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 Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Quatre baigneuses

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Quatre baigneuses
signed and dated ‘Picasso 21’ (lower right)
oil on panel
4 x 6 in. (10 x 15.1 cm.)
Painted in 1921
John Quinn, New York (by July 1922).
Paul Rosenberg, New York (1926, then by descent); sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London, 3 July 1979, lot 23.
Heinz Berggruen, Paris.
Mike Nichols, New York (acquired from the above).
Acquired by the late owner, 1998.
M. Raynal, Picasso, Munich, 1921 (illustrated, pl. 61; dated 1922 and with incorrect medium).
A.H. Barr, Jr., Picasso: Fifty Years of his Art, New York, 1946, p. 117 (illustrated; titled Four Classic Figures).
M. Gieure, Initiation à l'oeuvre de Picasso, Paris, 1951, pp. 71 and 333 (illustrated, fig. 48).
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1951, vol. 4, no. 278 (illustrated, pl. 98; with incorrect medium).
F. Elgar and R. Maillard, Picasso, Paris, 1955 (illustrated).
B.L. Reid, The Man from New York: John Quinn and his Friends, New York, 1968, pp. 551-552 and 683, note 61 (titled Four Classic Figures).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso: From the Ballets to the Drama, 1917-1926, Cologne, 1999, p. 510, no. 1017 (illustrated, p. 269; titled Four Naked Bathers and with incorrect medium).
U. Weisner, ed., Picassos Klassizismus: Werke 1914-1934, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 1988, p. 323, no. 43a (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; The City Art Museum of Saint Louis; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Cincinnati Museum of Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; New Orleans, Isaac Delgado Museum; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute; Utica, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute; Durham, Duke University; Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Art Gallery; Milwaukee Art Institute; Grand Rapids Art Gallery; Hanover, Dartmouth College; Poughkeepsie, Vassar College; Wellesley College; Virginia, Sweet Briar College; Williamstown, Williams College; Bloomington, Indiana University Art Center Gallery; Alton, Monticello College and Maine, Portland Art Museum, Picasso: Forty Years of his Art, November 1939-April 1943, p. 103, no. 153 (illustrated; titled Four Classic Figures).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition, May-December 1957, p. 55 (illustrated; with incorrect medium).
New York, Duveen Brothers, Inc., Picasso: An American Tribute, April-May 1962, no. 14 (illustrated; with incorrect medium).
Seattle, Experience Music Project, DoubleTake: From Monet to Lichtenstein, April 2006-January 2007, p. 19 (illustrated in color; with incorrect medium).
Special notice
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Formerly in the collection of John Quinn and featured in Alfred H. Barr Jr.’s landmark retrospective of the artist held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1939, Picasso: Forty Years of his Art, Quatre baigneuses of 1921 presents a timeless, arcadian idyll, a vision of ancient Italy or Greece perhaps. While both style and subject matter would appear to seem at odds within the modernist avant-garde, Picasso’s Neo-Classicism was not only perfectly in keeping with the prevailing “Return to Order” that dominated the post-war art world, but at the same time, his daringly overt, sometime parodic, exaggerated embrace of this idiom at this time ensured that he continued to pave the way for his contemporaries. “By explicitly embracing history,” Michael Fitzgerald has written, “Picasso escaped the strictures of an increasingly rigid modernism to define a more vital alternative” (“The Modernists’ Dilemma: Neoclassicism and the Portrayal of Olga Khokhlova,” in Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 297).
At the time that Picasso painted Quatre baigneuses, his artistic imagination was steeped in the classical world of the past. Successive stays in the south of France in the preceding years, including Juan les Pins in 1920, meant that Mediterranean classicism had seeped in to his psyche, as he began producing depictions of nude men and women reclining on the beach, alone or in groups, in both oil paint, pastel, as well as pencil drawings.
These volumetric nudes reached their apogee in Picasso’s art the following year. More and more compositions flowed from Picasso’s hand, as he explored evermore complex arrangements of figures and gradually increased their size and form. As the present work demonstrates, Picasso transformed his bathers into weighty, monumental figures, their bodies enlarged and rounded, painted with dappled strokes that lend the sense they are carved from stone. In this way, Picasso formed his own Neo-Classical idiom, borrowing different parts of the antique in the creation of a novel aesthetic.
Carefully framed by the terracotta-colored walls, with an expansive vista stretching out beyond, Quatre baigneuses offers a window onto a faraway world—an escapist vision of a different era. At the time that Picasso painted the present work, his personal life was in the midst of change. In February 1921, his wife, Olga, had given birth to the couple’s first child, a son, Paul. A Russian-born ballet dancer whom Picasso had met when she was performing with the Ballets Russes in 1917, Olga had a clear vision of how she wanted her and her husband to live: as key members of the Parisian beau monde, holidaying in the fashionable south of France, and part of the social whirl of the city.
After Paul’s birth, Françoise Gilot later described, “Olga’s ambitions made increasingly greater demands on [Picasso’s] time… then began his period of what the French call le high-life, with nurse, chambermaid, cook, chauffeur and all the rest, expensive and at the same time distracting. In spring and summer they went to Juan-les-Pins, Cap d’Antibes, and Monte Carlo, where—as in Paris—Pablo found himself more and more involved with fancy dress balls, masquerades, and all the other high jinks of the 1920s, often in company with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, the Gerald Murphys, the Count and Countess Etienne de Beaumont, and other international birds of paradise” (quoted in J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years 1917-1932, New York, 2007, vol. III, p. 173). Gradually, the couple’s marriage deteriorated, and Picasso’s desire to be part of this bourgeois world waned. Regarded in this context, the present work can be seen as an escapist fantasy of an alternate realm.

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