Picasso’s sculpture Shifting the paradigm

Picasso’s sculpture: Shifting the paradigm

A closer look at six of the artist’s sculptures offered in our Impressionist & Modern Day Sale on 13 May at Christie’s New York

Pablo Picasso: the name of the Spanish art figure immediately conjures images of his Cubist portraits; his Blue and Rose periods; Guernica, his masterpiece of 1937, and even the success of his works at auction, which includes the record price for a work at auction, set in 2015 with his Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955). With approximately 4,500 paintings in his canon, not surprisingly, much interest has centred on his two-dimensional painted illusions.

Ironically for such a public figure, Picasso kept a good portion of his artistic focus quiet. His sculptures, around 700 of them in total, were akin to his best kept secrets — he prized these works and incorporated them into his home and daily life. Six of these rare sculptures from the 1940s and 1950s will be offered in our Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on 13 May at Christie’s New York.

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Femme debout, 1945. Bronze with dark brown patina. Height 9 14 in. (23.4 cm.) Estimate $80,000–120,000. This work is offered in our Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on 13 May at Christie’s New York
Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Femme debout, 1945. Bronze with dark brown patina. Height: 9 1/4 in. (23.4 cm.) Estimate $80,000–120,000. This work is offered in our Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on 13 May at Christie’s New York

Picasso’s sculptures began to emerge after their first public appearance in 1966, at the large Paris retrospective Hommage à Picasso. This was followed by The Sculpture of Picasso at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in 1967, the first major exhibition in America to showcase a significant portion of his sculptures, and yet Picasso’s three-dimensional offerings subsequently fell back under the radar.

That was true until this year when the MoMa focused on the connection between Picasso’s flat and interruptive productions in Picasso Sculpture, which was on show from September 2015 until February of this year. Despite his lack of formal training, the embedded emotion and movement of Picasso’s paintings found their way into his sculpture, and his mastery in transforming such seemingly rigid material made his manifestations far more than simple experiments. They were art.

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Femme assise, 1953. Bronze with dark brown patina. Height 8 78 in. (22.8 cm.) Estimate $200,000–300,000. This work is offered in our Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on 13 May at Christie’s New York
Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Femme assise, 1953. Bronze with dark brown patina. Height: 8 7/8 in. (22.8 cm.) Estimate $200,000–300,000. This work is offered in our Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on 13 May at Christie’s New York

Six bronze sculptures of women lead the Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale and evidence the extent of his playfulness. In particular, Femme assise — an iteration of the amphora form created by remoulding and pinching until he was satisfied — offers so much more than its ceramic core. Picasso literally takes ownership of this work: his fingerprints are imprinted on the cast, leaving an indelible mark on the piece, his legacy and the history of art.