Madame Hutin-Blay (by inheritance from the above)
Pace Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in 1993)
Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above in 1995)
Private Collection, England
Waddington Galleries, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998
Picasso's depictions of Claude and Paloma are some of the most engaging and intimate of his entire production. These canvases provide a rare glimpse into the artist's life as a father and evidence the joy and wonder that he experienced watching his children at play. Picasso was already in his 60s by the time Claude and Paloma were born. In photographs of the time, he appears more like a lighthearted grandfather than a father as he watches the youngsters draw with their crayons (see figs. 1 & 2). Because Picasso adamantly resisted growing old and was terrified by his own mortality, his enthusiasm for child play only increased as he aged. Having children at an advanced age was something that emboldened him and furthered his quest for staying forever young, and he often incorporated this retrograde approach to his life into his art. Marina Picasso once remembered her grandfather saying, "At eight, I was Raphael. It took me a whole lifetime to paint like a child" (quoted in Marina Picasso, Picasso, My Grandfather, New York, 2001, p. 182).
Many of the paintings that Picasso created in the 1950s were starkly linear and brilliantly elementary in their style in comparison to the more complexly constructed works of prior decades. With his depictions of Claude and Paloma, Picasso achieved a simplicity both in style and in subject that he had strived for all his life. For the present oil from 1954, Picasso has radically abstracted the children against a background of solid colors. His stylistic approach is reminiscent of those by Picasso's friend and rival Matisse (see fig. 4), who died the same year the present picture was painted.
Unlike his more staged portraits of the angelic baby Maya or little Paulo posing in costume, Picasso's depictions of Paloma and Claude are informal representations of his children in their own world. There is no pretense in these scenes of the nursery because their father so clearly enjoyed watching them play. Werner Spies writes, "Instead of being members of a private retinue or charming child-women, his children now began to act their age. Especially in the compositions in which Claude and Paloma appear together, their activites are reminiscent of Montessori kindergarten or of Summerhill School. The scenes are dominated by the 'enfant sauvage". Not a trace of drill or 'good' behavior is found in the pictures of this period, which often show Claude and Paloma crawling across a floor on all fours" (Werner Spies, Picasso's World of Children (exhibition catalogue), Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen; Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, 1995-96, p. 46).
For obvious reasons, drawing was probably an activity encouraged in the nursery of Picasso's children. Sometimes, as in the present work, young Claude and Paloma were depicted coloring by themselves without the interference of a parent. Othertimes, Picasso included their mother, Françoise Gilot, watching over them as they drew. Werner Spies has discussed Picasso's stylistic approach to these paintings: "In some depictions of Paloma, Claude, and their mother, Françoise Gilot, the figures are reduced to the most elementary contours. In this they presage a group of works of Picasso's late period, the cardboard and sheet metal sculptures. In a process of abbreviation he cut shapes out of paper, combined them into composition and then had these executed in heavy cardstock or sheet metal. The cutout technique itself, the childlike simplification of silhouette, the play with that correspondence between scale and significance which children project onto their view of the world -- all clearly indicate that these works partake of a childlike will to form" (ibid.).
Fig. 1, Picasso, Claude and Paloma in Vallauris, circa 1953. Photograph by Edward Quinn
Fig. 2, Picasso drawing with his children. Photograph by Edward Quinn
Fig. 3, Henri Matisse, Claude dessinant, Françoise et Paloma, 1954, oil on canvas, Musée Picasso, Paris
FIg. 4, Henri Matisse, La leçon de piano, 1916, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
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