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PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE STANLEY J. SEEGER

Pablo Picasso
ÉTREINTE
JUMP TO LOT
30

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE STANLEY J. SEEGER

Pablo Picasso
ÉTREINTE
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
London

Pablo Picasso
1881 - 1973
ÉTREINTE
signed Picasso and dated 11.2.71.II 12. (upper left)
white wax crayon and pencil on red paper
51.5 by 65cm.
20 1/4 by 25 5/8 in.
Executed on 11th-12th February 1971.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
Sold: Christie's, New York, 4th November 2004, lot 166
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner

Literature

Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1971-1972, Paris, 1978, vol. 33, no. 46, illustrated pl. 16
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Final Years, 1970-1973, San Francisco, 2004, no. 71-115, illustrated p. 148
Diana Widmaier Picasso, Picasso, 'Art Can Only Be Erotic', Munich, Berlin, London & New York, 2005, illustrated in colour p. 129 (titled Homme et femme II and with incorrect date)

Catalogue Note

A whirlwind of lust and desire, Etreinte is one of the most vivid compositions of Picasso’s late years. While his own physical stamina may have waned by this point, Picasso’s focus on erotic subjects in his paintings and drawings only intensified. In her monograph on her grandfather’s art from these years, Diana Widmaier Picasso claims that ‘painters go about their painting to fulfill urgent needs and work off their passions’ (D. W. Picasso, op. cit.,p. 10). Indeed, this was the case for Picasso, who longed for the physical sensations that now eluded him. Rendered with a frenetic hatching of white wax crayon on a sheet of luminous red paper, the female figure writhes in ecstasy, her body intertwined with that of her male companion. The contortions of the model, whose sharp profile resembles that of Jacqueline, call to mind some of Picasso's most sensually explicit depictions of the voluptuous Marie-Thérèse from the 1930s (fig. 1). In this later work, though, a male figure has entered the composition (fig. 2), whose physical proximity to the nude could be interpreted as the ageing artist himself reclaiming the sexual stamina of his youth.

 

In Etreinte the inclusion of the male figure – a musketeer – served another purpose. The character of the musketeer signified the golden age of painting, and allowed Picasso to escape the limitations of contemporary subject matter and explore the spirit of a past age. Here was a character that embodied the courtly mannerisms of the Renaissance gentleman, and Picasso's rendering of this image was also his tribute to the work of two painters he had adored throughout his life - Velázquez and Rembrandt. Picasso had devoted a large portion of his production throughout the 1960s to the reinterpretation of the old masters, an experience in which he reaffirmed his connection to some of the greatest painters in the history of art. The musketeer series was a continuation of this interest and began, according to his wife Jacqueline Roque, ‘when Picasso started to study Rembrandt,’ but his appreciation of other great figures of the Renaissance, including Shakespeare, also influenced the appearance of these characters. In choosing the iconography shared by the old masters, Picasso is, at the end of his career, consciously aligning himself with the greatest artists of the Western canon.

 

‘I have less and less time and I have more and more to say’, Picasso commented in his last decade (quoted in Klaus Gallwitz, Picasso Laureatus, Lausanne & Paris, 1971, p. 166). The freedom and spontaneity of his late work, together with the recourse of archetypical figures and symbols, reflect both a growing awareness of his mortality, as well as a conscious decision to allow himself total liberty with both style and subject matter. His choice of media in the present work – the white wax crayon on an unconventionally coloured support – exemplifies liberties he took with technique and representation in these bold and daring compositions. Rather than ponder the details of human anatomy and perspective, the artist isolated those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him, and depicted them with a contemporary style and a sense of wit entirely of his own.

 

‘Art can only be erotic,’ Picasso famously remarked, and his composition here certainly meets this expectation. Themes of sex and passion appeared in many guises throughout Picasso's final years, such as the virile musketeers and pipe-smoking brigadiers entangled in romantic encounters with women, or the image of the painter and his model depicted in the studio. The relationship and synergy between the artist and model was one of profound complexity: 'the more Picasso painted this theme, the more he pushed the artist-model relationship towards its ultimate conclusion: the artist embraces his model, cancelling out the barrier of the canvas and transforming the artist-model relationship into a man-woman relationship. Painting is an act of love, according to Gert Schiff, and John Richardson speaks of 'sex as metaphor for art, and art as a metaphor for sex' (Marie-Laure Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model', in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 77).

 

 

 

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
London