Marie-Laure Bernadac observed that the events in Picasso's private life had significant bearing on his art, and all of the elements in his paintings, including still-lifes, have an autobiographical significance. "Indeed under each pot, bowl of fruit, or guitar, there lurks a story, a person, or an anecdote that is part of the painter's life. Because of the autobiographical nature of his art, and because he assigned an equal value to the animal, mineral, plant, and human realms, he painted whatever was around him. When he was at the seashore, he painted fish and crustaceans" (M.-L. Bernadac, "Painting from the Guts: Food in Picasso's Writings" in Picasso and Things (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1992, p. 22). The still-life was Picasso's preferred motif throughout the early 1940s, offering a calming alternative to the stress that clouded daily life during this turbulent time. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Picasso had no urgent need to leave Paris during the war, and continued to work in his studio at 7, rue des Grands-Augustins. By this point in his career, Picasso was a celebrity and financially secure. Unconcerned with selling his work, the paintings from this period remained in his studio, only to be exhibited after the war.
Rather than a vehicle for documenting the destructive reality that surrounded him, painting was for him a world of creativity into which he could escape. While some of his contemporaries criticized Picasso for the lack of open political engagement in his art, others, such as Alfred Barr, deemed his activity heroic. Barr wrote: “He was not allowed to exhibit publicly and he made no overt gestures but his very existence in Paris encouraged the Resistance artists, poets and intellectuals who gathered in his studio or about his café table” (A. Barr, quoted in Picasso and the War Years: 1937-1945 (exhibition catalogue), California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco & The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1998-99, p. 118).
The first owner of the present work was Samuel M. Kootz, the renowned New York City art dealer and author whose gallery was the first to champion the work of the Abstract Expressionists. Kootz Gallery represented seminal members of the New York School of painters including William Baziotes, Adolph Gottlieb and Robert Motherwell. In addition to his proselytization of original forms of expression, Kootz was an avid supporter of Picasso and flew to Paris in December of 1946 to meet with him in person. Upon meeting Picasso, Kootz convinced the artist to sell him paintings to help support the young painters at Kootz Gallery. As a result, Kootz Gallery held the first exhibition of Picasso’s poignant wartime paintings in America.
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