Lot 43
  • 43

Pablo Picasso

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Deux personnages
  • signed Picasso and dated 29 (upper left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 33.5 by 41cm.
  • 13 1/4 by 16 1/4 in.


Richard L. Feigen Gallery, New York

Perls Gallery, New York

Galleria La Bussola, Turin

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Arona, Villa Ponti, Fantastico Novecento ad Arona da Picasso a Kandinsky, 2003

Arona, Villa Ponti, Femme fatale: Il mito universale della donna nell'arte da Modigliani a Warhol, 2004


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1926 à 1932, Paris, 1955, vol. VII, no. 271, illustrated pl. 110

Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso. From the Minotaur to Guernica 1927-1939, Barcelona, 2011, no. 184, illustrated p. 71

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1929, Deux personnages belongs to a group of pivotal works which Picasso painted between April and June of that year, depicting highly stylised and dynamic figures, often set against a background suggesting an outdoor setting. During 1929, Picasso’s private life was dominated by the emotional tension surrounding the two women present in his life: married to Olga Khokhlova, he was increasingly involved with his young mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter whom he had met in Paris in 1927. Picasso spent the summer of 1928 at Dinard in Brittany with Olga and their son Pablo, and was secretly meeting with Marie-Thérèse, whom he had installed in a nearby pension de jeunes filles. His depictions of the beach at Dinard often contain references to both women, revealing both the tensions of his increasingly distressing relationship with Olga and the compelling new inspiration and energy that Marie-Thérèse brought into his life. During his stay, Picasso extensively sketched various compositions that he would execute in oil, and the drawing for the present work is visible in a series titled Trois ètudes held in the Musèe National Picasso in Paris (fig. 1). 

Writing about the artist’s summer days at Dinard, John Richardson recounted: ‘Whenever possible, Picasso would escape from his wife’s sulks and the stifling atmosphere of their ugly rented house […] and make for the Plage de l’Ecluse in another part of the town. Marie-Thérèse would be playing ball with some of the children from her holiday home – a scene Picasso would repeatedly portray on the spot over the next few weeks, and from memory laced with fantasy over the next few years’ (J. Richardson, ‘Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter’, in Through the Eye of Picasso 1928-1934 (exhibition catalogue), William Beadleston Gallery, New York, 1985, n.p.). The energy of the present work is inspired by this contradiction. Picasso employs bold blacks and reds contrasting them with the more delicate tones of white and pink, as though evoking the different energies of the two women present in his life. The serene figure on the right, with her arms raised in a balletic pose, may not in fact be Olga, who was a ballerina, but Marie-Therèse. As John Richardson has argued: ‘Picasso evidently wanted to see how his beautiful, trim young mistress would be enhanced by the position that he usually used to travesty his former ballerina wife’ (John Richardson, A Life of Picasso, London, 2007, vol. III, p. 366). In Deux personnages Olga is transformed into a darker figure, whose flailing limbs provide much of the fierce energy of the composition. 

An important source of inspiration for these works was provided by the Surrealists, whose stylistic ideas equipped Picasso with a highly abstracted vocabulary he used as a means of disguising the image of his mistress, whose existence he would keep secret until 1932. Discussing the works Picasso executed between April and June 1929, Josep Palau i Fabre observes that ‘the [pictorial] language constantly changes and adapts itself to the inner design of the artist. That artist is Picasso, the man of constant contradiction, the man of incessant dialectics. So much was he so that at that very moment he was executing paintings in which the human beings or the human figuration are reduced to almost vermicular schemes' (J. Palau i Fabre, op. cit., p. 70). In Deux personnages Picasso combines these distinctive forms with almost feverishly energetic brushstrokes, brilliantly capturing the emotions of this turbulent period.