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 THE IRMA AND NORMAN BRAMAN ART FOUNDATION
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Joueur de flute et mangeur de pastèque

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Joueur de flute et mangeur de pastèque
signed 'Picasso' (upper right); dated and numbered '6.6.65. I' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
63 x 50 ¼ in. (160 x 130 cm.)
Painted on 6 June 1965.
Galerie Louise Leiris (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris (by 1974).
Private collection.
PaceWildenstein, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owners, 10 April 1998.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1972, vol. 25, no. 158 (illustrated, pl. 87).
C.-P. Warncke and I.F. Walther, Pablo Picasso, Cologne, 1992, vol. II, p. 634 (illustrated in color, p. 635).
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Jean Paulhan à travers ses peintres, February-April 1974, no. 663.
London, Waddington Galleries, Pablo Picasso, June-July 1987, p. 46, no. 16 (illustrated, p. 35).
Los Angeles, PaceWildenstein, Pablo Picasso, Works from the Estate and Selected Loans, January-March 1998.
Gainesville, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida (on extended loan, April 2012-2014).
Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Picasso, The Artist and His Models, November 2016-Feb 2017.
Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery (on extended loan, February-May 2017).
Durham, Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University (on extended loan, 2019).
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Lot Essay

Pablo Picasso painted the impressively scaled Joueur de flute et mangeur de pastèque on 6 June 1965, almost exactly half way through an already bountifully productive decade. Two years previously he had commenced his series of atelier paintings, in which he explored, in an astonishing number of iterations, the relationship between the artist and model, and the mysterious, magical, fundamental process of creativity that took place between the two. One of the groups that developed out of this landmark body of work was the mangeuses de pastèque, the watermelon eaters, painted during three days in April and May, and culminating with the present work that followed a few weeks later in June. This small series, described by Pierre Daix as a “theme full of happiness in vivacious and light colors,” stands out as particularly rare among the myriad painters and nude female figures that populate the artist’s prolific work of this period (Le Nouveau Dictionnaire Picasso, Paris, 2012, p. 548).
The idea of the Watermelon Eaters may be seen as a postscript related to Picasso's series inspired by Édouard Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, which occupied him for two years, from the first drawings he made in August 1959 to the final painting, among twenty-seven in all, that he completed on 19 August 1961 (Zervos, vol. 20, no. 119). Picasso had tackled Manet's subject not only on account of its status as the groundbreaking icon that premiered the modernist sensibility in painting, but also for the opportunities it offered in enabling him to move the nude out of Delacroix's Femmes d'Algers harem and into the landscape, taking on a theme—the harmonious idyll of humankind in nature—that had been a cornerstone of Western art since the Renaissance. Paul Cézanne had carried forth this tradition in his monumental late bathers, Pierre-Auguste Renoir in his late nudes, and Henri Matisse gave it a further modernist spin in his Joie de vivre of 1905-1906, and the famous murals Danse I and II, and La Musique of 1910.
In the present Joueur de flute et mangeur de pastèque, Picasso moved a step further away from Manet to create a painting that transports the viewer to a bucolic arcadian world. No longer is the male figure clothed, as in one of the earlier Watermelon works, but now both figures are nude, seated amidst a verdant green pasture, each happily engrossed in their tranquil activities. The flute-playing man would become a frequent motif in Picasso’s work of this period, often seen accompanying a nude woman or a nymph whom he is serenading with his melodious music. This playful figure is inspired by Pan, the god of shepherds, hunters, meadows and forests, whose home was Arcadia, and who was known for his potent virility.
This mythological male character had often appeared throughout the artist’s career, particularly in the years immediately following the Second World War. Returning to the south of France, it was in Antibes that Picasso first began to conjure an idyllic, fabled world, depicting images of dancing satyrs, pipe-playing fauns, nymphs and other fantastical figures. “It’s strange,” Picasso mused at the time, “in Paris, I never draw fauns, centaurs or heroes from mythology…it’s as if they live only here” (quoted in M. McCully, Picasso: Painter and Sculptor in Clay, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1998, p. 28). From this time on, these motifs became an integral part of Picasso’s personal mythology, appearing constantly in his sculpture, drawing, ceramics and lithographs, as well as his painting.
During the 1960s this bucolic imagery took center stage in Picasso’s art. “There are more paintings, and especially drawings, of couples disporting themselves in the country,” Gert Schiff has written, “but in the latter, ideal nudity replaces all remnants of contemporary nudity... Picasso celebrates the life of a primeval Arcadia. There are hoary elders drinking wine or conversing with well-built youths, mothers tenderly receiving the caresses of their cupid sons; fishermen; children riding donkeys and goats or playing with tame hawks and buzzards; boys lolling on the beach, playing pipes and eating melons... Here the old artist revives one last time that dream which Paul Gauguin had impressed so forcibly upon his generation: the flight from civilization” (Picasso: The Last Years, 1963-1973, exh. cat., The Grey Art Gallery, New York, 1983, pp. 26 and 28).
This cast of characters became Picasso’s Theatrum mundi, as Schiff described it, in the final decades of his life. Now happily immersed in Notre-Dame-de-Vie, his stately home outside Mougins in the south of France, where he lived with his beloved wife and final, great muse, Jacqueline, Picasso created a new world of fictional and imagined figures. His years of traveling back and forth between Paris and the south were over; indeed, save for a covert trip to the capital in November 1963 for an operation, Picasso rarely ventured further even than Mougins, preferring to entertain a special few at home. As a result, Notre-Dame-de-Vie became his entire world, peopled by the cavalcade of performers that flowed ceaselessly from his imagination. Painters become musketeers who in turn reappear as sailors as Picasso played with an array of male “types” that most often served as a stand in for himself.
Joueur de flute et mangeur de pastèque encapsulates Picasso’s late style. On a monumental scale, the artist has rendered these two figures with a deft language of pictorial signs combined with passages of rich, sweeping vibrantly colored brushstrokes. At this time, Picasso let his instinct drive him as he tried to beat the inexorable passage of time. He dispensed with deliberation, reflection, and refinement, and instead painted directly, according to his impulses, with a new urgency and speed. “I have less and less time,” he said in a moment of poignant honesty, “and I have more and more to say” (quoted in M.-L. Bernadac, “Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model,” in Late Picasso: Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings, Prints 1953-1972, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 85).
As if composed of collaged or cut out elements reminiscent of Matisse’s works of this type, the protagonists of the present work appear as assemblages of lines and visual patterns: their bodies a simplified arrangement composed of sweeps of rose colored paint, while fingers, toes, and physiognomy are all instantly identifiable, rendered with a playful array of strokes and dashes. Picasso explained his desire at this time to reduce the human form to its most essential components in a conversation with his friend, Hélène Parmelin. “I want to say the nude. I don’t want to make a nude like a nude… If I can find the way to say it, that’s enough. I don’t want to paint the nude from head to foot, but just be able to say it. That’s what I want. When we’re talking about it, a single word is enough. Here, one single look and the nude tells you what it is, without a word” (quoted in H. Parmelin, Picasso Says…, London, 1966, p. 91).

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