Audio: Pablo Picasso's Les déjeuners
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Les déjeuners

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Les déjeuners
signed 'Picasso' (lower right); and dated '26.7.61.V' (upper left)
coloured crayons on paper
10 5/8 x 16 5/8 in. (27 x 42 cm.)
Executed on 26 July 1961
Galerie Louise Leiris (no. 010150), Paris, acquired in 1961.
Galerie d'Eendt, Amsterdam.
Private collection, Europe, by whom acquired from the above in 1965, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's, London, 19 June 2012, lot 1.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 20, Oeuvres de 1961 à 1962, Paris, 1968, no. 106 (illustrated pl. 54).
D. Cooper, Pablo Picasso, Les Déjeuners, Paris, 1962 (illustrated pl. 128).
The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, The Sixties I, 1960-1963, San Francisco, 2002, no. 61-171 (illustrated p. 164).
Amsterdam, Galerie d'Eendt, Picasso, gouaches en tekeningen 1959-1967, 1965, no. 7 (illustrated).
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Jessica Brook
Jessica Brook

Lot Essay

Les Dejeuners, dating from 1961, is one of a series of works by Picasso, all of them radical reinterpretations of Edouard Manet's landmark Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe of 1863 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris, no. RF 1668). During the 1950s and 1960s, Picasso revisited a series of works by older masters, such as Les femmes d'Algers by Eugène Delacroix and Las Meniñas by Velázquez. Picasso's desire to interpret these older paintings shows both his intense pride and his reverence for these artists.

Discussing Picasso's engagement with Manet's masterpiece Carste-Peter Warncke has written: 'Manet's famous painting, which shocked its 19th century audience and prompted a scandal when first exhibited, shows two naked or near naked women with two clothed men in a country setting. Manet had painted his work as something of a pastiche, drawing on Giorgione's Concert in the Country and a detail from a copper engraving by Raimondi after a design by Raphael. The figure group of Déjeuner had begun to interest Picasso in June 1954 because his own treatments of painters and models used a similar grouping. At that time he did a number of sketches after Manet, returning at the end of the Fifties to more concentrated work on the material. He did variations on the composition of Déjeuner in oils, graphics and drawings, emphasizing the contrast between the female nudes and the male figures, which he subjected to greater or lesser degrees of deconstruction' (C.-P. Warncke, Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, Cologne, 1994, vol. II, pp. 579-580).

Manet's Déjeuner sur l'herbe served as the merest prompt and prelude for Picasso, who freely adapted the original theme and composition, in some versions adding a figure here, removing one there – as in the present work which omits the second male figure, and places a far greater emphasis on the male figure on the right. Picasso has then taken the emphasis on the male figure even further by focusing on the iconic raised thumb and pointing index finger of the male figure in Manet’s work. Picasso has used vigorous lines of colourful crayon to mimic the carefully-executed oil of Manet's Déjeuner sur l'herbe, an act that is at once irreverent, playful and invigorating, and strikes a delicate balance between the art-historical significance and the raw sensuality of the nude. The energetic working of the blue crayon of the nude to the left of the composition is striking, particularly in contrast with the vivid red crayon of the bathing nude in the centre of the composition, her arms and features defined by single dots and strokes of black crayon.

Susan Grace Galassi has discussed the relationship between Manet and Picasso's versions, particularly their differing approaches to the female nude: 'For Picasso, as for Manet, the Déjeuner offered the opportunity to reassess the central theme of the nude and invest it with new life. Over the course of his transformations, he strips away Manet's overlay of realism, and takes the female figure back to something more timeless, enduring and primordial. The female nude was for Picasso, as it was in Manet's time, "the very essence of art...Its principle and its force, the mysterious armature that prevents its decomposition and dissolution". She is equated with the originating impulse of art, eros, inspiration, and generativity, and is the link between generations' (S. G. Galassi, Picasso's Variations on the Masters, New York, 1996, p. 201).

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