Lot 318
  • 318

Pablo Picasso

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • L'Atelier
  • Signed Picasso and dated 26.4.56. (upper right); dated 26.4.56 (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 18 1/8 by 21 3/4 in.
  • 46 by 55 cm


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
Sale: Finarte, Milan, June 26, 1985
Private Collection, Italy (acquired at the above sale and sold: Sotheby's, Paris, June 24, 2014, lot 31)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1953 à 1955, vol. XVI, Paris, 1965, no. 99, illustrated pl. 44


The work is in excellent condition. The canvas is not lined. The surface is clean. Under UV: No inpainting is apparent.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

In the years that followed Matisse’s death on November 3, 1954, Picasso painted two series of Ateliers, also known as Paysages d’intérieur. As a mode of grieving, he produced new variations on the theme of studio scenes that the two artists had shared through their careers. Picasso had moved to La Californie, a large Belle Époque villa overlooking Cannes, situated not far from Vallauris, with large windows that opened onto a luxurious garden. Surrounded by Mediterranean colors so conducive to the exploration of new pictorial themes, Picasso never tired of depicting the interior space of his studio-lounge. Picasso’s L’Atelier, painted in 1956, is strongly reminiscent of his departed instructor and rival Matisse’s famed interior scene L'Atelier rose from 1911 (see fig. 1), referencing Matisse’s depiction of finished and in-progress canvases, the window and tree, and the ornamental and patterned décor placed about the studio. The present piece echoes these images, yet he strategically omits the vibrant pastels of Matisse’s own studio scene, imbuing these motifs with a feeling of melancholy meditation. As Pierre Daix accentuates, Picasso’s memorial series embarks upon "a verification of Matisse's language, [while] instilling these symbols with new meaning" (Pierre Daix, La Vie de peintre de Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1977, p. 362).  Picasso and Matisse had a legendarily complex relationship, with the two simultaneously existing as friends, enemies, rivals, and artistic mentors. From their first meeting in 1906 under the coordination of Gertrude Stein until Matisse’s passing in 1954, the two would serve as each other’s greatest critics, ranging from periods of mere stylistic divergence to instances of vocalized objection and distaste of each other’s work. Yet, the two obsessively and enthusiastically shared their work and frequently incorporated aspects of one another’s artistic developments, ultimately challenging and expanding their own personal practices. It is for these reasons that they regarded each other as their only true rivals and artistic equals: as Matisse and Picasso are both known for saying, “We must talk to each other as much as we can. When one of us dies, there will be some things that the other will never be able to talk of with anyone else” (quoted in Matisse/Picasso, The Museum of Modern Art (exhibition catalogue), New York, 2002, p. 24)

Picasso was terrified of death and when Matisse died, he “possibly felt…some aspect of himself had been removed” (ibid., p. 24). Consequently, certain commentators have suggested that the plaster head that appears in the first Atelier series is here replaced by a blank canvas placed on the easel, as if Picasso was symbolically calling out to the departed Matisse and inviting him to paint (ibid., p. 171). In this way, L’Atelier serves as both a dedication to Matisse and as Picasso’s momento mori, a grappling with his very own fears of death heightened by the complex loss of Matisse, the only other artist he considered to be his equal.