Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Interieur au Pot de Fleurs

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Interieur au Pot de Fleurs
signed 'Picasso' (upper left); dated '20.12.53' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
51 x 38in. (129.5 x 96.5cm.)
Painted in 1953
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (6358)
Saidenberg Gallery, New York
Private Collection, U.S.A
William Pall Gallery, New York
Waddington Galleries, London (B18038)
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, oeuvres de 1953 a 1955, vol. 16, Paris 1965, no. 72 (illustrated p. 25; medium incorrectly quoted as oil on panel).
Japan, Hokkaido Hakodate Museum of Art, Picasso, August-September 1987, no. 90 (illustrated in colour).
London, Waddington Galleries, Twentieth Century Works, February 1988 (illustrated on the cover of the catalogue).

Lot Essay

Executed in the winter of 1953 Intrieur au pot de fleurs (Interior with a vase of flowers) is large and imposing still-life that through the image of a single flower growing in an enclosed and somewhat claustrophic interior space evokes an atmosphere of both hope and adversity. With its strong painterly qualities and its self-conscious use of a highly decorative floral wallpaper, it is also a work that mimics the work of Picasso's foremost rival Henri Matisse.

As his still-lifes from the time of the Second World War demonstrate, Picasso often expressed his own emotions through the medium of the still life. "I want to tell something by means of the most common object," he once told Franoise Gillot, "for example a casserole, any old cassrole, the one everybody knows. For me it is vessel in the metaphorical sense, just like Christ's use of parables." (Picasso quoted in Life with Picasso, Franoise Gillot and Carlton Lake, New York 1964, p. 74)

Centring on an image of a flower growing from the confines of its pot, Intrieur au Pot de Fleurs displays little of the sharp angularity and solemn colours of Picasso's wartime still-lifes, yet in the opressive grey ceiling illuminated only by a bare light bulb that inevitable calls to mind Guernica, an existential sense of futility is clearly established. The plant is shown growing towards the light from its bulbous and earthy roots which are visible through an opening in its pot. Picasso depicts the flower and the leaves of this blooming plant opening and expanding into the space of the picture, yet this space is an ironic and artificial space that ultimately seems to mock the flower. The light towards which the plant is growing is artificial; an electric bulb hanging from a shadowy ceiling while the walls of the room are covered in a Matisse-influenced wallpaper that echoes and mimics the forms of the flower. Consisting of elaborate floral arabesques of red on white, the walls of this strange room form a flat decorative patterning that threatens to dominate both the central motif as well as the whole painting. Only the brilliant yellow of a bizarre triangular table at the bottom of the work balances the picture and creates the necessary sense of depth and volume needed to perceive the scene in its entirety.

Magnifcently constructed and arranged by the logic of Picasso's unique mastery of cubistic form, the present work clearly establishes an ironic sense of duality that is reflected in the emotional uncertainty of Picasso's personal life at this time. Executed shortly before Christmas 1953, only two months after Franoise Gillot had finally left him - taking their children Claude and Paloma with her - the painting belongs to a period of personal transition when Picasso was evidently missing Franoise as well as uncertain about any future he may have with Jacqueline Rocque. According to Gillot, Picasso was convinced that she, Franoise - the young artist whom he felt he had moulded - would be unable to cope with any other reality than the one he had made for her. "For you reality is finished", he told her in a moment of anger, "if you attempt to take a step outside my reality - which has become yours inasmuch as I found you when you were young and unformed and I burned everything around you - you're headed straight for the desert." (ibid, p. 332)

With this in mind it is tempting to read in this large and magnificently constructed painting of a fragile flower that has bloomed to find itself in an enclosed, alienatory and mocking space an allegory for the mistress he had first immortalised as a flower shortly after Franoise had first moved in with him in the spring of 1946.

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