Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
‘The older Picasso gets, the closer he comes to his own childhood’
(M-L. Bernadac, ‘Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model’ in Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, exh. cat., London, 1988, p. 83)
‘We never posed for my father. We were too young and he did everything from memory, from his imagination. I think, especially when he had Claude and me, he became fascinated with the whole idea of childhood, with the fact that children don't have preconceived ideas. There was a freedom to that, to the idea that for children, anything is possible’
(Paloma Picasso, quoted in M. Kimmelman, ‘Picasso’s Family Album’, in The New York Times, 28 April, 1996)
‘Toward eight that evening’, Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s post-war lover and muse recalled of the birth of her second child, ‘the baby – a girl – was born. Pablo had been calling from time to time from the Salle Pleyel to inquire about my progress… His famous dove was plastered all over Paris on posters advertising the opening of the Peace Congress and when he heard he had a daughter he decided she should be named Paloma’ (F. Gilot, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 222). Formerly in the collection of legendary fashion designer Giovanni Versace, Pablo Picasso’s Paloma presents a tender, intimate and loving portrait of his second child with Françoise Gilot, his daughter Paloma Picasso. Born on 19 April 1949, Paloma was named after the artist’s iconic image of the dove that Picasso had designed for the poster of the 1949 Peace Congress in Paris. Along with her elder brother Claude, from the time of her birth, this dark-haired child, who was the perfect mix of her parents’ striking looks, inspired an outpouring of lovingly rendered, playful and deeply private drawings, paintings and prints that encapsulate her father’s awe and love for his newborn daughter. Painted on 5 April 1954, Paloma shows a four-year old Paloma pictured outside, the deep blue, almost violet sky working in perfect accord with the green of her pleated, button-up dress and matching hat. Her round face, framed by waves of dark hair, dominates the canvas in this deeply tender portrayal of the artist’s young daughter. A testament to its importance to the artist, this portrait remained in his possession for the rest of his life, passing after his death, to his wife Jacqueline, and subsequently to her daughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay.
The date of this portrait takes on a poignant meaning when considered alongside the decade long relationship that Picasso and Gilot shared. Picasso had met Gilot, the beautiful, classically-featured young artist in 1943, during the long, dark years of the Occupation of Paris. Immediately beguiled by her independence, fresh vitality and beauty, Picasso pursued her and the pair’s relationship began a year later, in 1944. She moved in with the artist in 1946; her image and presence revivifying and rejuvenating Picasso’s work after the somber years of war. Living in La Galloise, their home in Vallauris in the south of France, the couple had their first baby, a son named Claude, in May 1947. Almost two years later, Gilot gave birth to a second child; this time a daughter, Paloma, who, as the present portrait shows, was blessed with the same captivating stare and endlessly dark eyes as her Spanish father. For the years that followed, Picasso and his young family remained happily ensconced in a peaceful domestic idyll, set under the sun of the Mediterranean.
By 1952, however, the idyll had gradually begun to deteriorate. Having put her own artistic aspirations on hold to raise her children, Gilot began to realise that being with Picasso entailed devoting herself entirely to him and his art. Picasso was ambivalent about her desire to pursue her own work, suggesting instead that they have a third child, something Gilot was vehemently against. With Picasso spending ever longer periods alone in Paris, and rumours spreading that he was involved with another woman there, a young art student named Geneviève Laporte, Gilot made the decision to leave the artist. ‘By 1952 there were a lot of hard feelings on both sides’, she later recalled. ‘I was looking for a way out of our relationship. Pablo was making things as difficult as possible. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t want my children to end up like their half-brother, Paulo, who had never been able to evolve normally thanks to the terrible fights between his ruthless father and his neurasthenic mother, Olga, so I started looking for a way out’ (Gilot, quoted in J. Richardson, Picasso and Françoise Gilot, Paris-Vallauris, 1943-1953, exh. cat., New York, 2012, p. 35). In September 1953, she made the final, painful decision to leave the artist, and returned to Paris to live with her two young children. ‘Right up to the last minute Pablo was convinced I would back down,’ Françoise recalled. ‘When the taxi pulled up and I got into it with the children and our bags, he was so angry he didn't even say goodbye. He shouted “Merde!” and went back into the house’ (F. Gilot, op. cit., p. 357). Before she left she told him finally, ‘I may have been a slave to love, but not to you’ (F. Gilot, quoted in P. Daix, Picasso: Life and Art, trans. O. Emmet, New York, 1993, p. 311).
After spending a lonely Christmas in Vallauris without his young family, Picasso was reunited with his children for the Easter holidays in 1954. Gilot, Claude and Paloma arrived at their former home, La Galloise, and the four spent an amicable two weeks together. Painted on 5 April 1954, Paloma was likely one of the group of portraits of his family that Picasso painted during their stay. As he had previously, Picasso painted both of his children together immersed in drawing, with their mother, or individually. Only very rarely did Picasso ever picture himself with his family. The bold palette of Paloma relates to what can be seen as the culminating work of this spring. Painted on 17 May 1954, shortly after the present work, most likely when his family had returned to Paris, the Musée Picasso’s Claude dessinant, Françoise et Paloma presents Claude and Paloma immersed in drawing, overseen by the loving, all-encompassing presence of their mother. The same deep violet tone serves as the background for both of these works, intensifying the same shade of green which Picasso has used to portray Paloma. Claude dessinant, Françoise et Paloma is tinged with sadness however; Françoise is rendered with just a simple white outline, a reflection of her physical absence in the artist’s life. By this time, Picasso had already met Jacqueline Roque, the young divorcée who would become his final wife, lover and muse. In the summer, Gilot once more visited Picasso at Vallauris, this time leaving the children there to spend the holidays with their father. Later that autumn, the couple fell out, and after this, they would never see each other again. With their parents estranged, Claude and Picasso would gradually cease to appear in their father’s work. Within this context, Paloma takes on a poignant importance not just within Picasso’s oeuvre, but in his life as a whole; one of the final works from this celebratory, intimate and joy filled series in which Picasso reveled in the world he shared with his beloved young children.
In Paloma, Picasso places the viewer directly within his daughter’s world. We regard her from a low viewpoint, as if sitting on the ground, seeing the world through her own eyes. ‘He entered into their play’, Roland Penrose recalled of Picasso’s life with his children, ‘and made them happy with dolls fashioned from scrap pieces of wood decorated with a few lines in coloured chalk; or taking pieces of cardboard he tore out shapes of men and animals and coloured them, giving them such droll expressions that they became fairy-tale characters not only for Claude and Paloma but for adults as well’ (R. Penrose, Picasso: His Life & Work, London, 1958, p. 330). Unlike the paintings and drawings that Picasso had made of his first son, Paolo, in which the child is pictured in costumes, or as a miniature adult, somber, posed and serious, his depictions of Claude and Paloma show the artist completely immersed in the magic of their world. He pictured his children drawing, playing with toys, tadpoles, or sleeping, or, as in the present work, out in the garden, capturing in his art a sense of the amazement that a child could find in the simplest things. Kirk Varnedoe has written, ‘Whether in recognition of a new age of permissive thinking about early childhood or out of a greater concern to absorb for himself some of the budding vitality of their youth, Picasso in the early 1950s doted on the childishness of Paloma and Claude; rather than imposing premature adulthood on them in his work, he often let their games, their toys, their own creations – as well as the mercurial intensity of their emotional life – inform his art’ (K. Varnedoe, ‘Picasso’s Self-Portraits’, in W. Rubin, ed., Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation, exh. cat., New York & Paris, 1996-1997, p. 160).
While Picasso’s portraits of Claude often showed his son immersed in his favourite activity, drawing, a binding link between father and son, his portraits of Paloma frequently associate her with her mother, Françoise. The present work is no exception. Behind Paloma, on the upper right of the composition, a blossoming tree can be made out. Picasso equated Gilot with nature, a connection most famously illustrated in his iconic portrait of her, La femme fleur of 1946. ‘You're like a growing plant and I've been wondering how I could get across the idea that you belong to the vegetable kingdom rather than the animal’, Picasso explained to Françoise at the time that he painted this simplified, overwhelming beautiful portrait. ‘I've never felt impelled to portray anyone else this way. It's strange, isn't it? I think it's just right, though. It represents you’ (Picasso, quoted in F. Gilot, op. cit., p. 119). Just as her mother was indelibly wedded to nature, so Picasso has depicted his daughter outside, amidst the verdant landscape and surrounded by blossoming flowers, a symbolic embodiment of youth, innocence and abundant love.
There is a gentle lightness, exuberance and ecstatic, deeply felt joy in works such as Paloma, all of which attests to the artist’s fascination with the state of childhood. Picasso had famously stated, 'When I was a child I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to draw like a child’ (Picasso, quoted by H. Read in The Times, 26 October 1956). He remained enthralled by the innocent state that children inhabited, captivated by the complete freedom and inhibition with which they existed in the world, something he wished to embody for himself and channel into the way he made his art. In order to depict his young children, their activities, and their innocent, naïve view of the world around them, Picasso forged a simplified, boldly coloured aesthetic that is exemplified in the present work. Picasso has slightly enlarged and exaggerated Paloma’s face, enhancing her chubby cheeks and grasping fingers. Using the same, fractured cubist idiom as he had done for his portraits of both Dora Maar and Marie-Thérèse Walter throughout the war, Picasso has rendered a double profile of Paloma, picturing her visage both frontally and from the side. In just the same way that he captured the remarkable gazes of his previous lovers, as well as in portraits of himself, both of Paloma’s large, dark eyes are visible, a clear familial likeness to her father and his famed mirada fuerte. ‘We never posed for my father’, Paloma remembered many years later. ‘We were too young and he did everything from memory, from his imagination. I think, especially when he had Claude and me, he became fascinated with the whole idea of childhood, with the fact that children don't have preconceived ideas. There was a freedom to that, to the idea that for children, anything is possible’ (P. Picasso, quoted in M. Kimmelman, ‘Picasso’s Family Album’, in The New York Times, 28 April 1996).