PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Franz Kluxen, Munster & Boldixum, Germany (acquired by 1913)
Ernst Schlesinger (1877-1925), Hamburg (acquired by July 1925)
Dr Johanna Meyer-Udewald (1894-1943), Hamburg, Amsterdam & Brussels (a bequest from the above in September 1929 as a life estate, with reversionary interest to Käthe Schlesinger, née Bromberg, widow of the above)
Joseph Albert Dederen, Brussels (acquired by October 1942)
Dr Georges Robyn, Brussels (acquired by July 1950)
Bollag Gallery, Zurich
Galerie D. Bénador, Geneva (acquired from the above in 1952)
Duncan C. & Marjorie Phillips, Washington, D.C. (acquired from the above in October 1952)
Duncan V. Phillips, San Francisco (by descent from the above in 1985)
Sale: Christie's, New York, 8th November 2006, lot 50 (offered pursuant to a settlement agreement between Duncan V. Phillips and the heirs of Ernst & Käthe Schlesinger)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Cologne, Rheinischer Kunstsalon, Pablo Picasso, 1913, no. 3 (as dating from 1902)
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Parijsche Schilders, 1939, no. 87 (titled Stilleven in blauw en rose and as dating from 1905)
Knokke Le Zoute, Grande Salle des Expositions, Picasso, 1950, no. 11, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1905)
London, Hayward Gallery, Master Paintings from the Phillips Collection, Washington, 1988, no. 35, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Still Life with Portrait and as dating from 1905)
Barcelona, Museu Picasso & Bern, Kunstmuseum, Picasso 1905-1906: From the Rose Period to the Ochres of Gósol, 1992, no. 143, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection (and travelling), Twentieth-Century Still-Life Paintings from the Phillips Collection, 1997-2000, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Still Life with Portrait)
Denys Sutton (ed.), Picasso: Blue and Pink Periods, London, 1948, illustrated in colour pl. X (as dating from 1905)
Wilhelm Boeck & Jaime Sabartés, Picasso, New York, 1955, illustrated p. 372 (as dating from 1905)
Pierre Daix & Georges Boudaille, Picasso 1900-1906. Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1966, no. XV.14, illustrated p. 296
Alberto Moravia & Paolo Lecaldano, L'opera complete di Picasso blu e rosa, Milan, 1968, no. 263, illustrated p. 109
Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso in Catalonia, Barcelona, 1975, no. 188, illustrated p. 156 (as dating from 1905 and with incorrect measurements)
Nathan Goldstein, Painting: Visual and Technical Fundamentals, New Jersey, 1979, fig. 1.10, illustrated p. 13 (titled Still Life with Portrait and as dating from 1905)
Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso Vivo, 1881-1907, Barcelona, 1980, no. 1250, illustrated p. 450
Marjorie Phillips, Duncan Phillips and His Collection, New York & London, 1982, illustrated p. 198 (titled Still Life and as dating from 1905)
Anatoly Podoksik, Picasso: The Artist's Works in Soviet Museums, New York, 1989, no. 173, illustrated p. 151
John Richardson, A Life of Picasso, New York, 1991, vol. I, mentioned p. 441
Robert Rosenblum, 'The Spanishness of Picasso's Still Lifes', in Jonathan Brown (ed.), Picasso and the Spanish Tradition, New Haven & London, 1996, mentioned p. 174
Núria Rivero & Teresa Llorens in Picasso 1905-1906 (exhibition catalogue), Museu Picasso, Barcelona & Kunstmuseum, Bern, 1992, p. 310
In the summer of 1906 Pablo Picasso returned to Spain for the first time in two years. His visit was prompted by the long Parisian winter, and he hoped to be reinvigorated by the warm Mediterranean sunlight of his native country. After a few weeks in Barcelona at the end of May, he and his mistress Fernande Olivier travelled to Gósol, a remote village in the Catalan Pyrenées, where they stayed until the beginning of August. Picasso was immensely prolific during the summer months spent at Gósol, executing a number of paintings, drawings, watercolours, gouaches and carvings. His chief concern during this period was portraits and figure studies inspired by the local youth, peasant girls, the innkeeper Josep Fontdevila and, most importantly, his companion Fernande.
Alongside the numerous figure studies, during his stay in Gósol Picasso also executed several still-lifes in oil and watercolour, a genre that had featured infrequently in his work since the turn of the century. With their earthy palette and assemblage of everyday objects – including the characteristic Catalan jug porrón – these still-lifes are rooted in the tradition of Spanish still-life painting. The present work is closely related to a smaller-scale oil Nature morte aux vases (fig. 1), now at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. The largest of this group of still-lifes, Nature morte au tableau is also the most complex, as it combines the objects on the table-top with two images visible in the upper half of the composition, possibly pictures that were hanging in the artist’s temporary studio. The one on the left – referred to as ‘tableau’ in the title of the composition – is a traditional Spanish devotional picture, most likely acquired by Picasso during his stay in the country. The image on the right has been linked to a study for Picasso’s Les Deux frères, the oil version of which as well as the preparatory sketches on paper (fig. 3) were created during the summer in Gósol.
John Richardson wrote about Picasso’s Gósol still-lifes and the present composition: ‘Gósol prompted Picasso to branch out in new directions. Hitherto he had resorted to flower pieces only when he was desperate for money. He now addressed himself seriously to still life: a genre that he would eventually explore more exhaustively and develop more imaginatively than any other artist in history. These early efforts – clusters of opaque pots contrasted with translucent bottles, embellished with an occasional flower – are not as tentative as they seem. They look back at Redon in their pastel delicacy, ahead to Morandi in their seeming simplicity and innocence. […] they are painted with a sensuousness and erotic symbolism that anticipates the sexuality of later still lifes. Everything is as terracotta or flesh-coloured as in a figure painting; and the ubiquitous porrón (the glass vessel from which Spaniards drink jets of wine) makes a phallic pun. […] the erect vessels in [the present] still life (in the Phillips Gallery, Washington, D.C.) point towards a framed print of a maja with a rose in her hair that is mysteriously inscribed Las pregunta[s] – ‘the questions’. These are the first glimmerings of Picasso’s anthropomorphic concept of still life as a metaphor not just for sex but for all manner of conflicts and confrontations – a concept that will later help the artist to contrive a code that will divulge and at the same time conceal his secret desires’ (J. Richardson, op. cit., p. 441).
Picasso’s Gósol paintings foreshadow the stylistic shift that occurred the following year in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and his experiments leading to Cubism. Robert Rosenblum explains how Picasso’s production during his time in Gósol would redirect the course of his artistic development: ‘The serene and earthy equilibrium, often described as ‘classical,’ that marked much, though hardly all, of this summer productivity might appear to be the last gasp of traditional order before the detonation of 1907. But far from being buried forever in the rubble, the wide and experimental range of paintings, drawings, and sculpture from the Gósol months launches a wealth of fresh ideas that would be amplified in the new era inaugurated by the Demoiselles and would have many afterlives in Picasso’s postcubist career’ (R. Rosenblum in Picasso: The Early Years, 1892-1906 (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. & Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1997-98, p. 263).
When Nature morte au tableau was previously sold at auction in 2006 it was offered pursuant to a settlement agreement between the then owner, Duncan V. Phillips, and the heirs of Ernst Schlesinger, who was the German trade attaché in Copenhagen during the First World War. In his will, Schlesinger left the present work to a friend, Dr Johanna Meyer-Udewald, for her life. Dr Meyer-Udewald spent several years evading the Nazis but was eventually betrayed and was tragically deported to Auschwitz in 1943. On her death, legal ownership of the painting reverted to the Schlesigner family but by that time the painting had disappeared. After the end of the Second World War the work passed through various collections before being purchased from Galerie D. Benador in Geneva by Duncan C. Phillips, founder of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
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