Private Collection, France
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in May 1986)
Private Collection, Japan (acquired from the above in August 1986)
Sold: Christie's, London, 25th June 2003, lot 205
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
The origins of the matador within his work go right back to his youth and the years he spent in Madrid at the turn of the century when he regularly visited the Prado and would have seen Goya’s own bullfighting scenes. The matador and the corrida became emblematic of Picasso’s Spanish identity, with the red and yellow colours of Spain often used to reinforce this connection. Examining the persistence of this theme across different periods of the artist’s career, John Richardson spoke of ‘periods of deep personal identification with both the bull-fighter and the bull, not to speak of that vulnerable monster, the minotaur’, and went on to quote Hélène Parmelin: ‘The bulls are in his very soul’ (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, New York, 1991, vol. I, p. 29). In the present work the duality of the figure only serves to reinforce the vital energy that runs through the works of this period.
Two exhibitions held in 2009 – Picasso: Challenging the Past at the National Gallery in London and Picasso: Mosqueteros at the Gagosian Gallery in New York – represented important steps in reassessing Picasso’s late œuvre. The works of the last twenty years of Picasso’s life, including his images of musketeers and his variations on the theme of old master paintings, are increasingly seen as a fitting culmination to the career of the greatest artist of the twentieth century. His late heads and busts represent a psychological projection of a complex and multifaceted identity, an amalgamation of influences and personas that made up his iconography. As Simonetta Fraquelli wrote: ‘the extensive re-evaluation of his late work since his death has highlighted its undiminished power and originality. His capacity for emotional depth and painterly freedom in his late painting, together with his wide ranging engagement with the imagery of the great paintings of the past, was to have a lasting influence on the development of neoexpressionist art from the early 1980s onwards’ (S. Fraquelli, ‘Looking at the Past to Defy the Present: Picasso’s Painting 1946-1973’ in Picasso: Challenging the Past (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery, London, 2009, p. 146).
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