Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Property of a Canadian Collector
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Femme dans un fauteuil

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme dans un fauteuil
signed and dated 'Picasso 18' (lower right)
watercolor and brush and black ink over pencil on paper laid down on card
10 ½ x 7 ¾ in. (26.6 x 19.8 cm.)
Painted in Biarritz in 1918
Dr. Gottlieb Friedrich Reber, Zurich (1938).
Herbert Tannenbaum, Amsterdam and New York (acquired from the above, 1948).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, 1951.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1949, vol. 3, no. 209 (illustrated, pl. 75).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Picasso at Large in Toronto Collections, July-October 1988, p. 15, no. 11.

Lot Essay

By the late 1910s, Picasso had been working alternately—and, indeed, controversially—in two styles for several years. He continued to paint in his cubist idiom, usually taking still-lifes as his subjects. He generally preferred to treat the figure in his newer classicizing manner, looking to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and late works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir as his inspiration. In a small number of works, however, such as the present one, he rendered the figure in the flattened and overlapping planes of late synthetic Cubism, continuing in the spirit of his wartime masterpiece, Arlequin, which he painted in late 1915 (Zervos, vol. 2**, no. 555; fig. 1). Picasso's cubist and classical styles each attracted its own partisans, and this polarization was further aggravated when the two Rosenberg brothers held exhibitions in 1919. Léonce Rosenberg included only cubist works by Picasso in a group installation at his Galerie de L'Effort Moderne in June. Paul Rosenberg, whose gallery was down the street from Léonce's, and next door to Picasso's new residence on the upscale rue la Boétie, held a large one-man show in October of Picasso's drawings and watercolors, which emphasized his classical approach.
One camp of critics, on the lookout for a new post-war style, and following Jean Cocteau's post-war “call to order,” thought that cubism was by now old and no longer suited the changing times. The other side, including many major artists working in cubist styles, looked upon Picasso's classical works as an outright betrayal of the avant-garde. Few considered how one approach might be seen to influence and complement the other. Picasso put it most simply in a statement to Marius de Zayas: “I do not believe I have used radically different elements in the different manners I have used in painting. If the subjects I have wanted to express have suggested different ways of expression I have never hesitated to adopt them...Whenever I have something to say, I have said it in the manner in which I have felt it ought to be said. Different motives inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress, but an adaptation of the idea one wants to express and the means to express that idea” (quoted in “Picasso Speaks,The Arts, May 1923; reprinted in D. Ashton, Picasso on Art, New York, 1972, p. 5).
When Picasso chose to depict the figure in cubist forms during this period, whether in Arlequin or the present Femme dans un fauteuil, the results often display a delightful sense of humor and whimsy. This stems from the fact that the artist was essentially treating the figure as a still-life, in which he supplanted the supple and organic form of the human body with incongruously angular and constructively mechanical elements. Picasso executed the present watercolor on the heels of his important series of tables set with still-life objects and placed before an open window, which occupied him during his late summer vacation with his wife Olga in Saint-Raphaël on the Riviera. The rectangular window backdrop is visible here as well.

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