PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Femme dans l'atelier

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Femme dans l'atelier
signed and dated 'Picasso 5.4.56.' (upper right); dated again and numbered '5.4 56. I' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
23 5⁄8 x 28 5⁄8 in. (60 x 72.5 cm.)
Painted on 5 April 1956
Perls Gallery, New York.
Davlyn Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, by February 1976.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1966, vol. 17, no. 64 (illustrated, pl. 28).
Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Picasso: Peintures 1955-1956, March-April 1957, no. 29 (illustrated).
Special notice
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Lot Essay

Painted on 5 April 1956, Femme dans l'atelier provides a glimpse into the inner sanctum of Pablo Picasso’s private world. The scene is set in the artist’s studio in his home, La Californie, near Cannes in the south of France. With canvases stacked up against the wall, and the stylized form of a palm tree visible through the elongated window, it is the artist’s lover of the time, Jacqueline Roque, who presides over the space. Adorned in a green dress, she is seated in a wicker-backed rocking chair, directly facing the empty white canvas, a painting within a painting. It was Jacqueline who would come to dominate Picasso’s work of the following decades—to such an extent that this period was termed by John Richardson as L’Epoque Jacqueline. Here, Picasso has brought together the two dominant elements of his life—his muse and his art—in a singular meditation on the nature of artistic creation and his own identity as an artist.
Picasso moved to La Californie in the summer of 1955. A grand and ornate nineteenth-century art nouveau villa, it provided the perfect working and living space for the artist, who was immediately captivated by the flamboyance of the building, attracted to it “partly for its Orientalist air” (quoted in J. Richardson, Picasso: The Mediterranean Years, exh. cat., Gagosian, New York, 2010, p. 27). With airy, high ceilinged rooms, and large, ornamented windows that looked out onto gardens planted with palm trees, the spacious ground floor served as a studio, entertaining space, dining room and storage area for the artist and Jacqueline. Never before had Picasso had such a large space with which to fill a lifetime of his art, and soon, the rooms became filled not only with his work, but papers, possessions, costumes, trinkets, and ceramics; a feast of visual stimuli that the artist had amassed over the course of his life.
Not long after he had moved in, Picasso turned to his new surroundings as the inspiration for his art. In October 1955, he painted the first series of works that pictured a corner of the studio and one of the ornamental windows. Surrealist artist and friend of Picasso, Roland Penrose, described, “When Picasso bought La Californie, though he had seen it only by twilight, he realized that its most precious asset to him…was the light that penetrates into every corner of the house. He was happy at once in the luminous atmosphere of the lofty rooms, and as he had done before, he began to paint pictures inspired by the objects that lay around and the tall windows with their art nouveau tracery, through which a yellow-green is filtered by the branches of the palm trees. Day after day he saw his studio anew” (Picasso: His Life and Work, London, 1958, p. 358).
In the spring of the following year, Picasso began a second series of studio scenes, which includes the present work (Zervos, vol. 17, nos. 56-67). He started on 30 March with an expansive depiction of his studio (Musée national Picasso, Paris), which was followed by a second, more elaborately rendered depiction of the same scene (Private collection). A few days later, on 2 April, Picasso began to incorporate Jacqueline into these views. Seated in the couple’s favorite rocking chair, she appears in eight of these works, each one differing slightly from the next in terms of composition. Picasso told Penrose that he began this series on Easter Sunday, when he was unable to attend a bullfight due to torrential rain (ibid., p. 359).
These atelier paintings, or as Picasso called them, paysages d’intérieur, were part of an ongoing dialogue that the artist had kept with the memory of his old friend and rival, Henri Matisse, who had died in 1954. Following his monumental series, the Femmes d’Alger, Picasso’s studio scenes also make reference to Matisse, particularly his Vence interiors, including Nature morte aux grenades (Musée Matisse, Nice) and Intérieur avec rideau Égyptien (The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.), that he painted in 1946-1948. Picasso may have viewed some of these paintings, the last major group of canvases that he painted, in Matisse’s studio, and he also saw a group of them in a preview of the exhibition of his work in Paris in 1949. In particular, Nature morte aux grenades shares similar compositional motifs to the present work. The simplifed form of the palm tree—a quintessential feature of southern France—appears in both paintings, adding a decorative element to these interiors. Just as Jacqueline’s profile commands the room, so too in Matisse’s work, a loosely rendered female portrait hangs on the wall, presiding over the scene. Picasso employed the same striking use of black and white as Matisse in the construction of the overall composition, clearly looking to the work of his great rival in the creation of his paintings.
Constructed with flattened and patterned planes, and filled with a distinctly exotic air through the palm tree seen through the window, in his own atelier pictures, Picasso “appears to be attempting to create an environment, a spirit to which Matisse would have responded,” John Golding has written, “and this gives these pictures an elegiac cast that is rare in Picasso’s work. The windows, the palm trees and foliage beyond, read like Matissean quotes” (Matisse Picasso, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2002, p. 299). The addition, in the present work, of what Roland Penrose described as a Moorish charcoal burner further lends this composition a distinctly “Matissean” air.
With this 1956 series, Picasso may also have been alluding to the nineteenth-century master, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, particularly his late series of six atelier paintings executed in 1865-1872. Picasso had been an admirer of Corot’s figure paintings since his early cubist period, and he had been an important influence on the development of the artist’s Neo-Classical figure style during the late 1910s and early 1920s. When visiting Italy with Picasso in 1917, in conjunction with preparations for the ballet Parade, Jean Cocteau wrote of his friend’s interest in Corot: “Long live Corot!... Picasso speaks only of this master” (quoted in E. Cowling, Picasso, Style and Meaning, London, 2002, p. 309). Jacquelines profile view in the present work recalls that of Corot’s model in his atelier painting; Picasso painted her long hair swept back, in place of the gypsy headdress worn by the sitter in Corot’s picture. While he was working on his Femmes d’Alger variations, Picasso had delighted in the resemblance of Jacqueline’s left-side profile to the odalisque on the right-hand side in Eugène Delacroix’s painting. Here he seems to have drawn a similar analogy with the seated woman in Corot’s studio painting, this time in a pose facing the opposite direction.
In addition to Matisse and Corot, the austere, striking color palette of Femme dans l'atelier and the other works of this series pays homage to Picasso’s Spanish roots. “Strong contrasts of black and luminous white give a sensation of the whitewashed passages and the solemn seclusion of Spanish houses,” Penrose described (op. cit., 1958, p. 359). The black, white and ochre tones used to compose these works were reminiscent, the artist himself told Alfred Barr, of his fellow compatriot, Diego Velázquez (W. Rubin, Picasso in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1972, p. 179).

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