Lot 19
  • 19

Pablo Picasso

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Les Courses à Auteuil
  • signed Picasso (lower right)
  • oil on board
  • 47.2 by 62.4cm.
  • 18 1/2 by 24 1/2 in.


Alfred Lindon, Paris

Confiscated by the ERR, Paris in 1940 (number Li 52; as Damen auf Rasenplatz)

Emil Georg Bührle, Zurich (acquired in Switzerland in August 1944 for ChF 10,000 as Frau beim Pferderennen)

Jacques Lindon, Paris & New York (restitution awarded on 15th December 1948)

Leigh B. Block, Chicago

Fine Arts Associates (Otto Gerson), New York

Mr & Mrs Joseph H. Hazen, New York (acquired from the above on 26th May 1952; Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, 8th November 1995, lot 14)

Private Collection, USA (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 19th June 2006, lot 12)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Picasso, An American Tribute, 1962, no. 10, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Women at Auteuil Races and with incorrect medium)

Jerusalem, Israel Museum; Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fogg Art Museum; Honolulu, Honolulu Academy of Arts; Berkeley, California, University Art Museum, University of California; Houston, Museum of Fine Arts & Los Angeles, The Art Galleries, University of California, Paintings from the Collection of Joseph H. Hazen, 1966-67, no. 31, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso, A Retrospective, 1980, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fogg Art Museum, Selections from the Joseph H. Hazen Collection, 1994-95

Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, El Modernismo. De Sorolla à Picasso, 1880-1918, 2011, no. 29bis, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1895 à 1906, Paris, 1932, vol. I, no. 71, illustrated pl. 34

Pierre Daix & Georges Boudaille, Picasso 1900-1906: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Neuchâtel, 1966, no. V.32, illustrated p. 171 (titled Pelouse à Auteuil)

Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso vivo (1881-1907), Barcelona, 1980, no. 589, illustrated p. 233 (titled Grupos femeninos en las carreras de caballos)

John Richardson, A Life of Picasso (1881-1906), New York, 1991, vol. I, illustrated p. 196

Catalogue Note

Executed during Picasso’s second trip to Paris in 1901, Les Courses à Auteuil shows the young artist’s fascination with elegant and colourful figures that he encountered there. The dynamic and varied life of the metropolis, with its busy boulevards, nightclubs, cafés and public gardens, offered him a rich source of inspiration. Whilst the society outcasts, such as street beggars, blind musicians and absinthe drinkers had resonance with the young Picasso, whose talent was yet to be fully recognised and who still lived modestly, he was also attracted to the fashionably dressed beau monde and extravagant courtesans, such as the groups of ladies at the races, adorned in lavish costumes and hats, depicted in the present work. While it is possible that Picasso was introduced to members of the high society through his friends and supporters, and during the summer months attended the horse races at Auteuil and Longchamp (fig. 1), it is more likely that these subjects were largely derived from the artist’s imagination, fuelled by reports in the newspapers and magazines.

While the use of strong blue tones anticipates Picasso’s celebrated blue period, the overall bright palette and the decadent subject-matter of this oil evoke the fin-de-siècle Symbolism of artists as diverse as Toulouse-Lautrec (fig. 2) and Bonnard. Reproductions of Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings had appeared in French newspapers that were available in Barcelona and were well known to Picasso before he arrived in Paris. But the first-hand experience of these canvases and the decadent culture they portrayed increased his admiration for them and for the tradition in which they were painted. It was not only Lautrec’s draughtsmanship and the vibrant colours that impressed Picasso, but also the subject matter of the world of the cabaret and night clubs, opera and the races. In the present work, the graceful delineation of the women’s figures and the focus on their flamboyant dresses and hats bear testament to the important influence these artists had on the young Spaniard.

Another stylistic influence discernible in Les Courses à Auteuil is that of Japanese coloured woodcuts, although Picasso probably absorbed this style through French artists of the turn of the century, rather than from direct contact with them. As John Richardson commented, ‘Picasso failed to understand what anyone saw in Japanese prints […] If he assimilated anything of their influence, it would have been largely by osmosis, via Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, van Gogh or the Nabis. The seemingly Japanese silhouettes Picasso devised for the fashionable women in feathered hats, big as parasols, and fishtail trains that he had observed in the paddock at Chantilly or Auteuil, are more likely to derive from Bonnard then, say, Utamaro’ (J. Richardson, op. cit., p. 203). 

Picasso made his second visit to Paris in 1901, accompanied by Jaume Andreu Bonsoms, a fellow countryman from Barcelona. He found lodgings at 130ter Boulevard de Clichy, in the studio of his friend Casagemas who had recently committed suicide. Picasso shared the studio with his first dealer Pere Mañach, occupying the larger of the two rooms, which served as both his bedroom and a studio. During his first stay in Paris they had signed a two-year contract providing the artist with a monthly income of 150 francs in exchange for a proportion of his works. It was through Mañach’s efforts that Ambroise Vollard organised the first exhibition of Picasso’s works held in Paris, due to open at the end of June 1901. The first few weeks of Picasso’s stay in Paris were spent in a frantic artistic activity in preparation for the show. The exhibition opened on 24th June, and was favourably reviewed by Félicien Fagus in La Revue Blanche: ‘[Picasso] is the brilliant newcomer … like all pure painters, he adores colour … Each influence is transitory … one sees that Picasso’s haste has not yet given him time to forge a personal style; his personality is in his haste, this youthful impetuous spontaneity. I understand he is not yet twenty, and covers as many as three canvases a day.’