The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Claude Picasso.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (acquired in 1985)
Raymond & Patsy Nasher, Dallas (acquired from the above in 1985. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 7th May 2008, lot 37)
Purchased at the above sale
Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art & Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, A Century of Modern Sculpture: The Patsy and Raymond Nasher Collection, 1987-88, no. 99, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, A Century of Sculpture: The Nasher Collection, 1997, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art & Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Picasso: The Artist's Studio, 2001-02, no. 46, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Dallas, Nasher Sculpture Center, From Rodin to Calder: Masterworks of Modern Sculpture from the Nasher Collection, 2003-04
New York, Dactyl Foundation, Dialogues, 2008, no. 4, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Robert J. Bliwise, 'The Collector: Raymond D. Nasher', in Duke Magazine, Durham, May-June 2003, mentioned pp. 24-33
Picasso began L'atelier on November 27, 1961, the same day that he executed a similar composition, Femme couchée dans un intérieur I (fig. 1). Both of these works include a richly textured interior, featuring a reclining nude in the center of the composition and another nude model seated to her right. According to the dates inscribed on the back of the canvas, Picasso began painting this picture in late November and completed it in January of the following year. With the inclusion of the figure of the painter, Picasso introduces the dialogue between artist and model which Femme couchée dans un intérieur did not address. As Michael FitzGerald writes, '...the large easel Picasso frequently included to anchor the scene is not present. Instead the artist holds a small rectangle (probably a sketch pad) in his hands. His position at an edge of the composition is a strategy Picasso had used frequently to upset an assumption of the artist's dominance. As a result, the picture is devoted to the women' (M. FitzGerald, Picasso: The Artist's Studio (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 164).
The origins of this composition can be traced back to Picasso's series from six years earlier, Les Femmes d'Alger (fig. 2). Picasso began his reinterpretation of Delacroix's famous composition shortly after the death of his longtime friend and artistic rival Henri Matisse. With this series, Picasso was not only attempting to elevate himself to the ranks of the great French painters Delacroix and Ingres, but he was also responding to the influence of Matisse and the chromatic richness of his odalisques. As Susan Grace Galassi writes, 'In the Women of Algiers [...] various artistic presences are synthesized. Likewise, Picasso's series encompasses multiple modern idioms, while Delacroix is 'altered' to accommodate Velázquez, Ingres, and Matisse. Picasso's own seminal, early masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, for which Delacroix's painting served as a source, hovers as a reference throughout the series [...]. The subject of the harem itself is fused with the studio and the brothel to become an allegory of creation. Thus, the Romantic impulse toward the continual expansion of boundaries is absorbed and carried out in Picasso's response, in which every element is transformed into something else' (S. G. Galassi, Picasso's Variations on the Masters, New York, 1996, p. 147). L'atelier is a clear inheritor of the stylistic concerns of this famous series. But now, as if reflecting upon his own role in the production of his art, Picasso has inserted himself into this colourful studio-as-seraglio by including the painter presiding over the entire spectacle.
After Picasso finished work on L'atelier, the painting remained in his collection until it was acquired by the photographer David Douglas Duncan. The work was not exhibited publicly until it entered the Nasher collection in 1985. When Jacqueline Picasso saw the work at Nasher's home in 1985, she commented that she still owned the blue canopy that appears above the central nude in the composition.
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