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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED COLLECTION
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Le peintre et son modèle

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Le peintre et son modèle
signed and dated 'Picasso II-I-XXXIII-' (lower right)
charcoal and estompe on paper
11 x 10 1/8 in. (28 x 25.7 cm.)
Drawn on 2 January 1933
Valentine Gallery, New York (until April 1937).
Henry P. McIlhenny, Philadelphia.
Bernice McIlhenny Wintersteen, Villanova, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above, by 1944); sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, 17 October 1973, lot 29.
Fuji International Art, Tokyo.
Private collection, Japan (acquired from the above, 1976).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
L. Steinberg, "The Philosophical Brothel" in October, Spring, 1988, vol. 44, p. 28 (illustrated, p. 29, fig. 23; titled La pose nue).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Modern Drawings, February-May 1944, p. 96 (titled Artist in Her Studio).
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Masterpieces of Philadelphia Private Collections, May-September 1947, no. 192 (titled In the Studio).
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibitions, 1961-1965.
Northampton, Massachusetts, Smith College Museum of Art, Commencement Exhibition, 1965.
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor and Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Collection of Mrs. John Wintersteen, June-September 1966, no. 29 (illustrated, pl. 29; titled In the Studio (Woman Painting)).
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Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

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

On 12 January 1933, when Picasso drew this revealingly sensuous artist and model, his clandestine liaison with Marie-Thérèse Walter had just entered its seventh, deeply passionate year. During the late 1920s, Picasso’s references to his young lover in his art had been couched in a private pictorial code, and he had successfully veiled her features within his endlessly inventive deformations of the female form. In time, however, concealment inexorably gave way to more overt statement, and Marie-Thérèse assumed pride of place as the artist’s reigning muse.
“In 1931 Marie-Thérèse at last emerged from the wings to center stage, where she could preside as a radiant deity, in new roles that changed from Madonna to sphinx, from odalisque to earth mother,” Robert Rosenblum has written. “At times her master seems to worship humbly at her shrine, capturing a fixed, confrontational stare of almost supernatural power; but more often, he becomes an ecstatic voyeur, who quietly captures his beloved reading, meditating, catnapping, or surrendering to the deepest abandon of sleep” (Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 342). In the present drawing, Picasso has turned the tables, transforming his passive, quiescent young lover, the impetus for this great surge of creativity, into a working femme-peintre, the muse becomes an artist in her own right, seated at an easel with palette in hand. She beholds a voluptuous, reclining nude–lifted, of course, straight from Picasso’s recent, rapturous paintings of Marie-Thérèse herself–and transposes it in sweeping strokes onto the canvas before her. A probing, self-reflexive meditation on the partnership between the flesh-and-blood model and the artist’s creative vision, Le peintre et son modèle represents a powerful coda to Picasso’s work of 1932, his annus mirabilis, in which Marie-Thérèse’s transcendently erotic presence (plus some friendly competition from Matisse) inspired him to a peak of fever-pitch intensity and achievement.
The story of Picasso and Marie-Thérèse–of their amour fou–begins in January 1927, when the artist walked up and introduced himself to a comely blonde girl, then still in her teens, outside the shops of the Galeries Lafayette. His marriage to Olga had cooled down and finally turned sour, as Picasso rankled under her haute-bourgeois expectations and increasingly erratic behavior; at age forty-six, he desperately sought to experience anew the excitement of uninhibited and blissful physical love. “You have an interesting face,” he told Marie-Thérèse as an opening gambit. “I would like to do a portrait of you. I feel we are going to do great things together... I am Picasso” (quoted in J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, New York, 2007, p. 323).
The artist’s bold prediction proved correct, and the two plunged headlong into an affair. “[Marie-Thérèse] became the luminous dream of youth, always in the background but always within reach, that nourished his work,” Picasso’s later companion Françoise Gilot wrote in her memoirs. “She didn’t enter in any way into his public or intellectual life. When he went out socially it was with Olga; when he came back bored and exasperated, Marie-Thérèse was always available as a solace. She haunted his life, just out of reach poetically, but available in the practical sense whenever his dreams were troubled by her absence. She had no convenient reality; she was a reflection of the cosmos. If it was a beautiful day, the clear blue sky reminded him of her eyes. The flight of a bird symbolized for him the freedom of their relationship. And over a period of eight years, her image found its way into a great body of his work in painting, drawing, sculpture, and engraving. Hers was the privileged body on which the light fell to perfection” (Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, pp. 235-236).
For much of 1931, Picasso pursued his ecstatic exploration of Marie-Thérèse’s physical form primarily in sculpture, producing a series of sensually expressive heads and figures in the stable-studio of his château at Boisgeloup–his secret bower, an isolated sanctuary to which he could escape from Olga and enjoy the company of his mistress. Late in that year, he picked up his palette once again and began a magnificent group of canvases that he intended as the jewel in the crown in his forthcoming retrospective at the Galeries Georges Petit, slated to open some six months hence. In several of the most sumptuous and erotically charged of these paintings, Marie-Thérèse appears just as she will in the foreground of the present drawing–as a compliant, indolently sensuous, odalisque-type, who lies before the artist in deep, rapturous sleep. Her body is available and yielding to his touch, even as her innermost thoughts remain elusive and unknowable to him as she dreams. Although we do not see the artist, we sense his voyeuristic presence; he watches over his beloved and protects her, while at the same time subjecting her to the necessary sacrificial rites of the painter, who seeks to possess and transform her in his art.
In three drawings dated 30 December 1932 and a fourth from New Year’s Day, Picasso made the artist’s presence explicit, depicting a bearded painter seated at an easel with the supine model at his feet (Zervos, vol. 8, nos. 77-80). After a week’s break (perhaps tending to Marie-Thérèse, who had been hospitalized with a serious infection after kayaking in the Marne), he produced a new suite of five drawings in which the artist is a woman with Marie-Thérèse’s distinctive Grecian profile (nos. 76, 81-82, and 85). In the present version, the most elaborately worked of the group, the femme-peintre is clad in a diaphanous, patterned peignoir that clings to the feminine orbs of her breasts and buttocks; the palette and brushes that she holds in her lap, by contrast, function as a visual stand-in for the absent phallus. Collapsing the distinction between reality and representation, Picasso has portrayed the reclining model and the image on the easel as near-perfect replicas of one another, the forms swelling and unfurling like a growing plant; the figure of the femme-peintre, at roughly twice the scale and cast in shadow, seems to occupy an altogether different level of experience. All three elements in this tripartite paradigm, however, are rendered in fluid, flowing lines–a manifestation of Marie-Thérèse’s natural, easeful vitality–that stand out against the rectilinear framework of the studio setting.
The subject of the artist and model would continue to weave in and out of Picasso’s work throughout his career, ultimately serving as the great valedictory theme of his final years, long after Marie-Thérèse had ceded her reign to Françoise and then Françoise to Jacqueline Roque. In 1963 and 1964, just past his eightieth birthday, Picasso painted almost nothing else, producing such a rich and inexhaustible stream of variants that the peintre et modèle almost became a genre in itself, like landscape or still-life. “Through all these manifold scenes,” Marie-Laure Bernadac has concluded, “Picasso is asking himself the question, ‘What is a painter? A man who works with brushes, a dauber, and unrecognized genius, or a demiurge, a creator who mistakes himself for God?’ Through the constant recapitulation of this scenario he is also trying to capture the impossible, the secret alchemy that takes place between the real model, the artist’s vision and feeling, and the reality of paint. Which of these three elements will prevail, and how is each to maintain its true character?” (Late Picasso, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 76).

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