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

Portrait d'une femme assise (Marie-Thérèse)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Portrait d'une femme assise (Marie-Thérèse)
dated 'Royan 21.6.41' (upper left)
pen and India ink and wash on paper
9 3/8 x 5¼ in. (24 x 13 cm.)
Executed in Royan on 21 June 1941
Marie-Thérèse Walter, Juan-les-Pins, a gift from the artist in 1969.
Galerie de l'Athénée, Geneva.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in September 1981.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, oeuvres de 1940 et 1941, vol. 11, Paris, 1960, no. 80 (illustrated p. 26).
The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: Europe at War, 1939-1940, San Francisco, 1998, no. 40-462 (illustrated p. 214).
Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Une Collection Picasso, Oeuvres de 1937 à 1946, Huiles Gouaches Dessins Collages et Découpages, December 1973, no. 33 (illustrated in the catalogue).
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Lot Essay

Zervos did not specifically title this drawing, but the profile is immediately recognisable as that of Marie-Thérèse Walter, who has attested to this identification in an accompanying certificate. Picasso grew alarmed at the deteriorating political situation in Europe during the summer of 1939, and in mid-July sent his mistress and their four- year-old daughter Maya to Royan, a coastal town north of Bordeaux, where they stayed at the villa Gerbier de Joncs. There they could at least enjoy a seaside summer holiday, and they would be safe if war broke out. Indeed, on 1 September Germany invaded Poland. Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September, and that very night Picasso left Paris in a car which was driven by his chauffeur Marcel, accompanied by his lover Dora Maar, his secretary Jaime Sabartés, his wife, and his dog Kazbek. They arrived in Royan the next day, where Picasso and Dora took rooms at the Hôtel du Tigre. Picasso set up his studio first in the villa Gerbier de Joncs, and in January 1940 he opened a larger work space in the villa Les Voiliers, overlooking the sea.

During the so-called "phony-war" on the Western front in late 1939-early 1940, Picasso made five trips back to Paris, and was in the capital when Germany finally invaded France in May 1940. He headed back to Royan along roads clogged with refugees. The advancing German armies entered Paris on 14 June. During these tragic weeks in June, Picasso completed Femme assise (Woman Dressing Her Hair) (Zervos, vol. 10, no. 302; The Museum of Modern Art, New York). This large painting displays the anguished deformations of face and figure associated with Dora Maar. Around this time, among other studies of contorted nudes, heads and even skulls, Picasso surprisingly made several classical drawings of Marie-Thérèse and Maya, which seem like serene and lovely apparitions from the peaceful pre-war era. These include a profile portrait of four-and-a-half year old Maya, dated 17 juin 40 (Z., vol. 21, no. 79); Femme de dos, a nude study of Marie-Thérèse, dated 22 juin 40 (Picasso Project, no. 40-463; sale, Christie's New York, 11 November 1987, lot 173); and the present drawing.

This image of Marie-Thérèse may also carry a broader, patriotic meaning. Her classical profile evokes that of Marianne, the feminine embodiment of the ideals of the French Republic, as seen on the national seal, coinage and stamps. Quiescent and pensive, she appears to ponder her fate in these troubled times. Hitler and Marshal Pétain signed the Armistice of Rethondes on 25 July, ending hostilities and dividing the country into occupied and free zones. Picasso returned to Paris in August, while Marie-Thérèse and Maya remained in Royan until spring 1941. Picasso then set them up in a Paris apartment, where he visited them on weekends, one of the few pleasures left to him during the trying years of the Occupation.


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