A photo-certificate from Maya Widmaier Picasso dated Paris, 27 September 2000 accompanies this gouache.
The present work was painted in Saint-Raphaël, on the French Riviera, where Picasso vacationed during the late summer of 1919 with his wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Koklova. He had just returned to France from London, where in May-July he completed designs and decor for the Ballet Russes production of Manuel de Falla's ballet Le Tricorne. Picasso had used the guitar motif -- an image seen frequently in his Cubist painting -- in the drop curtain for the ballet, and he continued to incorporate this object, which always evoked nostalgia for the artist's native Spain, in pictures well into the next decade. Placing the still-life elements on a table in front of a window was a recent development in the artist's work; previously his still-lifes occupied closed rooms and were composed against walls or drapery.
"The open window series beginning in 1919 clearly connects with these earlier experiments. The theme of the window itself belongs to a long tradition of pictorial theory -- painting as metaphor for window, window as metaphor for painting. Window frame echoes painting frame; reflective glazing in either case allows interaction of images inside and out; while curtains suggest a theater stage, and so on. These references to the artifice of art allow a philosophic-esthetic stand: 'windows' permit linkage of two antithetical worlds, linkage of reality and decor" (B. Léal, "Picasso's Stylistic Don Juanism," Picasso & Things, exh. cat., The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1992, p. 32).
One might well imagine the artist relaxing from his recent labors by placing a guitar, compotier, and wine bottle on the table before his hotel window. In the latter part of 1919 he completed no fewer than four oil paintings, about approximately two dozen watercolors and ten drawings on this subject, as well as four three-dimensional constructions executed in cardboard, cloth and paper. Common to most of these compositions and seen here are a pair of intersecting rectangular planes that serve as axes for the grouping of objects. The brown-colored, notched plane on the right is a music-stand; the light-colored second planar form is a piece of opened sheet music.
During this period Picasso also painted and drew in a classicized realist vein (see lot 437); indeed, he made works in both Cubist and Neo-classical styles into the 1920s. These approaches share a concern for spatial clarity and volume. The present gouache combines the flattened planar aspects of Picasso's late Synthetic Cubist manner with a sense of traditional, deep space that characterizes the artist's Neo-classical figure compositions.
Alice Paalen, the dedicatee and first owner of this work, was the wife of Vienna-born painter Wolfgang Paalen. Leaving Austria, the latter attended the Academie Ranson in Paris in 1927 and had his first one-man exhibition in that city in 1934. Paalen joined the surrealists in 1937, but broke ranks from the group five years later. The Paalens left France in 1939 and lived in Mexico and the USA.