Dated 23.12.70. on the reverse
Oil on panel
Maya Widmaier-Picasso, Paris
Wildenstein & Co., London
Sale: Maître Marc Arthur Kohn, Geneva, 1989, lot 64
Private Collection, Switzerland (sold: Sotheby's, London, April 3, 1990, lot 66)
Private Collection, Japan (acquired at the above sale)
Sale: Christie's London, December 10, 1998, lot 533
Avignon, Palais des Papes, Picasso 1970-1972, 1973, no. 43
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, oeuvres de 1970, vol. 32, Paris, 1977, no. 337, illustrated pl. 118
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Final Years, 1970-1973, San Francisco, 2004, no. 70-369, illustrated p. 113 (titled as Caricature of a Man)
Homme à la moustache, a delightful caricature in oil, shows Picasso's playful approach to representing his alter-ego. Although they are not specified as such, the depictions of men that Picasso completed in the last years of his life were understood to be self-portraits, and their iconography was indicative of his self-awareness in the years before his death. Gone from his paintings were the veiled references to the artist as the victorious gladiator or centaur, as these indefatigable characters were not indicative of the artist's failing stamina and lost youth. Picasso believed that the vainglorious, mustachioed musketeer was a more appropriate incarnation of the artist's persona, and he returned often to the image in the late 1960s. His sense of humor is evident in this interpretation from 1970. Marie-Laure Bernadac writes of the portraits from this period, "There are ornamental figures whose garments serve as a pretext for a blaze of blood-red and golden yellow, a resurgence of Spanishness, hispanidad. ... In parallel with these Baroque figures, Picasso paints a gallery of portraits of men who are seen 'in majesty'" (Marie-Laure Bernadac, "Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model", in Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, London, The Tate Gallery, 1988, p. 82).
A photograph by Edward Quinn captures Picasso's love of caricature and costume and how he enjoyed manipulating his own image, even in real life (see fig. 1). In his collaborative monograph with Quinn, Pierre Daix discussed Picasso's Kafkaesque propensity for transformation: "Metamorphosis was key not only in Picasso's work but also in his private life. He had a fantastic range of hats, caps and other headgear from all over the world and liked to use them as a sort of gimmick whenever he met a visitor for the first time who seemed ill at ease. This masquerade always helped to break the ice" (Pierre Daix and Edward Quinn, The Private Picasso, Boston, 1987, p. 176).
This picture was one of the select works that was included in Picasso's memorial exhibition at the Palais des Papes in 1973. In a photograph of that exhibition, it hung on the wall alongside other works considered among the best of the artist's final production (see fig. 2).
Fig. 1, The artist in costume. Photograph by Edward Quinn.
Fig. 2, The exhibition Picasso 1970-1972, Palais des Papes, Avignon, 1973, with the present work on the bottom left
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