Citron, poisson, aubergine
highlights a pared-down and playfully juxtaposed group of foods that frequently populate Picasso's still life paintings of this period; whilst strongly simplified and reduced, these motifs exude a colorful and child-like rawness, each object forcefully emerging as a totem from the background on which it was painted. In subtle contrast to the related works he painted in his studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins during the Occupation, Picasso's palette became brighter following the victory of the Allies in 1945. Indeed, during the years following the war, Picasso was criticized by some of his contemporaries for the lack of open political engagement in his art. Rather than a vehicle for documenting the destructive reality and ultimate recovery that surrounded him, painting was for Picasso a world of creativity into which he could escape, and his works of this period certainly express Picasso's state of mind in his own artistic language. "It is not time for the creative man to fail, to shrink, to stop working," Picasso told Sidney and Harry Janis of his experience in occupied Paris. "There is nothing else to do but work seriously and devotedly, struggle for food, see friends quietly and look forward to freedom" (quoted in Marilyn McCully, ed., A Picasso Anthology: Documents, Criticism, Reminiscences
, Princeton, 1997, p. 224). Frances Morris further discussed the symbolism of Picasso's still lifes of this period: "Above all it was the still-life genre that Picasso developed into a tool capable of evoking the most complex blend of pathos and defiance, of despair to hope, balancing personal and universal experience in an expression of extraordinary emotional power. The hardship of daily life, the fragility of human existence and the threat of death are themes that haunt Picasso's still-life paintings of the war and Liberation periods" (Frances Morris, Paris Post War, Art and Existentialism 1945-1955
(exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1993, p. 155).
The present work was painted in Antibes in 1946 when Picasso embarked on his creative endeavor to decorate the vast halls of the Château Grimaldi at the bequest of the curator, who was struggling to fill the space with archeological artifacts. Though it was photographed by Christian Zervos 1946 in the great hall on the second floor which served as Picasso's studio, and published in Cahiers d'Art in 1948 as part of his article "Picasso au Musée d’Antibes," this particular painting did not stay in the collection of the museum. Instead, Picasso took this work, along with several still life drawings, back to Paris in his car, perhaps as a testament to his fondness for this painting.