PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PICASSO’S ULTIMATE MUSE: PROPERTY SOLD TO BENEFIT PRIVATE FAMILY FOUNDATIONS
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Le modèle dans l'atelier

Details
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Le modèle dans l'atelier
signed ‘Picasso’ (lower right); dated and numbered '24.26.27.3.65. 7.4.65. VII' (on the reverse)
oil and Ripolin on canvas
18 1⁄4 x 21 5⁄8 in. (46.2 x 54.9 cm.)
Painted in Mougins from March - April 1965
Provenance
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne, by 1966.
Jeffrey Loria, New York.
Acquired from the above; sale, Sotheby’s, London, 5 February 2002, lot 28.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 25, Oeuvres de 1965 à 1967, Paris, 1972, no. 62, n.p. (illustrated pl. 37).
Exhibited
Lucerne, Galerie Rosengart, Picasso: Deux époques, Peintures 1960-65 et des 1934, 1937, 1944, Summer 1966, n.p. (illustrated; titled 'Le modèle').
Special notice
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay


‘Painting is stronger than I am,’ Pablo Picasso stated in a sketchbook dated February 1963 (quoted in M-L. Bernadac, ‘Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model,’ in Late Picasso, exh. cat., London, 1988, p. 49). It was not just the act of painting that compelled the artist throughout the final decades of his life, but its essential motifs and meanings formed the basis for his art at this time. An integral part of this was Picasso’s obsession with the motif of the artist and model. He returned to this subject time and time again, as if attempting to uncover the secret alchemy that lies at the heart of this artistic union, as living, breathing flesh is rendered with paint and brush, three-dimensional reality transformed into a two-dimensional illusion.

Painted in 1965, Le modèle dans latelier is among the finest of this important series. This richly worked, vibrantly coloured canvas is both a paean to the great art of painting, but also to the central muse in Picasso’s life at this time, Jacqueline Roque. While many of these works show the artist working with an economy of means, here, Picasso seems to delight in the material quality of paint, revelling in decorative patterning and applying colour with exuberant, impastoed brushstrokes.

‘Whether in variations on the old masters, or in depictions of the place of creation, or of the model, or of the painter,’ Marie-Laure Bernadac has written, ‘all the works of this period have to do with a single theme, that of painter and model. This theme enables [Picasso] to illustrate the mechanics of creation through the relationship between the three principal participants, the artist, the model and the canvas, i.e. the subjects, the object and the verb with all the thousand ways in which it can be conjugated. In this hand-to-hand struggle with painting, in this violent endeavour to resolve the eternal conflict between art and life, reality and illusion, it seems as if Picasso has found himself on the other side of the canvas, through the looking-glass, and identified himself with his object’ (ibid., p. 74).

With its richly patterned, boldly coloured setting, as well as the crossed-legged pose of Jacqueline, the present work is reminiscent of one of Picasso’s greatest series, the Femmes dAlger. Begun at the end of 1954 and completed in February of the following year, this group of fifteen works was inspired by Delacroix’s painting of the same name, which Picasso had frequently seen in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Borrowing the seductive atmosphere of exoticism and the motif of three odalisques, Picasso transformed this scene through his own distinct vision. Jacqueline sits enthroned on the far left of the final work, Version O, a radiant deity presiding over the artist and his work, just as she does in the present Le modèle dans latelier.

Matisse was never far from Picasso’s mind throughout their long careers. Just as the Femmes dAlger were in part an homage to the recently deceased artist and his love of the odalisque pictured in luxuriant, highly decorative settings, so the present work is also reminiscent of Matisse’s L’artiste et modèle, which he painted in Nice in 1919. Picturing himself seen from behind, seated as his easel with brush in hand, Matisse portrayed his nude model languidly reclining in front of him, in the midst of his richly coloured and patterned hotel room. Just as Picasso captures the act of painting itself, Matisse was similarly exploring in this work the various aspects that constituted his art and his identity as an artist.

Picasso inaugurated this artist and model series in February 1963 with a series of drawings (Zervos, vol. 23, nos. 122-127) that depict an artist in his studio, in the process of painting the nude model that reclines before him. This marked the beginning of an extraordinarily productive phase. Picasso’s friend, the writer Hélène Parmelin described the conception of this series, ‘In February 1963 Picasso broke loose. He painted “The painter and his model.” And from that moment he painted like a madman. Perhaps he will never paint again with such frenzy’ (Picasso Says…, London, 1966, p. 85).

Paintings endlessly flowed from Picasso’s hand over the following months and years, depicting myriad variations of the same subject: models in various reposes pictured both alone, or in front of the artist, set in detailed interiors, undefined spaces, or within bucolic, pastoral landscapes. ‘He painted four or five, six or seven canvases a day…,’ Parmelin recalled, ‘He was possessed by a sort of enormous hunger for painting. He painted a huge number because he painted rapidly. And that is by no means an obvious truism’ (ibid., p. 21).

In the present work, the painter is not depicted, his presence rendered through the easel that dominates the left hand side of the composition. Instead, it is the regally poised, dark haired, classically-featured nude model that serves as the sole protagonist. Her features and repose allow her to be immediately identified as the artist’s second and final wife, Jacqueline. The couple had married in 1961 and were at this time living in the capacious Notre-Dame-de-Vie in Mougins, near Cannes. Throughout these last years, termed by John Richardson as ‘L’Époque Jacqueline,’ Jacqueline served as a constant inspiration for the artist. The ultimate muse, as the present work shows, her image permeated every aspect of his art; she appears as every nude, every portrait, head or artist’s model of this time. The artist did not need to draw her from life, but with her constant presence, her image was indelibly imprinted on his mind.

While the motif of the artist and model dominated the artist’s late work, it had been an important theme throughout the entirety of Picasso’s career. Beginning in 1914 when he painted Le peintre et son modèle (Musée Picasso, Paris), it constantly reappeared – so much so that it is almost a genre in itself within Picasso’s oeuvre. Yet, these works are not mere depictions of the artist’s studio set up, nor records of his work. Indeed, the way that the artist presents the model, together with the painter, his palette and upright easel in fact belies the way in which he actually worked – without a palette, and often with the canvas lying flat. As such, these works transcend mere description to instead stand as an embodiment of the very art of creation, or as Bernadac has described, ‘an “epitome of a profession”’ (exh. cat., op. cit., 1988, p. 74). 

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