PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
2 More
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Femme assise dans un fauteuil

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Femme assise dans un fauteuil
signed 'Picasso' (lower right) and dated '4.1.42' (upper right); dated again '4.1.42' (on the reverse)
gouache on paper
12 x 16 in. (30.4 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted on 4 January 1942
Galerie Louise Leiris [Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler], Paris.
Shuzo Fukui, Osaka, by whom acquired from the above in 1952.
Private collection, Tokyo, by whom acquired from the above in 1993.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Tokyo, Takashimaya Nihonbashi, Picasso, August - September 1951, no. C.1, pp. 9 & 33 (illustrated, p. 32); this exhibition later travelled to Osaka, City Museum of Fine Arts, September - October 1951; Kurashiki, Ohara Museum of Art, October 1951; and Tokyo, Takashimaya Nihonbashi, November 1951.
Kyoto, City Museum of Art, Masterpieces of Western Art, February - March 1957, no. 155, p. 61.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

The portraits that Pablo Picasso painted in the years immediately before and during the Second World War stand are some of the most important of his career. These works not only presented a new form of portraiture that combined both a daring formal experimentation with a deep psychological resonance, but they also continue to serve as poignant expressions of the power of artistic creativity in the face of war.

Painted on 4 January 1942, during the long, dark years of the Occupation of Paris, Femme assise dans un fauteuil is one such work. Faced with the decision of fleeing France, Picasso ultimately chose to remain in the capital, his adopted home since the early 1900s. Here, he gradually closed himself off from the world of the avant-garde that he had inhabited, and, holed up in his large studio on the rue des Grands Augustins, continued to work with an indomitable power.

Featuring a female figure set within an angular, enclosed room, enthroned upon a simple wooden chair, Femme assise dans un fauteuil presents Picasso’s wartime paramour, the Surrealist artist, Dora Maar. Maar captured the artist’s imagination throughout the Occupation: she was the site onto which he projected and processed the devastating events of those years. At times harrowing, striking, and reverential, the visual power of these portraits owes much to the symbiotic creative relationship the pair shared: Maar was not simply a muse but an active participant in what proved to be a formidable artistic dialogue.

The sense of confinement in Femme assise dans un fauteuil can be felt in the painting’s restricted colour palette. Adorned in shades of vivid blue, Maar’s presence contrasts with the white and grey tonalities of her surroundings. With an armature of black lines to demarcate the space, Picasso has used a monochrome palette to emphasise the tight architectural aspects of the composition, a riff on the technique of painting en grisaille. This technique gained popularity in Europe during the fifteenth century as a means of creating the illusion of sculpture or architectural space, a tradition which Picasso continued in the present work. The artist had adopted a monochrome palette throughout his career, however, it was Guernica, (Zervos, vol. IX, no. 65)—Picasso’s iconic painterly response to brutal bombings of the Basque town by the Luftwaffe—in which the full power of monochrome was harnessed. Femme assise dans un fauteuil relies on similar pictorial strategies. Devoid of windows or doors, the claustrophobia evoked by the space mirrors that which the artist was experiencing in his beloved Paris.

That Picasso’s wartime portraits continue to resonate is precisely due to the lack of overt reference to contemporary events. Instead, he conjured the Occupation through a personal and subjective iconography. Yet even as the outside world grew ever bleaker, Picasso’s portraits serve as a record of his relationship with Maar and a powerful symbol of renewed creativity in the face of destruction. ‘It was not a time for the creative man to fail, to shrink, to stop working,’ Picasso explained after the Liberation, ‘there was nothing else to do but work seriously and devotedly, struggle for food, see friends quietly, and look forward to freedom’ (quoted in H. and S. Janis, ‘Picasso’s Studio,’ 1944 in M. McCully, ed., A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences, Princeton, 1981, p. 224).

More from 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale

View All
View All