Perls Gallery, New York
Galleria La Bussola, Turin
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Arona, Villa Ponti, Femme fatale: Il mito universale della donna nell'arte da Modigliani a Warhol, 2004
Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso. From the Minotaur to Guernica 1927-1939, Barcelona, 2011, no. 184, illustrated p. 71
Writing about the artist’s summer days at Dinard, John Richardson recounted: ‘Whenever possible, Picasso would escape from his wife’s sulks and the stifling atmosphere of their ugly rented house […] and make for the Plage de l’Ecluse in another part of the town. Marie-Thérèse would be playing ball with some of the children from her holiday home – a scene Picasso would repeatedly portray on the spot over the next few weeks, and from memory laced with fantasy over the next few years’ (J. Richardson, ‘Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter’, in Through the Eye of Picasso 1928-1934 (exhibition catalogue), William Beadleston Gallery, New York, 1985, n.p.). The energy of the present work is inspired by this contradiction. Picasso employs bold blacks and reds contrasting them with the more delicate tones of white and pink, as though evoking the different energies of the two women present in his life. The serene figure on the right, with her arms raised in a balletic pose, may not in fact be Olga, who was a ballerina, but Marie-Therèse. As John Richardson has argued: ‘Picasso evidently wanted to see how his beautiful, trim young mistress would be enhanced by the position that he usually used to travesty his former ballerina wife’ (John Richardson, A Life of Picasso, London, 2007, vol. III, p. 366). In Deux personnages Olga is transformed into a darker figure, whose flailing limbs provide much of the fierce energy of the composition.
An important source of inspiration for these works was provided by the Surrealists, whose stylistic ideas equipped Picasso with a highly abstracted vocabulary he used as a means of disguising the image of his mistress, whose existence he would keep secret until 1932. Discussing the works Picasso executed between April and June 1929, Josep Palau i Fabre observes that ‘the [pictorial] language constantly changes and adapts itself to the inner design of the artist. That artist is Picasso, the man of constant contradiction, the man of incessant dialectics. So much was he so that at that very moment he was executing paintings in which the human beings or the human figuration are reduced to almost vermicular schemes' (J. Palau i Fabre, op. cit., p. 70). In Deux personnages Picasso combines these distinctive forms with almost feverishly energetic brushstrokes, brilliantly capturing the emotions of this turbulent period.
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