Lot 53
  • 53

Pablo Picasso

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • signed Picasso (upper left); dated 3.5.47. on the stretcher
  • oil on canvas
  • 92 by 73cm.
  • 36 1/4 by 28 3/4 in.


Kootz Gallery, New York
Perls Galleries, New York (acquired by 1966)
Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre Ltd.), London
Sale: Christie's, New York, 9th May 2001, lot 42
Private Collection, Europe


Washington, D.C., The Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Picasso Since 1945, 1966


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso. OEuvres de 1946 à 1953, Paris, 1965, vol. 15, no. 56, illustrated pl. 33
Felix Andreas Baumann, Pablo Picasso, Leben und Werk, Stuttgart, 1976, no. 301, illustrated p. 157 (titled Mädchen mit Puppe)
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Liberation and Post-War Years, 1944-1949, San Francisco, 2000, no. 47-046, illustrated p. 185

Catalogue Note

In the spring of 1947, when Picasso painted this charming picture of a little girl holding her doll, he was about to become a father for the third time. His companion, Françoise Gilot, was pregnant with the couple's son Claude who would be born that May. In these circumstances, Picasso was experiencing a renewed interest in subjects relating to childhood. For the next seven years he devoted several canvases to depicting children, mostly modeled after Claude (fig. 1) and, after 1949, his youngest daughter Paloma. Whilst most of Picasso's pictures of children from this period can be identified as portraits of these new additions to the family, some of the young models were unknown, and in this painting the girl has only been identified as a dauther of the concierge. But as Maya Picasso once observed about these anonymous child portraits, 'no one knows who they are, but they're nonetheless "his" children because, as my father used to say, every single work, every single picture, was "his" child' (Maya Picasso, quoted in Werner Spies, Picasso's World of Children (exhibition catalogue), Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf & Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 1996, p. 58). 

Although images of children feature throughout Picasso's career, it was not until the artist reached middle age that his paintings of this subject took on a youthful quality of their own. His canvases from the late 1940s onwards possess a certain liveliness and exuberance that was in stark contrast to the more rigid and overtly mannered depictions of Paulo and Maya in costume from the 1920s and 1930s (fig. 2). Now in his mid-sixties, Picasso felt rejuvenated by his renewed role as a father and rose to the challenge by becoming more spirited and playful in his art. In fact, Maya herself once observed that 'if one were asked how old the artist was who painted Picasso's works of 1946 to 1954, one would say someone in his twenties or thirties because of the colors and the subject matter, the sense of joie de vivre and discovery' (quoted in ibid., p. 66). This spirit is also evident in his photographs of the time, showing him playing or drawing with the youngsters (fig. 3).    

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 M. Picasso, Picasso, My Grandfather, New York, 2001, p. 182). But to say that Picasso's paintings took on a childlike quality by no means undermines their expertise and insightfulness. The present work, with its economy of line and limited palette, captures a certain joy and innocence that would be lost in a more refined composition. Picasso depicts the girl with just enough arabesque strokes of his brush to convey her playfulness, and renders her in one of the pint-size chairs commonly found in a nursery. Her doll is nothing more than a stick figure, perhaps a reminder of the few, simple toys available to children in the lean years immediately following the war.   

In a major survey of Picasso's depictions of children, Werner Spies attempted to qualify the various means and motifs in which this subject figured into Picasso's prolific career. 'Children appear in every medium he used - painting, drawing sculpture, printmaking,' Spies writes. 'In fact, apart from depictions of the female body and variations on still life, the subject of children constitutes the most extensive category in his oeuvre. There are hundreds of paintings and works on paper that reveal the artist's impassioned, and it would seem, crucial study of children and their behavior. As Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler once remarked: "If one were to make a ranking of the figures in Picasso's work, children would doubtless hold an outstanding place. There was no aesthetic reason for this. He painted and drew children, captured them in prints and sculptures, simply because he loved them passionately, especially the little ones. I have always seen him behaving affectionately towards the children in his surroundings, and I remember how once, in about 1908, he tenderly kissed the tiny hand of a baby"' (W. Spies, op. cit., p. 9).