Lot 1
  • 1

Pablo Picasso

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
266,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Le voyeur
  • signed Picasso and dated Cannes 1er Aôut XXXIII (lower centre); numbered II on the reverse
  • pen and brush and ink on paper


Rosenberg & Helft, London (acquired from the artist. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 9th December 1997, lot 244)

Sale: Sotheby's, London, 20th June 2007, lot 139

Purchased at the above sale

Catalogue Note

Picasso executed the present work while on holiday in Cannes with his wife Olga and son Paolo in August 1933, and the architecture of this drawn landscape reflects these surroundings. This Mediterranean setting combines beautifully with the classicising style to emphasise the timeless themes of the work. Six years earlier, Picasso had met the young and beautiful Marie-Thérèse Walter, and they had quickly become lovers. Although in 1933 she still remained hidden away as he continued the public life of a married man, he saw her regularly and she had become an important source of inspiration.

The voluptuous curves and idiosyncratic profile of the woman in the present work are immediately recognisable as belonging to Marie-Thérèse, and Picasso casts himself as the muscled lover looking hungrily at the object of his desire whilst she remains tantalisingly out of reach. The composition illustrates Picasso's preoccupation with the nature of the 'male gaze' and the power of sight to facilitate possession and ownership. This dynamic, and the strength of his feeling for Marie-Thérèse evidently preoccupied Picasso greatly at the time as they are central components in many of the drawings that Picasso executed that summer. There are two other works that depict variations on the current composition, titled Le balcon and Narcisse, but her likeness also appears in other works that show her as part of a tableau of painter and model. In these works, many of which are overtly sexualised, Picasso emphasises the action of ‘looking’ – the painter does not paint, instead he watches as his model sleeps or gazes passively at a finished statue of his lover. These images of explicit voyeurism are an admission of Picasso's adultery, but also a form of self-justification, the erotic subject inviting the viewer to collude with the voyeur in watching his naked, young lover asleep. As the summer went on Picasso increasingly replaced the figure of the painter with that of a minotaur and this motif – which took on a new urgency in the context of his relationship with Marie-Thérèse – is echoed in the physical dominance of the male figure in the present work.

Gracefully executed, yet charged with a remarkable intensity and energy, Le voyeur illustrates the richness of the many themes and references that Picasso evoked in his work, and emphasises the importance of his artistic output as a means of expressing and assimilating his passions.