Lot 55
  • 55

Pablo Picasso

8,000,000 - 12,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Femme assise dans un fauteuil
  • Signed Picasso (lower right),
  • Oil on panel
  • 39 3/8 by 31 1/2 in.
  • 100 by 80 cm


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the artist)

Curt Valentin, New York (1953)

Galerie Europe, Paris

Alex Reid & Lefevre (The Lefevre Gallery), London

Sale: Sotheby's, London, December 1, 1987, lot 65

Sale: Christie's, London, June 25, 2001, lot 31

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, French Paintings and Cubism, 1953, no. 10, illustrated in the catalogue


Frank Elgar & R. Maillard, Picasso - His Work, His Life, Munich & Zurich, 1956, illustrated in color p. 226

Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1946 à 1953, vo. XV, Paris, 1965, no. 239, illustrated

Frank Elgar, Picasso, Paris, 1974, illustrated p. 222

The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, A Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue 1885-1973: The Fifties I 1950-1955, San Francisco, 2000, no. 53-008, illustrated p. 105

Catalogue Note

Françoise Gilot was a powerful presence in the artist's life when Picasso painted this bold portrait in 1953.  The picture dates from the final months of their relationship, when the couple were living together in Vallauris with their two children.  By this point, Picasso's controlling behavior towards her, combined with Francoise's desire for autonomy in her own artistic career, were deepening the rift that would ultimately drive them apart.  The present painting provides a fascinating glimpse into Picasso's consideration of Françoise during this emotional period, when he may have been reassessing his relationship with this remarkable young woman.  

While Picasso had once stated that he painted women in armchairs in order to "protect them" as he had for Marie-Thérèse, Dora Maar and his earlier pictures of Françoise, there is something distinctly different about his portrait of Françoise here.  In this picture, Françoise is in control.  She sits in a high-backed wicker armchair that barely contains her, while her hands folded across her waist sheild her body from the artist's visual scrutiny.  Françoise's regal pose and the orange, blue and green coloration of the palette are reminiscent of the paintings that Picasso's great rival Matisse completed of his studio assistant and artistic collaborator Lydia Delectorskaya in the 1930s.  Much like Lydia did with Matisse, Françoise would often paint side-by-side with Picasso in his studio, sometimes even working with him on his paintings.   We know from her autobiography that Picasso was intensely jealous of Françoise's admiration of Matisse, so any associations with the French painter's work are highly plausible.  Also, Picasso's portrait of Francoise is similar to Matisse's 1906 portrait of his daughter Marguerite, which Picasso owned and kept in his studio.  As he was forty years Françoise' senior, Picasso may now have been regarding his lover from a paternal vantage or at least a more familial one than he had in the past.

The present work bears formal similarities to another oil on panel, Le Fumeur, that Picasso completed this same year.  Both of these pictures have a strong linear presence and highly graphic approach to representing the body.  While the male picture is understood to be a depiction of Picasso's youthful alter-ego, the present work could presumably be considered a pendant composition in both its modeling and its subject matter.   But there is even greater significance in the present work, which was painted on the exact day that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin died of a massive heart attack.  Both Picasso and Françoise were members and activists in the Communist party, and certainly both were aware of this cultural milestone.  The next day, when Picasso was asked to draw a portrait of Stalin for publication in Les Lettres françaises, his rendering was quite telling.  As Françoise herself recounted to John Richardson, "That afternoon Pablo took [an early photograph] of Stalin to the studio and did two largish charcoal drawings.  In one of them Stalin had flowers in his hair; the other one looked like my father!  Pablo, who had never met my father, said that if he did a portrait of him, it might resemble Stalin!" (quoted in Picasso and Francoise Gilot, Paris-Vallauris, 1943-1953, exhibition catalogue, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2012, p. 33).