Lot 21
  • 21

Pablo Picasso

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Femme assise
  • Dated 28.2.49. (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 51 1/8 by 38 in.
  • 129.8 by 96.5 cm


Estate of the artist

Jacqueline Picasso, Mougins (by descent from the above)

Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the above circa 1980-86)

Waddington Galleries, Ltd., London

Acquired from the above in October 1988


London, Waddington Galleries, Ltd., Pablo Picasso 1881-1973, 1987, no. 10, illustrated in color in the catalogue

London, Waddington Galleries, Ltd., Twentieth Century Works, 1988, no. 36


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1965, vol. XV, no. 122, illustrated pl. 71

Catalogue Note

Comprised of a collection of fragmented Cubist shape and executed with characteristic pictorial flatness and a vivid color palette, Femme assise harkens back to the earliest days of Picasso’s modern aesthetic. The motif of a nude figure seated in an armchair occurred repeatedly throughout Picasso’s career. While varying in style and depicting the various women that marked each period of the artist’s life, these nudes always served as a vehicle of expressing the palpable sexual tension between the painter and his model. From the soft, voluptuous curves of his 1930s oeuvre to the fragmented, near-abstract nudes of his Surrealist works, and the geometrical rendering of his later years, Picasso’s seated nudes have a monumental, sculptural presence, and are invariably depicted with a powerful sense of psychological drama stemming from the tension between the invisible artist and his sitter. Although the figure of the painter is not portrayed within this composition, his persona is very much present in this work. Picasso’s concerns regarding the act of painting and the role of the artist, explored in the series of works on the theme of artist and model contemporaneous to the present work, carried over to his series of seated nudes, including Femme assise. The monumental nude in this composition, looming large on her throne like a pagan goddess, is not isolated in her own world. Her significance is in her relationship with her creator at the same time as with the viewer – a tantalizing play of attraction and menace. In his discussion of Picasso’s late works David Sylvester notes the remarkable affinity between his early masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, and these later pictures: “…this was a classic instance of the way Picasso had of picking things up, consciously or unconsciously, where he had left them long before. It would also be an instance of our habit in old age of looking at our early days: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was the giant step of Picasso’s early days —he knew it at the time and so did his friends, and his enemies— and in retrospect it went on being the most crucial single work in his entire development. So, given Picasso’s perennial habit of self-quotation and given that this became more addictive as he got older, it is not inconceivable that his late works sometimes quote the Demoiselles (D. Sylvester, Late Picasso. Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings, Prints 1953-1972 (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 142). The faceted female bodies and mask-like faces of Picasso’s seminal 1907 painting have largely been attributed to the birth of Cubism and have been considered by some to have played a defining role in the course of modern art throughout the twentieth century. Drawn by the sophisticated approach to abstraction found in these unfamiliar objects, Picasso, Matisse and many other modern artists incorporated the aesthetics of the highly stylized treatment of the human figure found in traditional African sculpture to their own works. The powerful influence of these objects, evident in the fractured facial landscape of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is repeated in the angular face of the sitter in the present work.

Much in the same vein as Picasso, contemporary American artist George Condo re-contextualizes the works of artists who have come before him to produce his own, avant-garde vision. Straddling the line between the familiar and the uncanny, the grotesque and the beautiful, Condo’s rich pictorial creations have made him one of the most inventive and popular artists of his generation. By emulating the pictorial modes of the Cubist cannon set out by Picasso and Georges Braque in the fractured facial features of his sitters, Condo is at once looking back to his modernist forbearers, while expanding on their aesthetic to reveal a distorted amalgamation of facial features which pushes the very tenants of abstraction. Condo himself stated: “I believe that painting needs to transform in order for it to become interesting for each and every generation, but I think of it more in terms of being liberated by history. Liberated by what has come before” (the artist cited in R. Rugoff, “The Enigma of Jean Louis,” in George Condo, Existential Portraits: Sculpture, Drawings, Paintings 2005-2006 (exhibition catalogue), Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York, 2006, p. 7).