PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Portrait de Françoise

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Portrait de Françoise
colored wax crayons on paper
25 3⁄4 x 19 7⁄8 in. (65.5 x 50.5 cm.)
Drawn in 1946
Estate of the artist.
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
Saidenberg Gallery, New York.
Waddington Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1989.
Further details
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Vibrantly-colored, Portrait de Françoise belongs to a series of large-scale, frontal portraits, executed in crayon or pencil, that Picasso produced at the height of his relationship with Françoise Gilot in the mid-1940s. As with Picasso’s previous romantic partners, Gilot exerted an enormous influence over his artistic production; her undeniable physical beauty and her strong personality frequently found form in his work. As Roland Penrose wrote of Gilot, “Her youth and vivacity, the chestnut color of her luminous eyes, and her intelligent and authoritative approach gave her a presence which was both Arcadian and very much of this earth” (Picasso: His Life and Work, New York and London, 1973, p. 368).
Gilot was herself an aspiring painter when she met the infamous, sixty-one-year-old Picasso in May 1943, during the German Occupation of Paris. By 1946, France had been liberated and Gilot had moved into Picasso’s apartment and studio on the rue des Grand-Augustins. There, she began to pose for him in a series of painted, drawn and printed portraits, including Portrait de Françoise. Over the course of their decade-long partnership, Picasso and Gilot lived and worked together in Paris, as well as the South of France. They also had two children together: Claude and Paloma, who are similarly represented in Picasso’s oeuvre of the 1940s and early 1950s.
Gilot ultimately left Picasso in 1953—famously, the only woman to reject the charismatic and successful inventor of Cubism. Several years later, she published a memoir, Life with Picasso, recounting her tumultuous relationship with the artist. Gilot concluded the memoir by summarizing the pleasure and sorrow she experienced alongside him: “Pablo told me, that first afternoon I visited him alone, in February 1944, that our relationship would bring light into both our lives. My coming to him, he said, seemed like a window that was opening up and he wanted it to remain open. I did, too, as long as it let in the light. When it no longer did, I closed it, much against my own desire. From that moment on, he burned all the bridges that connected me to the past I shared with him. But in doing so, he forced me to discover myself and thus to survive. I shall never cease being grateful to him for that” (Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 367).
In her memoir, Gilot also recalled Picasso’s erotic and creative impulse to capture her likeness in the halcyon days of their affair:‘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.’… Finally he said, ‘I see what I need to do. You can dress now. You won’t have to pose again’” (quoted in ibid., p. 115). Picasso committed Gilot’s visage to memory, and continued to reimagine her in pencil, crayon, oil paint, lithograph and ceramic.
Portrait de Françoise is an exceptionally bright, energetically-patterned portrait, which combines sinuous swirls with staccato dashes and linear strokes of crayon. Even the negative space of the sheet is animated by ‘X’ marks. Picasso has rendered her with full, pouted lips, brilliant eyelashes, and thick curly hair. Yet Gilot’s fulsome features have been radically fragmented and geometricized. Her eyes, nose, cheeks, and chin are articulated with bold primary and secondary colors: yellow, green, red, and blue. Picasso heavily reinforced certain lines of her face, including the contour of her cheek and the central bones of her long, slender neck and nose—as if to emphasize the solidity and strength of his subject.
While Portrait de Françoise demonstrates the playful, abstract qualities of Picasso’s mid-career draftsmanship, this sheet also possesses a more serious, hieratic quality. Gilot assumes a strictly frontal posture and a serene expression. She meets the viewer’s gaze with a warm intensity and a proud, dignified bearing. In this way, Picasso’s crayon drawing conveys all the gravitas of a gilded Byzantine icon or an early Italian Renaissance portrait.

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