PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Femme couchée et personnage

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Femme couchée et personnage
signed 'Picasso' (lower left); dated '28.11.41.' (on the reverse)
gouache and watercolour on paper
30.5 x 40.6 cm. (12 x 16 in.)
Painted on 28 November 1941
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (by 1971).
Private Collection (acquired from the above, 1972); sale, Christie's, New York, 7 May, 2014, Lot 125.
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 11, Oeuvres de 1940 et 1944, Paris, 1960, no. 359 (illustrated, pl. 149; listed without title).
Zurich, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Picasso, 90 Zeichnungen und farbige Arbeiten, October- November 1971, no. 28 (illustrated p. 62); this exhibition then travelled to Basel, Galerie Beyeler, November 1971 - January 1972 and Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, January - February 1972.

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Lot Essay

“Dora was added onto Marie-Thérèse. Painting would be shared between them... Each woman would epitomize a particular facet of a period rich in increasingly dramatic repercussions.”
– Pierre Daix

Painted in November 1941, Picasso’s exceptionally vibrant Femme couchée et personnage presents an elaborate interior scene in lush swathes of colour, depicting two female nudes: one reclining, the other standing and gazing at her reflection in the mirror. With each significant relationship in his life, Picasso’s partner would invariably become his muse, famously marking a new period in his oeuvre and evoking a unique pictorial language of visual symbols to capture her individual beauty, her aesthetic and spirit. With its depictions of two female figures, Femme couchée et personnage could be interpreted as a presentation of the artistic topography of arguably the two most significant muses of Picasso’s career combined within the same close interior image; that of Dora Maar and Marie-Thérѐse Walter.

Picasso’s relationship with Maar had begun in 1935 and continued into the mid-1940s, during which time he would produce two of the most famous and poignant works of his career, her portrait Weeping Woman (1937, Tate Modern, London), and his epic masterpiece Guernica (1937, Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid). The two artists shared a passionate bond driven by common artistic pursuits during the War-years, however their relationship was not without complication. Picasso’s prior muse and lover Marie-Thérѐse Walter had never quite disappeared from Picasso’s life, visually nor physically, bonded by an enduring affection and their child, Maya. Maar herself referenced this complexity in her own masterwork, The Conversation, from 1937, demonstrating the impassé the pair of women encountered in their common yet irreconcilable love of Picasso.

By 1941, Walter had mostly faded from view in Picasso’s work, yet hints back to her iconic and unmistakable form emerges in Femme couchée et personnage, evoking the masterworks of Picasso’s seminal year of 1932 at the height of their romance. Picasso would famously depict Walter reclining or asleep, the rounded curves of her youthful, sensual body most often rendered in a soft purple hue, similar to that seen in the figure on the right of Femme couchée et personnage. By comparison with Walter, Maar’s dramatic and serious personality, her dark hair and pale skin, consumed Picasso’s work through progressively darker tones and sharper angles—often contorted, distorted and rearranged, reflecting in part reflecting a zeitgeist of Wartime anxiety.

The presence of the mirror is also an interesting element in Femme couchée et personnage. Located to the right of the composition, this sophisticated pictorial device also harks back to Picasso’s 1932 masterpieces, particularly Girl before a Mirror (Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Le Miroir (Private collection). On the one hand implying deep psychological connotations of the double or the inverse, this object also provided Picasso the ability to explore his subject reflected from simultaneous angles at once, echoing his earlier Cubist origins. The motif of the mirror is later reprised in a series of works from 1935 which appears to depicting both Maar and Walter within an enclosed interior space, namely Interior with a Girl Drawing (Museum of Modern Art, New York) and La muse (Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou).

Although such complete watercolours form the period as Femme couchée et personnage remain exceedingly rare, the sister picture L’aubade, deux femmes dans un interior (Etude), painted the same day, now resides in the Musée Picasso, Paris. These magnificently colourful and finely painted works, along with numerous pencil studies of the same year, would lead to Picasso’s epic canvas L’aubade (Nu allongée et musicien) which would arrive in 1942. Now resident in the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, this monumental canvas reveals the transition in Picasso’s painterly style towards the more angular depictions of Maar and retains the closest compositional similarity to Femme couchée et personnage in oil.

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