PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
4 More
Property from the Jan Krugier Collection
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Nature morte à la fenêtre

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Nature morte à la fenêtre
dated ’18-1-XXXII’ (on a section of the original stretcher affixed to the backing board)
oil on canvas
51 x 63 7/8 in. (129.7 x 162.3 cm.)
Painted on 18 January 1932
Estate of the artist.
Marina Picasso, Paris (by descent from the above).
Jan Krugier, Geneva (acquired from the above).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1955, vol. 7, no. 374 (illustrated, pl. 163).
T. Bezzola, Picasso: His First Museum Exhibition, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich, 2010, pp. 208 and 244, no. 208 (illustrated in color, p. 244).
Paris, Galeries Georges Petit, Picasso: 1901-1932, June-July 1932, p. 69, no. 219.
Kunsthaus Zürich, Picasso Retrospektive: 1901-1932, September-October 1932, p. 15, no. 208.
Venice, Centro di Cultura di Palazzo Grassi, Picasso: Opere dal 1895 al 1971 dalla Collezione Marina Picasso, May-July 1981, p. 319, no. 211 (illustrated in color, p. 116; illustrated again, p. 319).
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Cologne, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle; Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie and Kunsthaus Zürich, Pablo Picasso: Eine Ausstellung zum hundertsten Geburtstag, Werke aus der Sammlung Marina Picasso, February 1981-March 1982, pp. 105 and 328, no. 163 (illustrated in color, p. 105).
Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art and Kyoto, Municipal Museum, Picasso: Masterpieces from Marina Picasso Collection and from Museums in U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., April-July 1983, pp. 110 and 272, no. 127 (illustrated in color, p. 110).
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria and Sidney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Picasso, July-December 1984, p. 108, no. 99 (illustrated in color).
New York, William Beadleston, Inc., Through the Eye of Picasso, 1928-1934: The Dinard Sketchbook and Related Paintings and Sculpture, October-December 1985, no. 71 (illustrated in color).
Tokyo, Seibu Art Forum and Ohtsu, Seibu Hall, Pablo Picasso: Collection Marina Picasso, November 1990-January 1991, no. 18 (illustrated in color).
Kunstmuseum Basel, Canto d'Amore: Klassizistische Moderne in Musik und bildender Kunst, 1914-1935, April-August 1996, pp. 289 and 505, no. 100 (illustrated in color, p. 289).
Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie, Picasso: Die Umarmung, October 2000-December 2000, p. 168, no. 67 (illustrated in color, p. 169).
Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie., Pablo Picasso Metamorphoses: Œuvres de 1898 à 1973 de la collection Marina Picasso, March-June 2001, p. 124, no. 59 (illustrated in color, pp. 54-55; not for sale).
Kunstmuseum Bern, Picasso und die Schweiz, October 2001-January 2002, p. 370, no. 104 (illustrated in color).
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Pablo Picasso Metamorphoses: Works from 1898 to 1973 from the Marina Picasso Collection, May-July 2002, p. 124, no. 59 (illustrated, pp. 54-55; not for sale).
Vienna, Albertina Museum, Goya bis Picasso: Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, April-August 2005, p. 346, no. 150 (illustrated in color, p. 347).
Munich, Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge Von Rembrandt bis Picasso: Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, July-October 2007, p. 384, no. 184 (illustrated in color, p. 385; illustrated in color on the cover).
Art Basel, Tribute to Jan Krugier, June 2009 (not for sale).
Paris, Musée national Picasso, Picasso 1932, October 2017-February 2018, pp. 29-30 and 228, no. 7 (illustrated in color, p. 29).
London, Tate Modern, Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy, March-September 2018, pp. 53 and 260 (illustrated in color, p. 53; illustrated in situ in the 1932 exhibition at Galeries Georges Petit, Paris).
Sale room notice
Please note that the present lot is displayed with a loaner frame for the exhibition, which is available for purchase.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

Over the course of 1932 Pablo Picasso reached an extraordinary pitch of creativity in his paintings, inspired by the sensuous forms of his young lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Brought together by a fortuitous, chance encounter on the streets of Paris five years previously, the pair embarked on a passionate, heady affair that would inspire some of Picasso’s most celebrated works, with Marie-Thérèse’s classical profile, voluptuous curves and short, cropped hair coming to dominate every aspect of his creative output. Painted during the opening weeks of 1932, Nature morte à la fenêtre is one of the first canvases to emerge in an exceptional series of paintings devoted to Marie-Thérèse. Simultaneously looking back to the monumental plaster busts that had occupied the artist over the course of 1931, and forwards to the great outpouring of sensual nudes that would emerge later that spring, Nature morte à la fenêtre holds a pivotal place within the story of Picasso’s annus mirabilis.
The origins of Picasso’s love affair with Marie-Thérèse can be traced back to the early evening of 8 January 1927, when the artist walked up and introduced himself to her in front of the Galeries Lafayette department store. “You have an interesting face. I would like to do a portrait of you,” Picasso reportedly told her. “I feel we are going to do great things together” (quoted in J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, New York, 2007, vol. 3, p. 323). Picasso was deeply struck by her sensual physicality, statuesque beauty and youthful exuberance, and arranged to meet her again two days later, at the Saint-Lazare metro station. “I went there, just like that, because he had such a pleasant smile,” Marie-Thérèse remembered, explaining that she had initially been drawn to the fashionable tie he had been wearing when they met (quoted D. Widmaier Picasso, “Marie-Thérèse Walter and Pablo Picasso: New Insights into a Secret Love,” in Pablo Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter: Between Classicism and Surrealism, exh. cat., Graphikmuseum Pablo Picasso, Münster, 2004, p. 29).
This legendary encounter came at a pivotal turning point in Picasso’s life. Increasingly disillusioned by the haute-bourgeois existence that his wife, the Ukrainian-born ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, had cultivated for them in Paris, Picasso was growing restless. Seeking new inspiration, he had become fascinated by the mythical amour fou promoted by André Breton and the Surrealists, a passionate love that would strike suddenly, and consume the beholder. When the tall, blonde, blue-eyed young woman passed him on the street that fateful day, the artist believed he had found such a paramour. However, propriety and Olga’s jealous nature forced the pair to embark upon a clandestine affair, centered around furtive meetings and love letters passed in secret. Indeed, when asked years later what the first image was that sprang to mind when the artist’s name was mentioned, Marie-Thérèse replied “Secrecy. This was because my life with him was always concealed. I was calm and tranquil. We didn’t tell anyone. We were happy like that, and that was enough for us” (quoted in P. Cabanne, “Picasso et les joies de la paternité,” in L’Oeil, no. 226, May 1974, p. 7).
Though Picasso recorded her portrait in several naturalistic drawings during the early stages of their relationship, in his paintings Marie-Thérèse remained hidden. The earliest references to her appear in a private pictorial code, known only to the artist and his lover. In some paintings, she is identified purely through her initials, inscribed on the canvas and intertwined with the artist’s own, in an elusive monogram that would remain a mystery for many years. Picasso took great pleasure in playing such visual games with Marie-Thérèse’s identity, the meaning of which could only be deciphered by him. Slowly, however, her silhouette began to infiltrate his paintings, in sinuous, abstracted lines that converge and overlap, or transformed into a bowl of ripe fruit, or an overflowing vase of flowers. As the 1930s dawned, Marie-Thérèse became evermore present in his work, the sensual curves of her body revealing themselves uninterrupted on his canvases. Never before had Picasso’s art radiated such passionate, heady eroticism—from delicate drawings, to monumental canvases, to grand plaster sculptures, Marie-Thérèse became the very foundation of every aspect of Picasso’s artistic output.
Françoise Gilot, who became acquainted with Marie-Thérèse during her own relationship with the artist, later wrote: “She had a very arresting face with a Grecian profile… Her forms were handsomely sculptural, with a fullness of volume and a purity of line that gave her body and her face an extraordinary perfection. To the extent that nature offers ideas or stimuli to an artist, there are some forms that are closer than others to any artist’s own aesthetic and thus serve as a springboard for his imagination. Marie-Thérèse brought a great deal to Pablo in the sense that her physical form demanded recognition. She was a magnificent model” (F. Gilot and C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, pp. 235 and 241-242).
In 1930 Picasso bought the seventeenth-century Château de Boisgeloup near Gisors in Normandy, a secluded, private property that would quickly become a refuge for the artist. Set within extensive, but sheltered land, Boisgeloup was only accessibly by car, reducing the likelihood of unwelcome visitors, prying acquaintances or admirers. On the weekends, Olga would travel down from the family apartment on rue la Boétie to play the role of chic châtelaine. Once she had departed and returned to Paris, Marie-Thérèse would bicycle in, and she and Picasso would spend a joyful week together, holed up in their blissful refuge. This setup suited Marie-Thérèse—as she told Lydia Gasman in an interview almost four decades later, she had no desire to play the role of the lady of the house, but was happy to be there when she could, desiring nothing more than to spend time with her lover.
Escaping the pressures of his personal and professional life in Paris, and exposed to extended periods of time in Marie-Thérèse’s company, Picasso’s creativity flourished, ushering in a period of extraordinary productivity that would lead to some of his most celebrated works. “It was really only in 1931,” Robert Rosenblum has written, “that Marie-Thérèse… could at last emerge from the wings to center stage, where she could reside as a radiant deity, in new roles that changed from Madonna to sphinx, from odalisque to earth mother. At times her master seems to worship humbly at her shrine, capturing a fixed, confrontational stare of almost supernatural power; but more often, he... quietly captures his beloved reading, meditating, catnapping or surrendering to the deepest abandon of sleep” (Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 342).
In particular, Picasso threw himself into the production of sculpture at Boisgeloup, a medium he had not investigated extensively for nearly two decades. Setting up a dedicated sculpture studio in the château’s cavernous stables, he began a series of monumental works in plaster, working on carved reliefs and volumetric busts, each devoted to the poised, elegant features of Marie-Thérèse. According to Roland Penrose, Picasso had happened upon the idea for this series one evening while working in the stables by the light of a kerosene lamp. Among the dramatic shadows cast by this singular light-source, he spied the profile of his beloved Marie-Thérèse, sprung from the wire constructions he was working on. “Picasso was delighted at this projection from an otherwise indecipherable mass. But he said, ‘I went on, added plaster and gave it its present form… When you work you don’t know what is going to come out of it. It is not indecision, the fact is it changes while you are at work’” (Picasso: His Life and Work, London, 1958, pp. 243-244).
Ranging from realistic portraits, to abstracted, volumetric renderings, the sculptures that emerged in the aftermath of this fateful evening each emphasize Marie-Thérèse’s classic profile, her high cheekbones, wide eyes, and the beautiful straight line formed by her nose and forehead, a feature that Picasso found particularly captivating. Embracing a new sense of mass and volume, works such as Buste de femme (Spies, no. 131) and the two Tête de femme (Spies, nos. 132 and 133) offered an imposing vision of Marie-Thérèse’s physiognomy, at times exaggerating certain features, such as the fullness of her lips or the line of her nose to imbue her form with a heightened sensuality and eroticism. In photographs of the stable studio at Boisgeloup from the end of 1932, the sculptures appear in dynamic pairings and groupings, capturing a sense of Picasso’s experimental approach to the familiar volumes of Marie-Thérèse’s face, as he explored a stylized conception of femininity that pushed beyond pure likeness.
While these plaster works occupied Picasso intensely through the late spring and early summer of 1931, by the end of the year he had turned his attention to painting once again. Nevertheless, the relationship between sculpture and painting, artist and subject, remained firmly lodged in his mind, and these monumental busts soon began to appear as protagonists in Picasso’s canvases. In La Lampe (Zervos, vol. 7, no. 347; Private collection), the artist trained his eye on the stables at Boisgeloup, capturing a view through the open door of one of the monumental sculptures, dramatically lit by a single lamp. Alongside several drawings depicting a sculptor at work, Picasso completed Le Sculpteur (Zervos, vol. 7, no. 346; Musée national Picasso, Paris) in December, in which an artist sits and contemplates two different visions of the female body he has created. Here, the female bust boldly returns the male figure’s gaze, imbuing the inanimate object with a new presence and sense of character that seems to invoke Marie-Thérèse’s very being.
In the present Nature morte à la fenêtre, painted just a month later, the sculpted bust is moved into a more formal still-life arrangement, sitting alongside a table filled with fruit and the long stems of a philodendron plant. Nature morte aux tulipe (Zervos, vol. 7, no. 376; Private collection) and Nature morte: buste, coupe et palette (Musée national Picasso, Paris) from early March both continue this theme, before giving way to Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (Private collection), in which the sculpture of Marie-Thérèse appears as a silent sentinel, watching over the flowing forms of a reclining nude. Here, Picasso’s paramour is depicted both as a living body and a sculpted object, perhaps a nod to the myth of Pygmalion, the controlled lines of the bust contrasting against the fluidity of the nude’s curves.
In Nature morte à la fenêtre, Picasso takes one of the more classical of the Boisgeloup sculptures as inspiration—Marie-Thérèse appears as a graceful, feminine figure, her profile a series of soft, flowing lines, without any exaggerated volumes or distortions. Placed atop a tall, wooden plinth, she enjoys an elevated viewpoint from which to gaze over the simple still life on the table, appearing as a serene and composed vision against the subtly variegated light of the window. Each of the elements within the scene appears to hint towards an aspect of Marie-Thérèse’s character, from the sinuous curvature of the jug and softly rounded fruit which may be read as an allusion to her voluptuous form, to the vibrant green leaves of the philodendron, which spring from the vase with a vitality and brightness, that reflects her own youthful exuberance. Indeed, Brigitte Léal has written that Marie-Thérèse “incarnated a wild beauty, a sporty and healthy beautiful plant” (op. cit., exh. cat., 1996, p. 387).
The broad, open leaves of the philodendron plant appeared in a number of seminal paintings from these years, fascinating Picasso with its “overwhelming vitality.” “He once left [a philodendron] that had been given to him in Paris in the only place where it would be sure to have plenty of water while he was away in the south,” Roland Penrose explained. “On his return he found it had filled the little room with luxuriant growth and also completely blocked the drain with its roots” (op. cit., p. 268). While Picasso had included representations of philodendron stems and leaves in his welded metal sculpture La femme au jardin, 1929 (Spies, no. 72), the plant would take center stage in the artist’s canvases of this year, its sprawling vines alternately contained as in the present work, or allowed to sprout freely from the reclining female figure in both Nude, Green Leaves and Bust and Nu au fauteuil noir (Zervos, vol. 7, no. 377; Private collection).
There is a quiet stillness within Nature morte à la fenêtre, a reflection perhaps of Marie-Thérèse’s ongoing presence in the artist’s life at Boisgeloup, and the simple rhythms of their days together, reading, working, making love, in the secluded surroundings of the chateau. This private, easy way of life would provide an essential counterpoint to the stresses that would consume the artist through the spring, as he prepared to stage the most important exhibition of his career thus far. On 15 June 1932, Picasso: 1901-1932 opened at the Galeries Georges Petit in Paris with a lavish white-tie preview. Reporting on the event, the writer for Paris Soir proclaimed: “So many people! A true Parisian soirée, by which I mean cosmopolitan, with every language being spoken. Ministers, bankers, famous artists, beautiful women—yesterday evening a glittering crowd attended the private view of Picasso’s greatest exhibition to date” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2018, p. 240).
In the lead up to the exhibition’s vernissage, newspaper reports claimed the artist would skip the opening night in favor of an evening at the movies: “I’ve been hooking these things on the wall for six days now,” Picasso is reported to have said, “and I’ve had enough of them” (quoted in M.C. FitzGerald, Making Modernism: Picasso and the Creation of the Market for Twentieth-Century Art, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1995, p. 193). This nonchalant response belied the importance Picasso placed on the success of this exhibition, and the time and energy he had personally devoted to its realization. The show would prove a watershed moment in his career—by the end of the summer, over eighty reviews of the exhibition would be published in French, Spanish, German and American newspapers, cementing Picasso’s international reputation and proclaiming him as one of the greatest living artists in the world.
In many ways, Picasso’s own intense involvement with the exhibition and its planning appears to have been a reaction to his long-held professional rivalry with Henri Matisse, who a year previously had enjoyed an exhibition in the same space, dedicated to the artist’s sumptuous Nice paintings of the 1920s. Determined that his master showing be larger than that given to Matisse, Picasso aimed to present a complete survey exhibition, which offered a balanced representation of his entire career, culminating in a dazzling series of his most recent works. To this end, the artist arranged loans from his most loyal private collectors, and drew heavily on his own collection, resulting in a final total of 225 paintings, seven sculptures and six illustrated books being included in the exhibition.
According to the catalogue preface, Picasso: 1901-1932 was intended to offer an encyclopedic view of Picasso’s career, with representative works from each individual phase of his art. However, the selection of works was often unexpected, with Picasso choosing to showcase certain periods with a large number of compositions, while others were circumnavigated almost entirely, referenced by just a handful of works. A large portion of the show was dedicated to the artist’s most recent paintings, created in a great fervor during the months leading up to the opening. For the most part, these large, colorful compositions were created with the Petit exhibition in mind, leading the art historian Margaret Scolari Barr to remark that the exhibition was “in part a retrospective but full of recent pictures” (“Our Campaigns: Alfred H. Barr and the Museum of Modern Art: A Biographical Chronicle of the Years 1930-1944,” New Criterion, Special Issue, Summer 1987, p. 29).
Indeed, when Picasso: 1901-1932 opened, there were no fewer than eighteen works dating from the first four months of 1932 on show, including Nature morte à la fenêtre, which was prominently hung in the Grande Salle, directly above Femme dans un fauteuil (Le rêve) (Zervos, vol. 7, no. 364; Private collection). Eschewing the traditional conventions of display, in which equally spaced paintings arranged sequentially tracked a progressive evolution of style within an artist’s work, Picasso instead chose to group pictures from various time periods and techniques together, creating a non-linear view of his oeuvre as old and new works intertwined across the display.
As they meandered through the exhibition space, visitors could not help but notice the overwhelming presence of Picasso’s mysterious blonde muse—though peppered throughout the show, the sheer number and sensual allure of the compositions devoted to Marie-Thérèse made it clear that a new woman had arrived in the artist’s life. However, it would be decades before her identity was publicly revealed, and their love affair continued on in secret through the 1930s. Nature morte à la fenêtre was among the paintings which travelled to Switzerland later that year, when the exhibition moved to the Kunsthaus Zürich in the autumn, for Picasso’s inaugural museum show. The painting then returned to the artist’s personal collection, where it remained for the rest of his life, hidden from view until the 1980s.

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