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

Femmes jouant au bord de la mer

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Picasso, P.
Femmes jouant au bord de la mer
signed and dated 'Picasso 25. Novembre. XXXII' (lower right)
pen, brush, India ink and gray wash on paper laid down on board
9.7/8 x 13.7/8 in. (25 x 35 cm.)
Drawn on 25 November 1932
Willoughby Collection, London.
Grald Cramer, Geneva (acquired in 1957).
O'Hana Gallery, London.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1957, vol. VIII, no. 59 (illustrated, pl. 26).
A. Ehrenstrm, Grald Cramer, un diteur gnvois au fil de ses archives de 1942 1986, Geneva, 1988, p. 104 (illustrated, p. 105).
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, Surrealism 1930-1936, San Francisco, 1997, p. 146, no. 32-159 (illustrated).
Paris, Artcurial, L'Aventure surraliste autour d'Andr Breton, May-July 1986, p. 82 (illustrated).
Paris, Artcurial, Mditerrane, Sources et Formes du XXe Sicle, May-July 1988, p. 106 (illustrated).
Paris, Artcurial, Papiers de Peintres -- Papiers de Sculpteurs, March-May 1991.

Lot Essay

The advent of Surrealism in the 1920s posed the first serious challenge to Picasso's dominant position at the leading edge of modern art. The Dadaists had openly mocked Picasso's Cubism and Neo-Classicism, but they had little impact on public opinion. The Surrealists, however, expecially the writers Andre Breton and Louis Aragon, were eager to enlist the leading star of modernism to bolster their cause. Picasso took this extended hand and adroitly positioned himself at the periphery of the movement, so that he did not need to foresake either his Cubist or Neo-classical styles, which he was then working in concurrently, nor did he need to jeopardize his position as a successful and established artist with a well-to-do following.

Picasso did not sign the Surrealist manifestos, and he avoided the mandatory group meetings. "Picasso was prepared to see himself linked repeatedly with Surrealism, collaborating to the extent that he allowed brand new works to be reproduced in its pages. Later he would insist, sometimes tetchily, on the fundamental differences of outlook, but at the time there was enough that he valued in Surrealism to make him willing to meet the Surrealists halfway" (E. Cowling, "Proudly We Claim Him as One of Us: Breton, Picasso and the Surrealist Movement," Art History, March 1985, p. 87).

This symbiotic relationship might have appeared to be superficial and opportunistic for both parties, but events in Picasso's life during the later 1920s lent an urgency that made aspects of Surrealism a genuine means of renewing his art. His relationship with his wife Olga had completely deteriorated. Even by the time of their legal separation in 1934, Olga persisted in haunting his life, accosting him on the street and later even interrupting his holidays with Franoise Gilot in the South. A violent and vengeful strain enter's Picasso's art at his time, most evident in one the greatest of his Surrealist paintings, Baigneuse assise au bord de la mer, 1930 (Zervos, vol. 7, no. 306; coll. The Museum of Modern Art, New York). The artist takes the classical idea of the bather and does utmost violence to its forms. Picasso said that Olga has inspired the painting; "his experience with her underlies this intimidating image, that, in its final form, so clearly shares the Surrealists' obsession with aggressive sexuality" (M. C. FitzGerald, "The Modernists' Dilemma", Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York,
1996, p. 324).

The psychodrama of these trying years may be most closely followed and analyzed in the great series of etchings and aquatints which were later brought together in the Vollard Suite, published in 1939 shortly after Vollard's death. The sequence Le viol (The Rape) and Le minotaure are especially revealing in this respect. With his Neo-Classical draftsmanship honed to perfection, the artist, by the sheer strength of his personality, bends ancient myth and symbolism to enact this private drama, with a result that is entirely universal.
In the paintings and drawings of this period, however, the content is less personalized, and it is the stylization that breaks new ground in a manner that is more clearly derived from Surrealism and would prove influential on other artists. The two key works in this phase are the aforementioned Baigneuse assise, and Crucifixion, also painted in 1930 (Zervos, vol. 7, no. 287; coll. Musee Picasso, Paris). The artist disassembles the figure and the Neo-Classical approach he had used hitherto (and would continue to use in the etchings); it is as if he flays the figure of its flesh to reveal a strange armature of lean, thorny and twisted forms; the body is revealed as some nightmarish machine.

The present drawing displays this new approach to the figure, but even within a couple of years Picasso has arrived at an almost baroque and rhythmical variation on these ideas. Here his bathers at play float past our gaze like some strange aquatic creatures. Picasso uses the beach as a stage in a Surrealist manner similar to the desert landscapes in Dal's painting or the sea-floor-like inscapes of Tanguy. This drawing is the third and final of a sequence drawn between 22 and 25 November 1932 (see also Zervos, vol. 7, nos. 57-58); with the application of dark washes by which the artists models his forms, it is the most finished and painterly.

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