Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Property of a Distinguished American Collector
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Femme assise (Françoise)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme assise (Françoise)
dated '19.3.53.' (upper right)
oil on canvas
8 ¾ x 6 3/8 in. (22.2 x 16.4 cm.)
Painted on 19 March 1953
Estate of the artist.
Marina Picasso, Geneva (by descent from the above).
Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva (acquired from the above).
Private collection, Johannesburg.
Jeanne Frank Art, Inc., New York.
Maggie Sheerin, San Antonio (acquired from the above, January 1986); Estate sale, Christie's, New York, 4 November 2004, lot 334.
Private collection, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2005.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

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

The Femme assise that Picasso painted on 19 March 1953 is Françoise Gilot—she characteristically wears her abundant tresses gathered into a chignon, and as the artist often depicted her, she is arrayed in green. Françoise was wearing a turban of this color when they first met in 1943. Picasso transformed her bouffant coiffure into large verdant leaves when he painted her in the spring of 1946 as La Femme-fleur (Zervos, vol. 14, no. 167). “You’re like a growing plant,” he remarked to his new amour (quoted in F. Gilot, with C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 119). Stark white against the surrounding darkness, Françoise’s oval face is a lunar presence; she remained for Picasso throughout their relationship a mysteriously feminine, intelligent, and often strong-willed queen of the night.
This painting is an unusual instance of Picasso executing two closely related versions of a subject in widely differing sizes. The larger portrait is Femme assise en costume vert, 1953 (Zervos, vol. 15, no. 242), measuring 36 x 28 inches (92 x 73 cm.), more than four times the height of the present picture. Which of the two canvases the artist completed first is unclear. Although he often created in series, Picasso rarely worked from a fully painted study to a much larger final version; in this case, however, having been pleased with this realization of a successful, impromptu idea in a small format, he may have then decided that a final, scaled-up elaboration was necessary. Picasso appears to have retained this smaller version as a keepsake, and perhaps even painted it as such, especially in light of events that transpired at this time.
By the beginning of 1953, the spell of the Mediterranean idyll that Picasso hoped to enjoy with Françoise and their two new children—Claude and Paloma—had clearly been broken, and their relationship was deteriorating. Françoise had learned that Picasso was having an affair with a woman in her early 20s; he nonetheless insisted that Françoise remain committed to keeping their family together, and pressured her to have a third child. She, on the other hand, wanted to pursue her own career as an artist. As if to emphasize his hold on her, Picasso painted numerous portraits of Françoise during the late winter and early spring of 1953, just before and after she went to Paris with the children to work on sets and costumes for Janine Charrat’s ballet Héraklès. Matters came to a head after she returned in late June; Françoise left the artist on 30 September, taking the children with her, for a new life on her own in Paris.

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