Lot 22
  • 22

Pablo Picasso

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
1,114,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Chanteuse
  • Signed Picasso (lower left)
  • Pastel on paper laid down on board
  • 25 by 16 1/8 in.
  • 63.5 by 41 cm.


Private Collection

Wildenstein & Co., Ltd., New York (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above in 1974

Catalogue Note

Chanteuse is a striking example from the series of elaborately dressed courtesans and performers that Picasso produced over the course of 1901 in both Madrid and Paris. In December 1900 Picasso returned to Spain from his first trip to Paris, which he had visited with his friends Carlos Casagemas and Manuel Pallarcs. In January 1901 he moved back to Madrid, the city where he had studied in 1897-98, and founded the little art journal Art Joven together with Francisco de Asis Soler. Picasso remained in the Spanish capital until May, drawing for his fledgling magazine and feverishly executing several lush and brilliantly colored paintings and pastels featuring over-dressed women. The radical young painter created these dramatic images as a provocative response to the artistic establishment, which for some time nurtured a trend for nostalgic historical genre painting.

This group would prove to be influential inspiring the work Picasso showed a few months later in Paris at the gallery of the esteemed Impressionist dealer Ambroise Vollard. With regard to the Madrid paintings, Palau i Fabre has noted the following: "Different from one another though they may be, and with certain variations of details, [the women of Madrid] have one feature in common, for they all, almost without exception, wear particularly enormous skirts that are only suitable for walking straight from the carriage to the drawing room and, once that haven has been reached, for moving as little as possible from the sofas on which we often seen them sitting" Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso Vivo (1881-1907), Barcelona, 1980, p. 219). In contrast, the works Picasso produced for the Vollard exhibition took in a wider sphere of society and activity. As Marilyn McCully writes of the show: "An alternative exhibition title – at least for many of the works by Picasso in the Vollard show – might have been “Paris: jour et nuit”, since a large number of them reflected those aspects of the life that he himself observed and lived in Paris. A large number of compositions listed in the catalogue refer to depictions of women: some of them are café clientele, some are shop girls, while others are dancers or singers in performance" (Picasso in Paris, 1900-1907 (exhibition catalogue), Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2011, p. 40). The subject of the present work suggests it might belong to the group of paintings depicting singers that Picasso finished in the summer of 1901.

Commenting on the wider series of works to which this pastel belongs, John Richardson has written: "These are oddly Parisian in feeling; hard-faced cocottes in crinolines so bouffant that the wearer takes up an entire sofa ... the largest and most ambitious of these courtesans is the Lady in Blue, which portrays a hieratic dominatrix, heavily made up like the Moulin de la Galette women, dressed in a late nineteenth-century version of an eighteenth-century costume: an enormous hat, an enormous butterfly bow and an enormous white crinoline embroidered in silver swags... The Madrid courtesan pictures are an exception to the general rule that Picasso's style and subject matter reflect his way of life. There was not much of a gilded demi-monde in Madrid (people went to Paris for that), but even if there had been Picasso would not have had access to it. He drew partly on fantasy, partly on the vision of other artists (e.g. Toulouse-Lautrec, Steinlen and Bottini) and partly on his memories of la vie parisienne - not least the magazine of that name that celebrated the charms of the grandes cocottes. The impact of Goya is also apparent, above all in the more grotesque paintings: the Old Harlot and the Dwarf Dancer. No matter whether these works were done in Madrid or Barcelona or Paris, or as I believe, started in Madrid and finished in Paris (spring-early summer 1901), they are the first manifestations of the combinations of compassion and grotesquerie, and the notion of conventional beauty as a sham that Picasso derived from Goya" (John Richardson, A Life of Picasso,1881-1906, vol. 1, London, 1991, p. 182).