Impressionist & Modern Art

A Portrait of Picasso’s Golden Muse

By Jenn Gimblett

One of the highlights of the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale (May 14, New York), Le Repos is a stunning and intimate depiction of Picasso's "golden muse," Marie-Thérèse Walter. Among the most iconic images of his œuvre, Picasso's sensual paintings of his lover Marie-Thérèse reign supreme as emblems of love, sex and desire in 20th-century art.

PABLO PICASSO, MARIE-THÉRÈSE WALTER WITH HER MOTHER'S DOG, 1932, PHOTOGRAPH, ARCHIVES MAYA WIDMAIER PICASSO © 2018 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.

It was in a series of paintings executed in 1932 that the artist introduced Marie-Thérèse as an extraordinary new presence in both his life and his art. Picasso first saw her on the streets of Paris in 1927, when she was only seventeen years old, while he was entangled in an unhappy marriage to Olga Khokhlova. The couple's relationship was kept a well-guarded secret for many years, both on account of Picasso's marriage to Olga and Marie-Thérèse's age. But the covertness of the affair only intensified Picasso's obsession with her, and many of his pictures, with their dramatic contrasts of light and dark, allude to their secret interludes. 

PABLO PICASSO, PHOTOGRAPHS OF MARIE-THÉRÈSE WALTER, 1930, ARCHIVES MAYA WIDMAIER PICASSO © 2018 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.

The present work – one in a series of defining paintings of this period – depicts the serene model asleep, her head in Grecian profile, resting on her forearm and interlaced fingers . It is in works such as Le Repos, where her striking facial features are the main focus of the composition, that Picasso most successfully celebrated Marie-Thérèse's full, passive and golden beauty. The frank and uncomplicated avowal of Picasso's desire and love for Marie-Thérèse is particularly evident in this work and serves as a reminder that, for them, this was a period of happiness and fulfillment.

LEFT: PABLO PICASSO, LA FEMME AUX CHEVEUX JAUNES, 1931, OIL ON CANVAS, THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, NEW YORK © 2018 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.

RIGHT: PABLO PICASSO, LE RÊVE, 1932, OIL ON CANVAS, PRIVATE COLLECTION © 2018 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.

For Le Repos, Picasso combined yellow and violet, colors that he favored in his treatment of Marie-Thérèse’s hair and flesh. He also placed her head between two other complementary hues, red and green, thickly applied on the canvas and enhanced by the use of black. It was not just in coloration that Picasso's works evolved during the Marie-Thérèse years but also in form: abandoning the prevailing strands of geometric figuration and shocking Surrealist deformation that characterized much of his work of the 1920s, Picasso began to use emphatic arabesques and ample, harmonizing curves.

 

Pablo Picasso's Le Repos will be offered in Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale (14 May, New York). Estimate $25,000,000–35,000,000. Learn more about the artists that bring the spirit of Fearless Now to life.

 

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