PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
signed '-P.R. Picasso-' (lower left)
pastel on board
14 x 14 7/8 in. (35.7 x 37.9 cm.)
Drawn in 1900
(probably) Jeanne Moch, Paris.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kahn Sriber, Paris (probably by descent from the above, 1963); sale, Christie's, London, 26 June 1995, lot 23.
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty at the above sale.
L. Payne, Essential Picasso, London, 1999, pp. 16-17 (illustrated in color; dated 1901).
Museo Picasso Malága, Picasso Horses, May-September 2010, p. 167 (illustrated in color, p. 101).
Post lot text
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

Corrida is one of the finest of a series of pastels on the theme of the bullfight that Pablo Picasso created in Barcelona in the summer of 1900. This dazzlingly colored work captures the drama of the corrida, as well as the intense heat of the Spanish summer. Bullfighting was one of Picasso’s greatest passions. From an early age, Picasso attended these events with his father and continued to frequent these contests throughout his life, visiting for the last time in the summer of 1970. It was not just the spectacle and entertainment of the bullfight that drew Picasso, but, as Roland Penrose described, “the ancient ceremony of the precarious triumph of man over beast... The man, his obedient ally the horse, and the bull were all victims of an inextricable cycle of life and death” (in R. Penrose and J. Golding, eds., Picasso 1881-1973, London, 1973, p. 170).
At the time that he produced the present work, Picasso was immersed in the avant-garde world of Barcelona. The artist had arrived back in the city from Madrid the previous year, having ended a brief period spent at the prestigious but traditional Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. In January 1900, he moved into his first proper studio with fellow painter Carles Casagemas, who would accompany him to Paris in the fall. The next month, he had the first solo exhibition of his career. Held at El Quatre Gats, the center of Catalan Modernisme, this show included as many as 150 portraits on paper that featured the leading figures of Barcelona’s bohemian world.
After the success of his show, Picasso turned his attention to Paris, the ultimate destination for any aspiring young artist at this time. Over the course of the spring and summer, he and Casagemas made plans for their trip; he wore down his father’s resistance to the idea and the pair acquired much-needed funds from Casagemas’s parents. At the same time, Picasso turned his eye to the subjects of contemporary life in Barcelona. From the theaters and cabarets on the Paralelo, to the brothels in Barri Xino, it was the new season of the bullfight, held in the recently built Plaza de los Armas, that captured Picasso’s imagination. He began a series of boldly colored depictions, including Corrida, principally in pastel, of this most Spanish of themes, capturing the spectacle, violence, and passion of these often gory performances.
These dazzling works marked a definite shift in Picasso’s art, as he left behind the darker palette of his previous work, and allowed the light and color of his native home to flood his work. “These works seem to reveal a complete renewal in Picasso’s spirit,” Josep Palau i Fabre has written, “either because the Quatre Gats show had somehow liberated him, or because he was looking forward so eagerly to his trip to Paris. These open-air spectacles, the bullring flooded with sunlight, are in violent contrast to the tenebrous paintings he had been doing so recently” (Picasso: Life and Work of the Early Years, 1881-1907, London, 1981, p. 192).
Corrida demonstrates Picasso’s already confident handling of pastel at this time. Here, he employed passages of saturated, intense color to depict his bullfight scenes: the ring becomes a blazing band of red, framing the dramatic moment the bull rears towards another figure and is impaled, the golden coats of the two matadors gleaming under the intense azure sky. “Never before had Picasso done his afición such credit,” John Richardson has written. “These scorched bullfight scenes are a tremendous advance not only in bravura but in color. This is now as shrill and sharp as the trumpets heralding the rush of the bull into the ring. Picasso has finally discovered how to paint light” (A Life of Picasso, 1881-1906, New York, 1991, vol. 1, p. 151).
In their use of color, Richardson continued, these bullfighting scenes, “recall the high key of El Greco’s mannerist palette. The polarity that now develops in Picasso’s color is essentially Greco-like, essentially Spanish: monochrome and halftones on the one hand, and acid brilliance on the other. Henceforth he will zigzag—not just from dark sickrooms to sunlit bullfights but from the Blue period to the Rose period, from cubist monochrome to the local color of labels and posters, from the grisaille of Guernica to the Day-Glo maquillage of certain Dora Maars” (ibid., p. 151). Picasso continued to use pastel in Paris, executing works with the same vibrant colors that can be seen in the present pastel, as well as darkened scenes that reveal the shadowy underside of modern life in Montmartre.
In July 1900, Picasso exhibited four bullfight pastels—there is no record of which ones—at El Quatre Gats, where they elicited a glowing review in the local paper Las Noticias. “The effect of the blinding light beating down on the rows of seats is unbelievable: so are the silhouettes of the bullfighters and the clusters of spectators in the stands” (quoted in ibid., p. 154). The popular reception of these works continued when Picasso arrived in Paris. The Catalan painter Ricard Canals had recently won favor in France with his picturesque Spanish scenes, and Picasso packed his own corrida pastels with him when he set out for the capital. “He was not going to arrive in the city where he hoped to find fame,” Richardson has noted, “without saleable samples of his work” (ibid., p. 153).
The present work was once in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kahn Sriber, who, over the course of their lives, acquired an important and extensive group of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century works, including Vincent van Gogh’s La nuit étoilée, which they donated to the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

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