Lot 20
  • 20

Pablo Picasso

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
4,506,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Paloma
  • Dated 15.4.52. (upper right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 25 1/2 by 21 1/4 in.
  • 65 by 54 cm


Estate of the artist

Marina Picasso (by descent from the above)

Acquired from the above

Catalogue Note

Paloma, the youngest daughter of Picasso by his companion Françoise Gilot, is the subject of this portrait en grisaille.  Picasso completed the picture four days before the little girl's fourth birthday, when she and her brother Claude were living with the artist in Vallauris.  With the arrival of Paloma in 1949 until the end of his relationship with Gilot in 1953, Picasso turned to his domestic life for creative inspiration and focused particular attention on his young children.  These pictures are characterized by a linear simplicity that calls to mind the naiveté of childhood, and they can also be seen as direct responses to the 'playful' cut-outs that occupied Picasso's arch-rival Matisse around the same time. But the deceptively simple formalism of these pictures is counter-balanced by a powerful subjectivity that was rarely seen in twentieth-century portraits of children.

Paloma's arrival in April 1949, two years after the birth of her brother Claude in May 1947, marked a new period of creativity at this advanced stage in Picasso's life. As Michael FitzGerald writes, "Unlike earlier pictures of his first son Paulo (born in 1921), which generally present the youngster in a formal pose and fancy dress, and the more uninhibited portrait of Maya (born in 1935), the images of Claude and Paloma reflect Picasso's joyful immersion in their world, and a liberation from adult expectations.... Having brought us into sympathy with the child's universe, Picasso then immerses us into their world by inverting an old canard against modern art.  He took the conventional dismissal of non-naturalistic styles as 'something a child could do' and employed it to project the perceptions of a youngster not yet adjusted to his or her own body, or certain of how to navigate the outside world" (M.C. FitzGerald, "A Triangle of Ambitions:  Art, Politics and Family during the Postwar Years with Françoise Gilot" Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York & Grand Palais, Paris, 1996-97, p. 430).

The present painting dates from the same year as Picasso's black and white portrait of Paloma's mother, Francoise (lot 16).  Picasso had a life-long fascination with the expressive power of grisaille, a technique which received singular attention in the Picasso retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, Picasso Black and White.  In an interview with Sotheby's magazine about that exhibition, curator Carmen Gimenez theorized that Picasso "really didn’t care about the colour. He cared about the form and the structure of the painting. He wanted to express himself the best way possible. I have started the show with Woman Ironing (1904), from our own collection. And although it’s from his Blue Period, it’s mostly grays; very monochromatic. And from his Rose Period, we have Man, Woman and Child (1906), and it, too, shows how Picasso really used very little colour. In Françoise Gilot’s fantastic book My Life with Picasso, she recounts a conversation in which Picasso said, 'If you take the blue or the red or the main colour out of a Matisse, the painting collapses. But if you take out one colour in my painting, the structure is still there.' For him, colour was a distraction. He has the power to bring you into his field without using colour, because he’s a master drawer. The line is what’s powerful in his work" (Anthony Barzilay Freund, Carmen Giménez On 'Picasso Black and White' at the Guggenheim," Sotheby's at Auction, October 9, 2012).