Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Paris
Pace Wildenstein Gallery, New York
Michael Crichton (acquired from the above. Sold: Christie's, New York, May 11, 2010, lot 19)
Acquired at the above sale
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Picasso: der Maler und seine Modelle, 1986, no. 3, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Los Angeles, Pace Wildenstein Gallery, Pablo Picasso: Works from the Estate and Selected Loans, 1998
Wilhelm Boeck & Jaime Sabartés, Picasso, New York & Stuttgart, 1957, no. 76, illustrated p. 464 (titled Portrait de femme and as dating from 1917)
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. From Cubism to Neoclassicism, 1917-1919, San Francisco, 1995, no. 17-262, illustrated p. 77
Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso: From the Ballets to Drama, 1917-1926, Barcelona, 1999, no. 1556, illustrated p. 436 (as dating from 1925)
Aside from the terracotta-pink shade of the figure's dress, Femme à la robe rose is one of Picasso's most sophisticated gray-toned compositions. As both a color and non-color, gray presented irresistable aesthetic challenges that Picasso met head-on, most noteablely in his 1937 masterwork, Guernica. Picasso's predilection for monochromy was recently the subject of a major retrospective at the Guggenheim entitled Picasso, Black and White. In the catalogue for that exhibition, Carmen Giménez discussed how Picasso often returned to a monochromatic palette at major junctures in his career, and how many artists believed its successful application to be the benchmark for artistic success. "Gray was the quintessential color of the classical tradition, in which outline predominated over chromatic effect. Cézanne affirmed that the use of gray elevated a painter to the highest rank. 'Until you've painted a gray, you're not a painter. [...] You're not a painter as long as you haven't painted grays. Gray is the enemy of all painting, said Delcroix. No, you're not a painter until you've painted gray,' he told Joachim Gasquet, venturing furthermore that gray offered the possiblity of attenuating the potential conflict between the outline and various specific areas....We might add here a long list of both historical and contemporary artists who have highlyted the fundamental role played by gray, including a strict contemporary and even rival of Picasso's, Juan Gris, who went so far as to take 'gray' (gris in Spanish) as his surname." (C. Giménez, Picasso, Black and White (exhibition catalogue), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2012-13, pp. 29-30).
Although we can see the lingering deconstructive tendencies of Cubism in this picture, Femme à la robe rose is distinctly a product of Picasso's Neo-Classical period of the late 1917-1925. The term 'Neo-Classical' refers to the artist's conscious affiliation with the art of the Greek and Roman era and his attempt to incorporate a similar formal precision and clear draftsmanship into his art. Picasso's focus on the classical age was a product of a larger movement, or 'call to order,' that dominated the avant-garde after World War I, but his approach to this aesthetic was influenced by more personal factors. At this point in his life Picasso was already one of the most celebrated artists of Europe, and he sought to align himself with the great artists of the past. The predecessor for whom he had profound respect was the French Neo-Classical painter Ingres, whose serene and timelessly beautiful portraits of regal women may have inspired the mood of the present work.
Femme à la robe rose remained in Picasso's private collection until his death in 1973. The picture then belonged to Bernard Picasso, the grandson of Picasso and Olga. It was later acquired by the popular American novelist, Michael Crichton.
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