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

Portrait de femme (Françoise Gilot)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Portrait de femme (Françoise Gilot)
dated ‘6 juillet 46’ (upper left)
pencil on paper
25 ¾ x 19 7/8 in. (65.6 x 50.3 cm.)
Drawn on 6 July 1946
Estate of the artist.
Jacqueline Roque Picasso, Mougins (by descent from the above).
Catherine Hutin-Blay, Paris (by descent from the above).
PaceWildenstein, New York.
Private collection, Florida.
Private collection, Cologne.
Private collection, Monte-Carlo.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2014.
New York, PaceWildenstein, Picasso and Drawing, April-June 1995, p. 119, no. 86 (illustrated).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. This is such a lot. This indicates both in cases where Christie's holds the financial interest on its own, and in cases where Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful.
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.
Post lot text
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Lot Essay

Among the most iconic of Pablo Picasso’s portraits, Portrait de femme (Françoise Gilot) is one of a joyous outpouring of works begun in the spring of 1946, in which the artist expressed his love for his new post-war muse, Françoise Gilot, immortalizing her captivating beauty with a startling simplicity of means. Framed by the swirling, looping waves of her flowing hair, the clear, oval form of her face radiates from the white sheet, her huge eyes soulful pools in the middle, and her expression an image of both devotion and self-assurance, love and independence. Gilot’s presence reinvigorated Picasso’s life and art, her youthful vitality ushering in a new period of intense creativity and personal contentment for the artist after the traumatic, dark years of war. In Picasso’s eyes, his young muse became the very embodiment of spring: “Her youth and vivacity, the chestnut color of her luminous eyes, and her intelligent and authoritative approach,” Roland Penrose described, “gave her a presence which was both Arcadian and very much of this earth” (R. Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, New York & London, 1973, p. 368).

A young artist, Françoise Gilot had first encountered Picasso in May 1943. During the seemingly interminable years of the Occupation of Paris, Picasso met Gilot by chance one evening at a Left Bank restaurant, Le Catalan. “As the meal went on”, Gilot recalled in her autobiography, Life with Picasso, “I noticed Picasso watching us, and from time to time acting a bit for our benefit… Finally, he got up and came over to our table. He brought with him a bowl of cherries and offered some to all of us, in his strong Spanish accent, calling them cerisses…” (F. Gilot & C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 14). Immediately captivated by Gilot, Picasso invited her to visit his studio and see his work. Over the following weeks, she returned on numerous occasions, and by the spring of the following year, their relationship had begun.

It was not until 1946, however, when Gilot officially joined Picasso’s life, that the full impact of her presence made itself felt in his art. Up until this time, the pair had been living apart, with Gilot resisting the artist’s pleas for her to leave her family and move into his rue des Grand-Augustins home. Following a stay in Golfe-Juan in the early spring of this year, and the final parting of Dora Maar, Gilot acquiesced, and went to live with the artist.

Picasso’s imagination was stimulated by Gilot’s close proximity, and from this point onwards, her image flooded his art. Gilot recounted how Picasso internalized her image: “‘I almost never work from a model, but since you’re here, maybe I ought to try’, he said to me one afternoon… He picked up a large sketching pad and made three drawings of my head. When he had finished, he studied the results, then frowned. ‘No good,’ he said. ‘It just doesn’t work.’ He tore up the drawings. The next day he said, ‘You’d be better posing for me nude.’ When I had taken off my clothes, he had me stand back to the entrance, very erect, with my arms at my side… Finally he said, ‘I see what I need to do. You can dress now. You won’t have to pose again’” (Gilot, ibid., p. 115).

At the end of April 1946, Picasso began a series of pencil portraits of Gilot. These continued at pace through May and into July, when he created the present work. This astonishing series—many of which, like the present work, Picasso kept for the rest of his life—shows the artist spellbound by his radiant muse: distilling her classically-featured visage, encompassing, unblinking gaze, and self-assured demeanor into a simplified combination of clear, undoubting lines. While she appears sometimes with her head resting upon her hand, nude, or wearing different, loosely sketched attires, in each work Picasso depicted Gilot frontally, hieratically posed, as if he was trying to decipher her powerful gaze and possess her through the language he knew best—art.

Picasso’s portrayals of Gilot were also undoubtedly influenced by his friendship and gentle rivalry with Henri Matisse. Gilot held a great admiration for Matisse and was overjoyed when, during their stay in Golfe-Juan at the beginning of 1946, Picasso suggested they go and visit him in Vence. Here, they found the artist immersed in his cut-outs, with a plethora of his famed line drawings affixed to the walls of his studio, together with his new, late canvases. At this time the couple’s relationship was still secret, so Picasso introduced Gilot as nothing more than a “young painter”. Matisse, no doubt realizing Gilot was more than just an acquaintance of Picasso, set about describing how he would portray her if he were to paint her portrait. Instantly protective of his lover and muse, Picasso responded, “‘But why would you make a portrait of her?’ ‘Because she has a head that interests me,’ Matisse said, ‘with her eyebrows sticking up like circumflex accents’”. They went on, as Gilot recounted: “’Really, that’s going pretty far’, he said. ‘Do I make portraits of Lydia [Delectorskaya]?... In any case,’” he told Gilot, “’now I know how I should make your portrait’” (Gilot, ibid., p. 99-100).

The resultant portrait was Picasso’s signature depiction of Gilot: La Femme-fleur (Zervos, vol. 14, no. 167; Private collection), which he completed in May 1946. Here, Gilot is transformed into a soaring flower, her body a stem replete with undulating orbs, depicted with the palette Matisse had suggested—a blue body with a leaf-green head—and constructed with a similar technique to his cut-outs. Yet, one also wonders if the outpouring of line drawings that Picasso began in April were also in some way inspired by the influence of Matisse’s prolific work in this medium—examples of which he would have seen in Vence. As the present work attests, Matisse’s words clearly impressed themselves into the artist’s mind, remaining at the forefront of his great series of line drawings. Pictured frontally, the unbroken outline of Gilot’s moon-shaped face is the central force of this drawing, and her left eyebrow is, as in all the works of this series, raised in exactly the shape Matisse described: a circumflex accent.

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