- Pablo Picasso
- TÊTE DE TORERO
- oil on canvas
- 92 by 73cm.
- 36 1/4 by 28 3/4 in.
Waddington Galleries Ltd., London (sale: Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London, 26th June 1984, lot 50a)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Final Years, 1970-1973, San Francisco, 2004, no. 71-134, illustrated p. 156
The subject of matadors was prominent in Picasso's oeuvre from the very earliest stages of his career, and he returned to it in a series of paintings executed during his last years. Marie-Laure Bernadac has observed that in Picasso's late paintings, man 'always plays a part, or wears a disguise: as a painter at work or as a matador-musketeer [...] Picasso's confrontation with the human face, which makes him into the great portrait-painter of the twentieth century, brings him back to a confrontation with himself, the painter, young or old' (M.-L. Bernadac, in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, pp. 81-83). In the present work, the man's hat and elaborate costume identify him as a matador, a figure that for Picasso personified a return to his Spanish heritage.
Combining the complexity of this theme, loaded with personal and art historical references, with the freedom and spontaneity of execution, Tête de torero belongs to an important series of late paintings. It was included in the exhibition of his last great works, organised by Jacqueline at the Palais des Papes in Avignon shortly after Picasso's death in 1973. Painted in quick succession and with an extraordinary sense of energy, works from this series bear witness to the creative force that characterised Picasso's late years. Having gone through many phases of stylistic and technical experimentation, by this time Picasso had acquired a confidence of expression and freedom of execution that enabled him to paint monumental works in quick, spontaneous brush-strokes. Rather than ponder over the details of human anatomy and perspective, the artist was able to isolate those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him, and to depict them with a contemporary style and a sense of wit entirely his own.