Acquired in 1956
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs; Munich, Haus der Kunst; Hamburg, Kunstverein, Picasso 1900-1955, 1955-56, no. 104, illustrated in the catalogue
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso Oeuvres de 1946 a 1953, vol. XV, Paris, 1965, no. 111, illustrated pl. 64
Ariana Stassinopoulis, Picasso, Creator and Destroyer, New York, 1988, illustrated
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, Liberation and Post-War Years, 1944-1949, San Francisco, 2000, no. 48-037, illustrated p. 207
Painted in in the fall of 1948, Femme au chignon dans un fauteuil belongs to a period of Picasso's work characterized by an increasing energy and artistic freedom after the war years. His works of the late 1940s demonstrate a new departure in Picasso's art, turning away from the somber still-lifes and portraits painted during World War II, towards a new style, brighter in both coloration and subject matter. During this time Picasso became increasingly involved with the Communist Party, which he had joined in 1944. In his art, however, he avoided overtly political themes, and chose instead to depict more intimate subject matter drawn from his personal life.
Perhaps the most significant motive for this change was Picasso's partnership with the young painter Françoise Gilot. Picasso met Françoise in May 1943, during his tumultuous relationship with Dora Maar, and it was not until 1946 that they settled in Cap d'Antibes in the south of France. The period that followed was marked by great personal fulfilment, during which Picasso was, probably more than at any other time, devoted to his family, including the couple's two children, Claude and Paloma. This happiness in private life spilled into the artist's work, resulting in a number of portraits of his lover and their children. Over the years Picasso's depictions of Françoise became increasingly stylized, as he depicted her as a "Woman-flower" and sometimes in the nude. The present work, painted in the aftermath of their lover’s quarrel and evidencing Picasso’s peace offering of the Polish jacket, was a catalyst for a related series of prints that the artist completed around the same time. Picasso’s figure is seated on throne like a Renaissance queen and not unlike those depicted by the Old Master painters whom Picasso so greatly admired.
Having left behind the innocent, dream-like portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter, as well as the dramatic, distorted depictions of Dora Maar, Picasso found a new style for his portraits inspired by Françoise, characterized by a certain calm elegance and poise. In the present painting, she adopts an almost formal pose, looking straight at the viewer. As Frank Elgar pointed out: "The portraits of Françoise Gilot have a Madonna-like appearance, in contrast to the tormented figures he was painting a few years earlier" (F. Elgar, Picasso, New York, 1972, p. 123). Discussing Picasso's depictions of Gilot, Michael Fitzgerald wrote: "Picasso's portraits of Françoise also were not drawn from life; yet the dialogue between artist and subject influenced their form. Françoise was not interested in truly naturalistic images, and, unlike in the cases of Picasso's other wives and mistresses, there are almost none that reproduce her features strictly. Within the context of portraiture, this radical reconfiguration of Françoise's face takes a step beyond Picasso's previous renderings of her; yet it does so by adopting techniques that he had employed for many years" (M. FitzGerald, 'A Triangle of Ambitions: Art, Politics, and Family during the Postwar Years with Françoise Gilot,' in Picasso and Portraiture, London, 1996, p. 416).
Picasso loaned the present work to several important career retrospectives held at museums throughout Europe in the early 1950s. It seems that he only parted with the picture in 1956, when it was sold to the Goldwyn family presumably by Picasso's dealer Daniel Henry Kahnweiler at Galerie Louise Leiris. Samuel Goldwyn, Sr., who was born in Warsaw, must have been profoundly impressed by the Polish element of the composition and perhaps felt a kinship with Picasso through this picture. Indeed, Picasso and Goldwyn were great visionaries of the 20th century, who both creating indelible images that have withstood the test to time.
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