Upcoming Auctions and Events

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
3 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Homme au chapeau assis

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Homme au chapeau assis
dated '16.2.72. Miercoles’ (on the reverse)
oil and Ripolin on canvas
57 ¼ x 44 7/8 in. (145.5 x 114 cm.)
Painted in Mougins on Wednesday 16 February 1972
The artist’s estate (no. 13852).
Claude Picasso, Paris, by descent from the above.
The Pace Gallery, New York.
Private collection, New York.
PaceWildenstein, New York.
Acquired from the above in 2001, and thence by descent to the present owner.
R. Alberti, Picasso, Le rayon ininterrompu, Paris, 1974, no. 138, p. 237 (illustrated n.p.; titled 'Homme assis').
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 33, Oeuvres de 1971-1972, Paris, 1978, no. 319 (illustrated pl. 113).
W. Spies, ed., Pablo Picasso, Die zwei Geschwindigkeiten im Spätwerk, exh. cat., Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, 2004, p. 29 (illustrated).
W. Spies, ed., Picasso, Malen gegen die Zeit, exh. cat., Albertina, Vienna, 2006, p. 33 (illustrated fig. 21).
W. Spies, ‘The Continent Named Picasso’, in T.W. Gaehtgens, ed., Werner Spies: The Eye and the Word, Collected Writings on Art and Literature, New York, 2011, p. 338 (illustrated).
H. & A. Bastian, Picasso, Die Freiheit der späten Werke, exh. cat., Galerie Céline und Heiner Bastian, Berlin, 2011, no. 15, pp. 49 & 72 (illustrated).
‘Chefs-d’oeuvre du musée Frieder Burda à Aix-en-Provence’, in Connaissance des Arts, no. 536, Paris, 2012, p. 13 (illustrated).
Stiftung Frieder Burda, ed., Ensemble: Centre Pompidou-Museum Frieder Burda, exh. cat., Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, 2019, p. 174 (illustrated p. 175).
B. Schoog, Von Mougins nach Baden-Baden, Frieder Burda und die Kunst, Berlin, 2019, no. 54, p. 223 (illustrated pl. 54).
Avignon, Palais des Papes, Picasso, 1970-1972, 201 Peintures, May - September 1973, no. 176, p. 232 (illustrated p. 204; titled 'Homme assis').
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Picasso, 200 capolavori dal 1898 al 1972, September 2001 - January 2002, no. 223, p. 365 (illustrated p. 351).
Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Eröffnungsausstellung, October 2004 - February 2005, no. 63 (illustrated p. 109).
Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Bilderwechsel, February - June 2005.
Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Picasso: Von Mougins nach Baden-Baden, Der späte Picasso, September 2005 - January 2006, p. 71 (illustrated).
Seoul, Museum of Art, Picasso: The Great Century, May - September 2006, p. 260 (illustrated p. 137).
Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Böhmen liegt am Meer, Aus der Sammlung Frieder Burda, May - June 2008.
Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Lebenslinien, Stationen einer Sammlung, March - May 2011.
Aix-en-Provence, Musée Granet, Chefs-d’oeuvre du musée Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, May - September 2012, no. 17, p. 72 (illustrated p. 73).
Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, 40/10 40 Jahre Sammlung, 10 Jahre Museum Frieder Burda, July - October 2014, p. 75 (illustrated).
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Picasso, L’oeuvre ultime, Hommage à Jacqueline, June - November 2016, no. 52, pp. 126 & 252 (illustrated p. 127).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Picasso/Lautrec, October 2017 - January 2018, no. 21, pp. 71 & 237 (illustrated p. 70; illustrated again pp. 97 & 237).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Where Christie’s has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie’s therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss.
These lots have been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Evening Sale

Lot essay

Picasso is often heard to say that when he paints, all the painters are with him in the studio. Or rather behind him. Watching him. Those of yesterday, and those of today… A painter in solitude is never alone”

Hélène Parmelin

In 1973, the venerable and ancient Palais des Papes in Avignon was filled with the colourful bustle of a strange coterie of characters. These toreadors, lovers, and musketeers had all been captured by Pablo Picasso in paintings executed during the final years of his life and hand-selected by the artist for the exhibition. The only figure missing from the great gothic halls was Picasso himself, who had passed away just one month before its opening on 23 May. Among the eccentric cast of characters that appeared in this landmark exhibition was Homme au chapeau assis, painted the year prior, depicting a seated debonair gentlemen dressed in seventeenth century garb.

The present lot in Picasso, 1970-1972, 201 Peintures, Palais des Papes, Avignon, May - September 1973. Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Adrien Didierjean. Artwork: © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2021.

This incongruous musketeer, a stock character of a variety of artists and writers from Rembrandt, Hals and Velázquez, to Molière and Dumas, appears out of place in a painting as modern as Homme au chapeau assis, with its electric colours and contemporary appearance. Yet in turning to this subject, Picasso found himself able to doff his hat in the direction of his greatest predecessors and inspirations. Just as he revisited paintings like Las Meninas, so too here he has tapped into the sense of romance and valour that reveals his continued interest in the artists of yore.

This interest was perhaps sharpened by Picasso’s repeated assertion that he was ‘haunted’ by the character of Rembrandt, who was for the Spaniard a ghostly presence, a target and an idol. This was an influence that Picasso had felt for most of his life, once explaining that, ‘Every painter takes himself for Rembrandt’ (quoted in F. Gilot and C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, Toronto and London, 1964, p. 51). In artistic terms, Rembrandt was both a hero and an obstacle to be overcome; Picasso worshipped him, but saw himself as a challenger assailing his position. In a sense, Picasso has taken a subject more fitting for an Old Master in order to emphasise his own contribution to the revolution that had taken place in art through his pioneering experiments over the previous seven decades, all the while paying his respects to his artistic hero.

Left Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-portrait, 1660. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence. Right Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, Juan de Pareja (1606–1670), 1650. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence.

In old age Picasso would admit to being very conscious of old masters breathing down his neck. Far from being bothered by this, he was so secure in his genius that he conjured master after master into the heart of his work and had his way with them”

John Richardson

The romance of days of yore, of the age of cavaliers and musketeers, too appealed hugely to Picasso and his combined senses of whimsy and machismo. Like the bullfighters that were such a constant touchstone for the Spaniard, these dashing figures acted as substitutes for the artist himself in his later years, serving less as his projected sense of self and more as his wish-fulfilment. The earliest musketeers swell with exuberance and energy, brandishing the symbols of their virility, whether a sword, instrument, pipe, or paintbrush. These characters emerged in Picasso’s art after a period of convalescence during which he spent time looking through a catalogue raisonné of Rembrandt’s etchings, as well as reading The Three Musketeers. When he returned to painting in 1966, the characters from these pictures and from Alexandre Dumas’ famous book came back to life in Picasso’s paintings, their swashbuckling adventures providing an escape for the artist from the limitations of his own domain, while also introducing the viewer to a poetic world of manliness and romance.

Left Paul Gauguin, Autoportrait au chapeau, 1894. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Photo: © Scala, Florence. Right Vincent van Gogh, Autoportrait au chapeau de paille, circa 1887-1888. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence.

Yet, unlike the escapist visions that the earliest bon vivant figures offered, the protagonist of Homme au chapeau assis is perhaps a more exacting self-portrait of the artist himself in his final years. Here, Picasso’s distinctive features are only slightly disguised, hidden behind the tightly curled hair and traditional garb, the sleeve of which quietly echoes the artist’s lifelong uniform of the blue and white striped sailor shirt. Abandoning his usual accoutrement of pipe or weapon, this musketeer instead rests his hands in his lap in an extended moment of seated respite.

Picasso was never an expressionist, never one to wear his bleeding heart upon his sleeve. He was a Spaniard, like Don Juan, who joked in the teeth of death and shouted defiance when they dragged him to hell. Picasso’s art affirmed until the end that, even when it is a diary, art is not meant to be a confession but a game”

David Sylvester

Although Picasso captured the resting and reflective character of this male figure, the canvas brims with life and energy. In the bold, frenzied brushstrokes that articulate the lively surface of this work, the viewer can trace the impressively physical act of painting, the artist defying the supposed limitations of his age. The vigorous, visceral gesturality of these vivid brushstrokes is a recording of Picasso’s own whirlwind of movement, parrying and striking with the oils against the canvas. Picasso himself was aware of the almost archaeological manner in which his own movements were captured on the canvas, stating, ‘The role of painting is to arrest motion’ (quoted in M.-L. Bernadac, ‘Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model,’ in Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, exh. cat., London and Paris, 1988, p. 88). In Homme au chapeau assis, this results in picture that is filled with movement, with colour, with sheer energy. At the same time, this ‘arrested motion’ has an existential aspect, Picasso capturing his own movements for posterity, an increasing concern as he approached the end of his life.

In Homme au chapeau assis, there is a clear and deliberately palpable contrast between the thick impasto that makes up some parts of the picture and the more essential, pure canvas in other parts. The very nature of paint is being explored and celebrated in this richly varied texture of oil paint. In this, Picasso is in part analysing the entire process of creation, taking it to pieces in an almost post-modern manner that also reflects some interest in the development of the Informel. This is likewise echoed in the features of the male figure himself, who has been rendered through a combination of codified stylisation and distortion. Picasso has thrust the act of painting into centre-stage. Each and every one of the spontaneous, energetic brushstrokes that comprise this picture show the artist inspecting the techniques that he had made so entirely his own during the first three quarters of the twentieth century. In exploring the physical properties of paint, in distorting the appearance of this imaginary character, in wielding his brush with such abandon, Picasso shows himself reacting to his own legacy as the giant of twentieth century painting.

Picasso’s deliberate, almost gleeful relinquishment of standard notions of aesthetics and beauty show a rebellious artist at work. The energy of the picture and its ambiguity appear to pay tribute to Art Brut. Yet these factors have all combined to create a picture that has a striking presence. It is telling that Picasso himself claimed that technique is important, ‘on condition that one has so much... that it completely ceases to exist’ (quoted in J. Richardson, ‘L’Epoque Jacqueline,’ ibid., p. 42). This is perfectly evidenced in Homme au chapeau assis. On display in the 1973 Palais des Papes exhibition, it would have shocked many of the viewers, who perhaps expected a mature, quiet, tender late style from the great statesman of painting. Instead, the walls were packed with a strange panoply of characters like this musketeer, all rendered with a deliberate hand, with a convulsive energy, with livid and colours, revealing an artist exorcising his thoughts on mortality and revelling in life itself. It was with this formidable exhibition of paintings that he asserted his enduring primacy and influence within the artworld, both in life and death.

Lot Essay Header Image: The present lot illustrated (detail).

Augmented reality

View this artwork in your home with your phone or tablet


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

View All
View All