Norman Granz, London
Acquired in 1972
Klaus Gallwitz, Picasso at 90, The Late Work, New York, 1971, frontispiece
Rafael Alberti, A Year of Picasso, Paintings: 1969, New York, 1971, no. 153, illustrated in color p. 157
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Sixties III, 1968-1969, San Francisco, 2003, no. 69-003, illustrated pg. 87
Picasso's work on this theme began in the mid-1960s with a series of engravings and works on paper that explored this figure, and, later, a variety of canvases of the musketeer, festooned in colorful regalia and brandishing a symbol of his virility - a pipe, instrument, weapon, or even a paintbrush. For the present composition, Picasso has rendered his musketeer as a pipe smoker – a motif that dated back to some of the artist’s composition from the early 20th century.
As Picasso developed this series during the late 1960s and into the 1970s, the musketeer became a multi-dimensional figure, exhibiting a range of personalities including card players, musicians and pipe smokers, illustrating his adventures as a bon vivant. In the work under discussion, completed in 1969 and only a few years before the artist's death, the musketeer has become an amalgamation of defining symbols. Unlike earlier versions of this subject in which the artist is careful to render the likeness of the figure through costume and presentation, the present work is identifiable as part of the musketeer series only by particular attributes. Nevertheless, the figure is unquestionably a man of stature, depicted here in the dignified manner of classical portraiture.
For Picasso, the musketeer signified the golden age of painting, and allowed him to escape the limitations of contemporary subject matter and explore the spirit of a past age. Here was a character who 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 - Velasquez 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.
Picasso seldom depicted himself directly, choosing instead to have thematic characters personify him. The smoking figure in the present work was yet another incarnation of the artist and revealed his particular preoccupations during these final years of his life: "The Pipe Smokers - a favorite theme of Picasso's that goes back to Cubism - afforded him one way of assuaging his frustration. 'Age has forced us to abandon [smoking],' he said to Brassaï, 'but the desire remains. It's the same with love.' For Picasso man was no longer a godlike sculptor at the height of his maturity, nor was he the monstrous Minotaur, symbol of duality; he was a fictitious character, a carnival puppet whose identity and truth lay in masks and signs. Malraux accurately compared these figures to the flat and emblematic personages of the tarot. It was not without humor that Picasso created these characters, whose amorous adventures he chronicled in his etchings” (Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 457-58).
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