PARIS – Next week Sotheby’s Paris will celebrate the event-packed week of the successful Salon du Dessin art fair with a knockout show of its own. It is something the museum directors, curators, collectors and art lovers who flock to the prestigious drawings fair will not want to miss – Picasso and the Nude, Drawings and Ceramics from the Collection of Marina Picasso. The non-selling exhibition runs from 28 March to 1 April presenting to visitors a rare glimpse into the fabled private holding of Picasso art inherited by his granddaughter. Marina Picasso is the daughter of Paulo, Picasso’s first child from the painter’s marriage to the Ballets Russes dancer Olga Khokhlova. “It is the first time such a large number of Marina Picasso’s drawings, including major masterpieces, will be shown in Paris,” says curator Aurélie Vandevoorde, Sotheby’s Paris director of Impressionist and Modern Art.

Picasso drew as he lived and breathed. “He did thousands and thousands of drawings,” says Vandevoorde. “Sketching was spontaneous, the instantaneous translation of his thoughts onto paper before translating them into monumental paintings. The works of the show were chosen among a collection that includes hundreds of paintings, sculptures, ceramics and thousands upon thousands of drawings. We concentrated on Picasso’s nudes and how he evolved from the early drawings of prostitutes in Barcelona at the very beginning of his career, around 1898, through masterworks of the different periods up until the end of his life,” the curator explains. 

Pablo Picasso, Corps de Femme de Face, 1908, India ink on paper, 62.9 x 48 cm; 24 3/4 x 18 9/10 in. © Succession Picasso 2014.

One of the show’s most important pieces, Woman’s Body, Front View (1908), is a forceful, strikingly tall drawing of a faceless woman, her angular body sculpturally defined by hatching. Drawn at the same time as Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, this major study throws light on the deconstruction of his Cubist period. It hardly needs to be said that most of Picasso’s nudes were of the women he adored (if not permanently). In the exhibition his muses appear chronologically in a series of intriguing works. Although the women are not always identified in the titles of each drawing, Vandevoorde provides a guide to who inspired each masterwork. 

The curvy Marie-Thérèse Walter is present in works 22 to 28. L’étreinte (Minotaur Embracing A Woman), 1933 portrays the intermingled forms of artist and muse in a superb illustration of Picasso’s mythical themes, starring himself as the powerful minotaur in one of the most ebullient works in the exhibition.

Pablo Picasso, L'étreinte (Minotaure embrassant une femme), dated 20 avril XXXIII at top left, pencil on paper, 34.5 x 451.6 cm; 13 1/2 x 177 3/4 in. © Succession Picasso 2014.

Dora Maar is the subject of numbers 30 to 33. Number 33, one of Picasso’s most iconic compositions, Femme au Fauteuil, 1938, is echoed in his celebrated portraits of Maar. In one of the handful of ceramics included in the show, Pichet à bec avec anse, forme cornette (Religieuse et faune; circa 1954), Maar is the muse for an amusing pitcher that shows her as a nun with the artist as a faun popping up above her wimple. 

The independent Françoise Gilot was the muse of works 34 to 39. With flowing hair and rounded breasts, the elongated figure of the remarkable Standing Nude – Facing And In Profile, 1946, became renowned as the artist’s Femme-Fleur.

Pablo Picasso, Nu Debout, de face et de profile, 1946, pencil on paper, 65.6 x 50 cm; 25 8/10 x 19 7/10 in. © Succession Picasso 2014.

Finally Vandevoorde explains the origin of the exhibition: “When we approached Marina Picasso to suggest the show, she responded with enthusiasm to the idea of a free exhibition of one of her grandfather’s favourite subjects – open to ‘the simply curious’ as well as connoisseurs." Marina Picasso's own favourite work in the show is from the painter's famed Artist and Model series. As she explains in the catalogue preface, Le Peintre et son modèle, 1955, “pulls the viewer into the privileged, intimate world of the artist’s work. Today, I am delighted to share this privilege.”

Pablo Picasso, Le Peintre et son modèle, dated 11.3.55 at the top right, India ink on paper, 36.8 x 52.1 cm; 14 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. © Succession Picasso 2014.


Jean Bond Rafferty is a Paris-based contributing editor of Town & Country, and also writes for the International New York Times.

Picasso and the Nude, Fifty Drawings from the Collection of Marina Picasso will be on view at Sotheby's Paris from 28 March to 1 April.