- Pablo Picasso
- Dated 20 Septembre 39. (upper left); dated Moyen 20 Septembre -39. (IV) and dedicated, signed and dated pour mon cher André Level, son ami Picasso, 22 Mai 41. (on the verso)
- Gouache on paper
- 10 3/4 by 8 1/2 in.
- 27.3 by 21.6 cm
Heinz Berggruen, Paris
O'Hana Gallery, London
Galerie Agnès Lefort, Montreal
Acquired before 1980
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, Europe at War, 1939-1940, no. 39-163, illustrated p. 7
Upon the outbreak of World War II, Pablo Picasso moved to Royan, seventy-five miles north of Bordeaux, on the Atlantic coast of France. There he completed many portraits of his model and lover, Dora Maar. Maar had been a constant companion in his studio since 1935, acting as a documentary photographer throughout his production of Guernica in 1937. By 1939, Picasso's paintings of her reflected the trials and tribulations that they had experienced together, and her image came to represent the ominous mood of the era. In Femme accroupie, he magnificently distorts Maar's image, revealing the complexity of his relationship with her and the emotions that she inspired in him. Dora Maar's relationship with Picasso is one of the most tumultuous love stories in the history of 20th century art. Picasso met Maar, a Surrealist photographer, in the autumn of 1935 and became enchanted by the young woman's powerful sense of self and commanding presence. In the eight years that followed, Maar was Picasso's principal model and the subject of some of his most iconic portraits. While Picasso often depicted Maar in an aggressive, even violent fashion, Femme accroupie reflect Picasso's most tender regard for his lover. The same soft, loving approach is visible in Nu assis sur bleu of the same year (see fig. 1), and indeed these treatments of Maar are a vital insight into the artist's unpredictable opinion of his subject. Despite abruptly and coldly ending their relationship, it is clear from Femme accroupie that Picasso harbored enormous affection for his challenging and strident muse.
Collector André Level, the original owner of this work, to whom it is dedicated on the verso (see fig. 2), founded and coordinated an art investment fund aimed at amassing a high-value body of contemporary French artwork during the early 20th century. Operating under the name "La Peau de l'Ours," the collecting group drew funds from thirteen members and quickly established the investment principles that drive today's market for modern art. Level's collection, which was sold at auction in 1914, represented Picasso, Matisse, and many other influential French artists of the day.
Fig. 1 Pablo Picasso, Nu assis sur bleu, oil on canvas, 1939, sold at Sotheby's, New York, November 7, 2006, lot 56, for $4,328,000
Fig. 2 The verso of the present work