Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE PERSONAL COLLECTION OF MAX G. BOLLAG, ZURICHThe infuential Swiss art dealer Max G. Bollag was born in 1913, started his own business at the age of 25 and worked every day until he was 85 years old. Renowned for his expert eye, profound knowledge and innate personal charm and insight, he was a key fgure in the local art world, but also the man many collectors and afcionados from all over the world would visit when in Zurich.Max and his twin sister Mary were born into a family of art dealers on 6 December 1913, an era when their father and uncle of the renowned Salon Bollag were acquiring works in Paris directly from Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Juan Gris, and others. Max and Mary were the frst children of four of Léon Bollag and Babette (Betty) Bollag-Moos. Betty herself had an impressive artistic background; by 1899 the Moos family had opened the frst art gallery ever founded in Karlsruhe, with Betty and her brothers Ivan and Max assisting their father in the business. In 1906 the Moos siblings Max and Betty opened the infuential Maison Moos in Geneva, a key promoter of Swiss artists, such as Hodler, Menn and Amiet, which soon expanded to include Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, with an emphasis on French artists. Gallery Moos in Toronto is part of this family as well, Walter Moos, the late founder, being Betty’s nephew.Léon Bollag and Betty Moos met in Geneva, married, and moved to Zurich in 1908, where, together with Gustave, Léon’s older brother, they opened the Salon Bollag in 1912 in Utoschloss, a prestigious address. They were probably the frst auctioneers in the country, and one of the frst fne art galleries. Initially specialising in Swiss artists or artists of Swiss origin such as Buchser, Füssli (Henry Fuseli RA), Hodler, Giacometti and Segantini, they soon diversifed their portfolio. Gustave, who lived in London for part of the year, had contacts with dealerships such as the Leicester Galleries, a good source for Füssli, and was often active in New York, where the Bollag brothers had spent part of their childhood.Through contacts established by the infuential Paris-based art dealer Berthe Weill, a friend of the family, the Bollags began to acquire works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Amedeo Modigliani and Juan Gris, often directly from the artists themselves. They also had good connections with the leading Parisian dealers of the day, including Durand-Ruel, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and Bernheim-Jeune, from whom they acquired important Impressionist works by Renoir, Degas, Manet and Pissarro. Some of the works acquired by the brothers at this time were destined to remain in the family for the next century. Bringing challenging new art to the Zurich art scene was met with great interest from many visionary Swiss collectors and, by the early 1920s, their progressive outlook and enthusiasm for modern art ensured that the Salon Bollag had become an important source for avant-garde collectors, both in Switzerland and abroad.Growing up surrounded by exquisite fne art, in a cosmopolitan, multi-lingual family that would switch freely between English, French, Alsatian dialect and German, and that would welcome guests from all over the world, it is no wonder that young Max became an art dealer himself. In 1935, at the age of 23, his father sent him on his own for the frst time to visit clients outside of Zurich, with a selection of paintings loaded into his car. Less than a year later, visiting his uncle Gustave in London, he invested some of his own money - some sixty pounds - in art, which he quickly managed to sell well back in Zurich. Enjoying similar success on a second trip in 1937, Max decided to open his own gallery in Zurich a year later, on Rämistrasse. Thanks to his unerring eye for quality, his passion and his personality, his gallery soon became well known on the art scene.So as not to compete with his father and uncle, in 1940 Max decided to move to Lausanne, where he specialised both in Swiss artists and the Parisian avant-garde. He also held auctions, a method of selling at which he excelled. He moved back to Zurich in 1947 and, in 1949, married a beautiful, intelligent young woman, Susi Aeppli, with whom he would have four children. Having found a good space on fashionable Storchengasse, he flled it with works by Picasso, Cézanne, Derain, Kandinsky and Klee and the quality of his selection as well as the personality of the owner soon made the space a hub of activity. Reluctant to give up his auctions but inhibited by local regulations allowing for only two auctions a year, he founded the ‘Swiss Society of the Friends of Art Auctioneering’, a members-only club with an annual fee of fve francs a year, so that he could continue auctioneering. To avoid confusion with the Salon Bollag, as well as with the Galerie Suzanne Bollag (founded by Max’s younger sister in 1958), he re-named his gallery ‘Modern Art Center’; however, most people continued to refer to it as the Galerie Max G. Bollag.Gallery space in a good location was not easy to fnd at this time. After Storchengasse he moved his operation several times before fnally, in 1963, fnding an ideal space on Werdmühlestrasse, just of the famous Zurich Bahnhofstrasse, 450 square metres with walls four meters high. It belonged to the city, which decided soon after to transform the space into ofices. Max mobilised friends, clients, dignitaries and just about anybody he could, collecting around 600 signatures in just a few days. Despite this, he lost two thirds of the gallery, forcing him to cram his vast collection into the remaining space. Being both optimistic and innovative, this necessity soon became a kind of statement. The gallery would be something like the galleries of old in Paris; every inch of wall was utilised, every table and shelf piled high with books and catalogues for visitors to peruse, pictures stacked everywhere. Auctions were still held in whatever space could be found, or cleared. Anachronistic as it was, it was inspiring and divisive: one either loved it or hated it.At the centre of all this was Max G. Bollag, known by art afcionados around the world and by almost everyone in town. In the morning focks of birds would follow him into the gallery to be fed, colleagues would come in to find sources for provenance research, ladies to get their daily fx of witty firtation; everyone who entered the gallery– young, old, rich, poor – found a man who loved to share his knowledge, who knew how to listen; young artists would come for his opinion and guidance, travellers and artists would be generously invited for a good meal in a nearby restaurant, and of course the constant fow of buyers and sellers from around the world. Max was to be found in the gallery every day, taking on every task himself, from the lowest chores to the most important business decisions. In 1998, at the age of 85, he was forced to stop work due to health problems, but would visit the gallery until his death in 2005. His 90th birthday was held in the gallery, some 500 people celebrating the old king in his former palace.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Tête de femme

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête de femme
signed 'Picasso' (lower right)
gouache, watercolour and brush and ink on paper
18 7/8 x 12 1/2 in. (48 x 31.8 cm.)
Executed in Gósol and Paris in 1906
G. & L. Bollag, Salon Bollag, Zurich, by whom acquired directly from the artist, on 13 March 1918.
Private collection, Zurich, by descent from the above.
The Stiftung Dialogik, Zurich, a gift from the above in 1990; sale, Christie's, New York, 12 May 1993, lot 29.
Max G. Bollag, Zurich, by whom acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent to the present owners.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 6, Supplément aux volumes 1 à 5, Paris, 1954, no. 787, n.p. (illustrated pl. 95).
P. Daix & G. Boudaille, Picasso, The Blue and Rose Periods: A Catalogue Raisonné 1900-1906, Neuchatel, 1966, no. D.XVI.4, p. 329 (illustrated p. 329).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso Vivant (1881-1907), Barcelona, 1980, no. 1345, p. 552 (illustrated p. 469; titled 'Cap de dona').
Lausanne, Palais de Beaulieu, Chefs-d'oeuvre des collections Suisses, de Manet à Picasso, May - October 1964, no. 230, n.p. (illustrated n.p.).
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

Dating from one of the most pivotal moments of Pablo Picasso’s prolific career and indeed of modern art as a whole, Tête de femme (Head of a Woman) was executed in 1906 during the artist’s seminal sojourn in Gósol, a remote, rural village set amidst the mountains of north west Spain, and was completed on his return to Paris in the autumn. With a deftly applied combination of gouache, watercolour and ink, this work is one of a number of female heads from this transformative period that show the artist moving away from his Rose Period style towards a more primitive, simplified and stylised visual language that marks the very genesis of the movement that would change the course of modern art: Cubism.

Together with his raven-haired muse and first great love, the beautiful artist’s model, Fernande Olivier, Picasso embarked on a journey from Paris to Barcelona in May 1906. This was the first time that the artist had returned to his beloved native land for two years – the longest period that he had ever spent away from Spain. After coming into a considerable sum of money, some two thousand francs, thanks to the dealer Ambroise Vollard purchasing twenty of his most important early works, Picasso was able to return to his family and friends in the Catalonian capital in style, eager to introduce his family to his stylish girlfriend ‘la belle Fernande’ as he called her, and to share his new successes with them. More than this however, Picasso was seeking new inspiration, craving a new setting with which to consolidate his recent artistic developments and, more crucially, to find new inspiration with which to move forward.

After a social two weeks in Barcelona, the pair set off for Gósol, finally arriving along narrow, mountainous tracks by mule in June. The isolated medieval village was a world away from the buzzing cosmopolitan metropolis of Paris and the bohemian world of the Bateau-Lavoir in which Picasso had been immersed. Staying at the only inn in the village, the Can Tempanada, Picasso soon began fervently sketching, drawing and painting, his imagination set ablaze by the wealth of stimuli he found in this Catalonian haven. Indeed, he produced as much work – paintings and works on paper – during the course of this ten or so week Spanish sojourn as he had in the previous six months in Paris. ‘The atmosphere of his own country was essential to him’, Fernande recalled of their trip, ‘and gave him…special inspiration’ (F. Olivier, quoted in J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, Volume I, 1881-1906, London, 1991, pp. 435-436).

Happily ensconced in rural Spanish life, Picasso’s art underwent a significant change. Returning to his Spanish roots, Picasso fell under the spell of the ancient, timeless classicism of the Mediterranean. Leaving behind the French symbolist influence that had permeated his contemporaneous Rose period works, he embraced an archaic, simplified and stylised aesthetic, painting with a muted palette dominated by ochre and terracotta tones, the colours of the arid, sun bleached landscape in which he was immersed. He depicted the people of Gósol, the peasants, old innkeeper and children of the village, as well as Fernande with a new sobriety, simplicity and, most importantly, an opacity that appears almost sculptural. Composed of fiery terracotta tones overlaid with softer shades of rose pink and grey, Tête de femme encapsulates this stylistic shift, embodying the Mediterranean-inspired primitivism that characterises Picasso’s great Gósol works.

The female form became a particular focus of Picasso’s art at this time. At the beginning of the year while still in Paris, Picasso had seen a newly acquired collection of Iberian sculptures at the Louvre. These roughly hewn, primitive depictions of the human form had enthralled him, yet, as the artist’s biographer John Richardson has written, ‘For the time being Picasso did not see how to harness their primitivism to his work. The months he was to spend in Spain in the summer would show him how to do so’ (Richardson, ibid., p. 428). In Gósol, Picasso was similarly captivated by a 12th Century wooden Romanesque Madonna that stood in the village church (now in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona). Together with the impact of the Iberian sculptures, as well as the numerous non-Western objects that Picasso had seen in Paris around this time, this sculpture led the artist to conceive of a new means of representing the human form, one that was freed from the traditions that had dominated art making since the Renaissance. As Tête de femme shows, Picasso began to simplify the physiognomy of the human face, no longer seeking to portray an exact likeness of the sitter but rather convey a sense of the form, volume and structure of her face. In this painting, the features of the female sitter, most likely Fernande, are stylised: her face and large almond-shaped eyes are flattened as she gazes with a passive, frozen stare that is almost mask-like in its motionless expression. This archaic yet timeless and statuesque depiction of the female form would continue to develop in Picasso’s work over the following months as he took an increasingly sculptural approach in the construction and modelling of the human body, stripping the female face of individuality and sentiment, and instead depicting it with depersonalised mask-like features.

In the middle of August, Picasso’s idyllic life high up in the Pyrenees was abruptly cut short. An outbreak of typhoid in the area meant that he and Fernande were forced to make the long and arduous journey back to Paris. Back in the stiflingly hot city, Picasso immediately returned to his work, painting in his dilapidated studio in the Bateau-Lavoir with an unwavering vigour and ceaseless energy. This was to be one of the most important periods of Picasso’s career and it was during this time that he most likely finished Tête de femme. He continued to transform the female figure into solid, volumetric forms, constructing the human body in sculptural geometric facets. These radical explorations found a final, groundbreaking resolution with Deux nus 1906 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), a painting completed in the late autumn that not only marked the culmination of this period of extraordinarily rapid transformation, but paved the way for the iconic Les Demoiselles dAvignon, 1907 (Museum of Modern Art, New York) of the following year. The words of John Richardson perfectly surmise this momentous period: ‘On his return from Gósol, Picasso put aside any doubts he may have had as to where he stood and where he was going…he had finally seen how primitivism could enable him to fuse the conflicts inherent in his style and vision…Picasso realised that he had the confidence, imagination and power to execute a masterpiece that would [in the words of Apollinaire] “free art from its shackles” and “extend its frontiers”; a painting that would provide artists of the new century a licence to take every conceivable liberty, break every conceivable rule and demolish even the ruins (Richardson, ibid., p. 474).

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