Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this watercolor.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this watercolor.
Picasso painted Sur la terrasse in Cannes, where in early July 1933 he arrived with his wife Olga and son Paulo for their customary seaside summer holiday. Two summers previously, in 1931, while the entire Picasso family was in nearby Juan-les-Pins, the artist had secretly installed Marie-Thérèse Walter, his young mistress, in a pension nearby. Now in July 1933, due to logistical complications, Marie-Thérèse had to remain behind in Paris, but she nonetheless made her presence felt in the artist's imaginings, appearing in various watercolors and drawings as a nubile nude model, or as seen here in the form of a sculpted bust mounted on a plinth and displayed on the terrace of a Mediterranean villa. Picasso's seaside holidays in the South always brought out the classical side of his creative personality, putting him in an exultant mood that inspired many of his most serene fantasies, as he colored his personal mythos with the aura of antiquity.
No oil paintings date from that summer in Cannes; instead Picasso executed a remarkable sequence of works on paper, about thirty in all, some in gouache, others in watercolor with brush, pen and black ink, all on sheets of paper measuring around 15¾ x 19¾ in. (40 x 50 cm.; Picasso Project's nos. 33/064-088). One thread of drawings is predominantly classical in subject and style, as seen in the present watercolor. Another group displays the most pronounced surrealist inflection of anything Picasso had done to date; in these drawings Picasso imagined wild confrontations between Olga and Marie-Thérèse on the beach, with each woman configured as frenetic, flailing, jerry-built constructions of various odds and ends. On some sheets Picasso mingled these two approaches.
The Cannes drawings have as their antecedents various works done earlier in 1933 and in previous years. During late February and March of 1933, Marie-Thérèse had been the subject of a sequence of thirty sketches done in Paris, each designated une anatomie (Picasso Project's, nos. 33/020-029), which depict her figure as fabrications of bizarre carpentry. The classical subjects follow in the spirit of the etchings in the "Sculptor's Studio" series which Picasso executed between 15 March and 5 May (Bloch, nos. 146-189), later collected in the Suite Vollard. The sculpture which Picasso depicted in this watercolor is a conflation of various heads that he modeled of Marie-Thérèse in his countryside studio of Boisgeloup during 1931-1932 (Spies, nos. 128-133; no. 131; fig. 1).
Olga's increasingly unsettled behavior and grating presence caused Picasso to couch her appearance in his work using the ruder mechanics of surrealist deformation. When Picasso fantasized about the acquiescent Marie-Thérèse, on the other hand, he normally rendered her in a classically harmonious and sensuous manner with softly flowing, organic lines. Marie-Thérèse's presence in Picasso's life was then still a well-kept secret, known to only a few close friends. By placing his mistress's image in a public forum, Picasso may have expressed an inner desire to reveal her to the world; he never did so, however, and for the remainder of her life, Marie-Thérèse and their daughter Maya were kept out-of-sight, hidden in the shadows of Picasso's life, while she remained unfailingly dedicated in her love for him.
Elise Stern Haas acquired Sur la Terrasse from the Valentine Gallery circa 1938. She gave Sur la Terrasse to her son and daughter-in-law, Walter Haas Jr. and Evelyn Haas, in honor of their marriage in 1940. Sur la Terrasse remained a favorite work in Evelyn Haas' collection, and certainly inspired her not only as a collector but in her lifelong dedication to the arts.
(fig. 1) Picasso's sculpture studio at Boisgeloup, 1931. Archives Olga Ruiz-Picasso.