Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Private Collection, United States
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Pablo Picasso. Heads Faces Bodies, 2005, no. 9, illustrated in color in the catalogue
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors and Sculpture. A Comprehensive Catalogue 1885-1973. Nazi Occupation, 1940-1944, San Francisco, 1999, no. 43-246, illustrated p. 267
Picasso met Dora Maar, the Surrealist photographer, in the autumn of 1935 and became enchanted by the young woman’s powerful sense of self and commanding presence. In the eight years that followed, Maar was Picasso’s principal model and the subject of some of his most iconic portraits. Picasso painted the present work in 1944, about a year after he met the young painter Françoise Gilot, who would become his next lover and mother of his children. By the beginning of 1944 Picasso had already become intimately involved with Gilot, and his artistic and romantic attention during this period was divided between the two women.
Throughout the 1930s and until the end of his life, Picasso continually returned to the theme of a woman sitting in an armchair. By the time he painted the present picture Picasso had incorporated Maar’s image into countless versions of this motif. Unlike Marie-Thérèse Walter who had given birth to Picasso’s daughter Maya in 1935, Maar was an artist, spoke the artist’s native Spanish, and shared his intellectual and political concerns. And more than most of the women in his life thus far she was an intellectual equal – a characteristic that the artist found both stimulating and challenging.
The present composition is one of two depictions of Maar in an armchair that Picasso painted on September 23 in his studio on the Rue des Grands Augustins in Paris. This was the same studio where he had painted his epic Guernica in 1937, when Dora made a series of photographs of his progress on the painting. Maar’s work as a photographer impressed Picasso enough for him to think of her as a fellow artist, and this sentiment was still very much in his mind when he painted this dynamic picture. Throughout the occupation of Paris, Picasso and Maar continued to work side by side in Paris, mainly because their freedom to travel was curtailed as a consequence of the war. It was perhaps due to this confinement and the general stress of living through a war that lead to the deterioration of their relationship. But the pictures that Picasso produced during this period are some of the most haunting and emotionally resonant of the era.
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