Thomas Gibson Fine Art, London (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1983
Femme au tablier forms part of a series of portraits of Françoise Gilot that demonstrates Picasso’s continuing artistic dialogue with his friend and creative rival, Henri Matisse. The composition is divided into clearly cut areas of bold colour and her figure is demarcated through a thick network of black lines. Aware of Gilot’s great admiration for Matisse, Picasso arranged for the pair to meet in Matisse’s studio in Vence in February 1946. This meeting proved pivotal in the development of Picasso’s portrayal of his new muse.
When Matisse saw Gilot for the first time dressed in almond green trousers and a mauve top, in deference to Matisse’s favorite colours, he stated that were he ever to paint her portrait he would paint her hair green. Gilot commented in an interview: ‘He knew exactly what he wanted to do. He said: “I will do her hair in dark leaf green, and the body will be pale blue.” I found it amusing, as you could quickly sense the competitiveness between the two men. Picasso was incensed as we left. He’d made only drawings of me and now announced he would paint me first, which became Woman Flower of 1946 where, indeed, the hair is leaf green and the thin body is a vertical pale blue line’ (Françoise Gilot, ‘Picasso, Matisse and me’, in Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Tate etc., issue 31, Summer 2014, p. 56).
The series of portraits that ensued, the present work included, was inspired by, and in homage to, Matisse’s declaration. In the present work Gilot’s hair is swept up into a hairnet whose hatched pattern complements her simplified, classicised features and alludes to the veins of the leaves in La femme-fleur (fig. 1). Picasso’s portraits of Françoise Gilot reflect a departure from the more jagged, psychological depictions of his previous muse Dora Maar. His portrayals of Gilot are more fecund; their soft lines and fertile colours suggest an atmosphere of optimism. In the present work Picasso has painted in oil over the initial lithograph thus embellishing his original image and making Femme au tablier a strikingly unique portrait and a defining image from the series.
The present work is executed over a trial proof of the fifth state of a lithograph titled Femme aux cheveux verts. The lithograph would have been sent to Picasso by the printer Fernand Mourlot to show the progress of the subject and Picasso then reworked it in oil. Femme aux cheveux verts exists in nine states, plus the final editioned state.
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