Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Femme nue debout

Details
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme nue debout
oil on canvas
18 x 12 7/8 in. (45.7 x 32.8 cm.)
Painted in 1910-1911
Provenance
The artist's estate.
Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1986.
Literature
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Supplément aux années 1910-1913, vol. 28, no. 10 (illustrated pl. 5; dated '1911').
P. Daix & J. Rosselet, Picasso, The Cubist Years, 1907-1916: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings and Related Works, London, 1979, no. 350, p. 256 (illustrated; dated ‘spring 1910’).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso Cubism (1907-1917), New York, 1990, no. 497, p. 503 (illustrated p. 177; dated 'spring 1910' and titled 'Double Composition: Head and Nude Woman').
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Claude Bernard, Picasso: peintures 1901-1971, June 1980, no. 2.
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.

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Lot Essay

From 1907, when he painted Les Demoiselles dAvignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York), Pablo Picasso mounted a dramatic assault on the tradition of the female nude in Western art. The nude became one of the central themes of Cubism, as Picasso scrutinised and analysed the forms of the human figure, conveying them on the canvas with a new pictorial language that completely altered the entire direction of modern art. Within just a few years Picasso, together with Georges Braque, revolutionised traditional modes of representation, shattering illusionism and challenging conventional pictorial procedures. Femme nue debout exemplifies these radical developments, demonstrating how Picasso in the early 1910s moved away from a sculptural depiction of form towards the flattened, two-dimensional style that characterised his Analytical Cubism. 

Depicting on one hand, as the title implies, a standing female nude – the right leg bent at the knee, and the elbow perhaps raised over the head – this painting could also be seen to present a portrait of a female head. Out of the angular shards, lines and facets that congregate in the centre of the canvas, two large eyes become visible, above which a voluminous mound of dark hair lies. The mouth and chin are illustrated with a proliferation of darker curving lines, and the long neck stretches up from what appears to be a wooden table top at the bottom of the composition. The tilted pose and the hairstyle of this head are immediately reminiscent of Picasso’s first great love and his muse throughout this cubist period: Fernande Olivier. 

Picasso had first met Fernande in 1904. An artists’ model, she lived, along with Picasso and a circle of avant-garde artists and poets, in the run-down building in Montmartre, known as the Bateau-Lavoir. The pair quickly became lovers and moved in together a year later in 1905. Their seven year long relationship was marked by turbulent highs and lows, however, Fernande, with her dark hair and striking almond-shaped eyes, remained Picasso’s muse for some of the most radical pictorial transformations of his career. From a waif-like figure of the Blue Period, to the statuesque, Iberian-inspired nudes of 1906 and 1907, her image was once more transformed in Picasso’s work as he developed his cubist idiom. 

Picasso had made a decisive breakthrough in his cubist vocabulary in the summer of 1909, which he spent with Fernande in the Spanish village, Horta de Ebro. In these Horta works, the artist had taken his intensive analysis of the nature of solid forms one step further, transforming objects, the landscape and most notably his lover’s face into fractured forms, which allowed him to capture a variety of viewpoints simultaneously on the canvas. In paintings such as Woman with Pears (1909, The Museum of Modern Art, New York), Fernande’s head and neck become a mass of angular planes, their sculptural volume implied through chromatic contrasts. Her likeness however, is never completely lost: her tilted head, topknot of dark hair and large, oval face remain instantly recognisable. 

Returning to Paris in the autumn, Picasso literally solidified these pictorial developments in three-dimensional form, creating a series of sculpted heads in bronze that constitute some of the earliest and most important cubist sculptures (Womans Head (Fernande), 1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York). Seemingly resting on a table, the head that is recognisable in Femme nue debout appears as a simplified depiction of these revolutionary sculpted heads of Fernande, the black lines and facets that coalesce in the centre of the canvas reminiscent of the angular, jagged protrusions and depressions of the sculpture. Regarded in this way, Femme nue debout could be seen as a simplified cubist still-life of the sculpture itself.  

By the beginning of 1910, Picasso had started to simplify his compositions, abandoning a sculptural depiction of form and instead increasingly flattening objects and converting them into complex, intersecting geometric lines on the canvas. A number of standing female nudes date from this period, depicting the body as an elaborate yet rhythmic series of rounded and geometric planes. Pierre Daix, in his catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s cubist work, dates Femme nue debout to this period in the spring of 1910, stating that this painting is one of a ‘series of female nudes [that] shows a more advanced abstraction of the planes, a geometric reconstruction which retains very few references to the real-life subject’ (P. Daix & J. Rosselet, Picasso: The Cubist Years: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings and Related Works, London, 1979, p. 68). The streaks of deep green and rich shades of brown overpainted in places with grey in the background of Femme nue debout likewise suggest that it could date from this moment of transition, as Picasso began to move to the restricted palette that characterises the analytical cubist works of 1910 onwards. 

In the summer of this year, Picasso went to the Spanish fishing port of Cadaqués. These months spent away from Paris allowed the artist to once again push his discoveries to the extreme and it was during this period that he reached the brink of abstraction. In these inscrutable works, Picasso removed all recognisable attributes, skilfully transforming his subjects into abstract grid-like structures of lines and facets. Returning to Paris, Picasso, adamant that art should remain tied to reality, edged away from abstraction, introducing legible markers that define his elaborate, now almost completely linear compositions. 

With its seeming combination of two motifs, a head and a nude, in Femme nue debout Picasso has not only depicted multiple viewpoints of one object, but has painted an amalgamation of two distinct themes. With this dual subject matter, Femme nue debout exemplifies Picasso’s unparalled negotiation of form during his cubist years, as he investigated, experimented and played with the ways of representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface and in so doing, ushered in an entirely new means of painting reality. 

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