Dr. Falk Simon, Gothenburg
Matthiesen Gallery, London (as agent for the above)
Acquired from Dr. Simon circa 1955
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Picasso, der Maler und seine Modele, 1986, no. 58, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Paris, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume; Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts & Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Picasso érotique, 2001-02, no. 39, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, 1997-2015 (on loan)
Alexandre Cirici-Pellicer, Picasso avant Picasso, Geneva, 1950, no. 178, illustrated
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1895 à 1906, Paris, 1957, vol. I, no. 181, illustrated pl. 84
Pierre Daix & Georges Boudaille, Picasso 1900-1906, Neuchatel, 1966, no. IX 19, illustrated p. 225
Alberto Moravia & Paolo Lecaldano, L' opera completa di Picasso blue e rosa, Milan & Paris, 1970, no. 68, illustrated p. 93
Carsten-Peter Warncke & Ingo F. Walther (ed.), Pablo Picasso, Werke 1890-1936, Cologne, 1991, vol. 1, illustrated in color p. 98
Fondation Pierre Gianadda, ed., Collection Louis et Evelyn Franck, Zurich, 1998, illustrated in color p. 77
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, The Blue Period, 1902-1904, San Francisco, 2011, no. 1903-112, illustrated p. 137
Picasso’s proclivity for prostitutes during this bacchanalian early phase of his life was well-documented in many of his drawings from this period. Sketches of nude women, either alone or accompanied by the artist in sexual acts, appeared throughout his notebooks. But the beauty of these women and their potential as vehicles for artistic expression was not lost on the young man. Through careful renderings, such as the present pastel, he was able to transform these anonymous women into modern-day allegorical figures such as Tragedy, Melancholy, or Sorrow. The model in the present work could be interpreted as a penitent Magdalene, crouching in shame with her long hair cascading down her body. What is so remarkable here are the nuances of her posture, which captures the hesitancy and vulnerability of this young woman.
The earliest works of Picasso’s Blue period were triggered by the suicide of his close friend Carlos Casagemas in 1901. The melancholy that engulfed Picasso after this tragic event was further heightened by the occasional feelings of insecurity and loneliness that accompanied the young émigré during his first years in Paris and his visits to friends in Barcelona. Financially insecure and a relative unknown within the art world at this point, Picasso nevertheless did not waiver in his creativity. While in Paris, he immersed himself in Bohemian culture and intermingled with the more flamboyant characters of the demi-monde, including prostitutes, cabaret and circus performers, beggars and madmen. And on his visits to Barcelona, he reunited with his old friends from Els Quatre Gats, who considered themselves “neurotic dilettanti” and encouraged young Picasso’s moody and introspective approach to his art. The blue, absinthian haze of the pictures that he created during this time perfectly captures this creative atmosphere, and the present work is a revealing example.
Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot, and Marie-Laure Bernadac have written about the pictures of Picasso’s blue period and the essence of mood and mysticism that characterizes them all: “The theme that underlies this series of seated women turned in upon themselves with their heads in their hands is the ancient and time-honored personification of Melancholy, which was revived by the Symbolists. For the first time, Picasso even used the medium of sculpture to express the theme, modeling a terra-cotta figure that he fired in Paco Durrio’s kiln. In these studies Picasso pursued to the point of exhaustion the pattern of an arabesque closing in upon itself or hollowing itself out to accommodate the ellipse of a table, a glass, or the weight of a child’s body. Despite the precious nature of the materials he used – turquoise alloys rubbed with metallic gray or with gold marbled sapphire, whose surface appears either granular or melted into a glaze – all these portraits, drawn with a heavy jagged brushstroke, have a repellent quality [….] As Sabartés wrote, ‘Picasso believes that sorrow is the foundation of life’” (B. Léal, C. Piot and M.-L. Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, pp. 56-60).
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