: 28857242

(fig. 4) Pablo Picasso, Baigneuse au ballon de plage, Boisgeloup, 30 August 1932. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. BARCODE: 40400662


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