- Pablo Picasso
- JEUX DE PLAGE (CLAIR)
- oil on canvas
- 78.7 by 190cm.
- 31 by 74 3/4 in.
Estate of the artist
Bernard Ruiz Picasso, Paris
Pace Wildenstein, New York
Acquired from the above by the previous owner
Vienna, Kunstforum & Tübingen, Kunsthalle, Picasso: Figur und Porträt-Hauptwerke aus der Sammlung Bernard Picasso, 2000-01, no. 80
Malaga, Musée Picasso, 30 obras de Picasso, 2004-05, no. 23
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Picasso: Badende, 2005, no. 104, illustrated in colour in the catalogue and detail illustrated on the cover
Roland Penrose & Edward Quinn, Picasso at Work, New York, 1964, illustrated p. 118
Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño, Picasso, Madrid, 1975, illustrated p. 204
Roland Penrose, Picasso: su vida y su obra, Barcelona, 1981, illustrated p. 59
Edward Quinn & Pierre Daix, Picasso avec Picasso, Paris, 1987, illustrated in a photograph of Picasso painting the present work p. 127
Ingo F. Walther, Pablo Picasso 1881-1973, Cologne, 1992, vol. 2, illustrated in colour p. 524 (titled La Plage à La Garoupe II)
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Fifties I, 1950-1955, San Francisco, 2000, no. 55-139, illustrated p. 310 (titled La Plage à La Garoupe II)
Bathers were a reccurring theme throughout Picasso's oeuvre. Although he painted landscape intermittently, the subject of the bather in a natural setting persisted throughout his career, beginning with the early Cubist period in 1908, the Neo-Classical bathers of the early 1920s, the Surrealist figures of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and continuing to Joy of Life of 1946. From 1918 onward, Picasso spent many summers on the Mediterranean where he explored his interest in the freedom of movement in the open air. Following the war, Picasso returned to the Mediterranean and in the summer of 1955 purchased a large and ornate nineteenth century villa overlooking Cannes with views of Golfe Juan and Antibes. It is also this summer when the present work was painted that the artist returned to the theme of the bather depicting the beach called La Garoupe in Cap d'Antibes. Picasso was particularly enamoured with La Garoupe from his first encounter with it in 1920: 'I was stupefied; I knew right away that countryside was for me' (quoted in Ina Conzen, Picasso: Badende (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 47).
The Garoupe paintings were executed while the filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot was staying in the south of France to film the celebrated painter at work. His film, Le Mystère Picasso, documents the creation of eighteen drawings and paintings, all revolving around themes that had preoccupied him in earlier years, 'such as the painter and his model, a sleeping female nude, a still life, goat, bullfight, and mythical subjects (here in the form of a faun) - although the splendid finale in which Picasso by his own admission, 'risked everything' is once again devoted to a Mediterranean beach scene, which from now on, after a long break, would once again become central to his explorations as an artist' (ibid., p. 133). Clouzot's film shows how Picasso struggled with the first La Plage à la Garoupe, now at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (fig. 1) as it underwent many reworkings. In its early stages, it was almost decorative and scenic in character without any dominant figures but after numerous adjustments and erasures, monumental figures of a seated bather to the right and a standing couple left of centre dominate the composition. However, upon completion of La Plage à la Garoupe I Picasso had a clear vision in mind and commenced this, the second version, which is identical in format to the first picture but different in style.
'This second picture shows two swift-footed ball-players standing in the center of an even more planar, highly abstracted composition, the seemingly childlike, naïve reduction that in no way reflects the complexity of the process by which it was created. The central pair is a trouvaille from the preceding experiments on paper; only a few of the members of the first La Garoupe version are retained: the swimmer, the man on the diving board and the seated figure in profile. Very much in the manner of Fernand Léger ... who was also living on the Mediterranean coast at this time, the figures here are outlined in black and shown against a background filled with bright patches of color which ... permit associations with the sea, sun, parasols, beach towels, balls, and such like without actually being descriptive' (ibid., p. 134).
In La Plage à la Garoupe I and II, Picasso was responding directly to the visual stimulus of his Mediterranean surroundings, replacing the erotic encounters and mythical figures of the 1920s and 1930s with contemporary bathers and water-sport practitioners. He clearly struggled with this panoramic scene in the first of the two pictures but none of this anxiety remained in the second version. On a brilliant white ground large patches of brilliant blue, yellow, red and green seem to be paying hommage to the memory of Matisse who died in 1954, particularly his paper cut outs of the last decade of his life. Although the cheerful ballplayers left of centre might have stepped out of Matisse's Le Bonheur de vivre of 1905-06, the other figures are greatly simplified, even reduced to ciphers in some cases that look forward to the simplified forms of the sculptural group Les Baigneurs of the following year.