Lithograph, 1946, initialled in pencil by Fernand Mourlot, inscribed with his reference 38 and numbered 6/6 verso, one of six proofs reserved for the artist and the printer (there was no edition of this subject), on Arches wove paper
Françoise Gilot, French painter and bestselling author of 'My Life with Picasso', is the inspiration behind this fine group of eleven portraits. The young woman and legendary muse of Picasso is posing here at the age of 24 for her lover, the established artist, then 64. The 'Période Françoise' which lasted approximately nine years, until she left him in September 1953 with their two children, Claude and Paloma, was an extremely prolific period for the artist. These portraits, which are among his finest lithographs, were produced in rapid succession during only two consecutive days of June 1946. They illustrate perfectly the extent to which Françoise was a fundamental stimulant to Picasso's artistic creativity.
This series of linear lithographs produced a year after the Second World War marks the beginning of a long collaboration between the artist and the printer Fernand Mourlot. The eleven proofs (lots 30-40), each initialled and numbered by Mourlot on the reverse of the sheet, and the one editioned impression (lot 41), signed and numbered by Picasso, bear witness to the system put in place between the two men. It was initially agreed that eighteen copies of each stage of each image on which Picasso was working would be taken and preserved as a record, whether that particular stage of the lithograph was to be editioned or not. Later, as is the case with these present works, as well as lots 42-71, the series of Femme au Fauteuil and Femme Assise et Dormeuse, only six copies were preserved –five copies for the artist himself and one for Mourlot. None of them were signed or numbered by the artist but by the printer, as these impressions, not intended for public distribution, were deemed Picasso's own property.
Always experimenting and constantly stretching the medium to its limits, Picasso uses lithography as an original and autonomous artistic medium. Despite the economy of line, Picasso has brilliantly captured the essence and motion of his subject.
Stylistically this group is characterized by the hieratic frontality and the incessant movement of the fluid lines and curves. It was around this time that Picasso had renewed his friendship with Matisse with both artists living in the South of France. Matisse also shared a privileged connection with Françoise and the influence of his linear compositions and flat shapes is clearly recognisable in Picasso's lithographs of Françoise.
In this marvellous series of portraits Picasso depicted his young lover in a variety of artistic formulations resulting in the compatibility of the linear movement of the hair with the delineated area of the face. Lot 32, for instance, is distinguished from the series by the art deco floral interpretation of the hair. A more complete metamorphosis is exemplified in lot 40, Françoise with Wavy Hair, whilst the relationship between face and hair culminates in lot 39, the lithograph of Françoise as the Sun.
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