Picasso completed La Parade when he was in his eighties. Virulent and light-hearted, the playful vitality of the present work paradoxically reflects the artist’s waning youth and vigour. Picasso produced an astonishing number of paintings and drawings in his final years, assuming a sense of urgency, almost as if he was trying to beat the passage of time. Commenting on the artist's late style, Marie-Laure Bernadac wrote: 'The desire to lose control, to take fewer and fewer decisions ('I don't choose any more'), is characteristic of Picasso's late style [...]. Picasso expresses this mental wanderlust, this refusal to stay put or to regard anything as definitive, in a maxim: "To finish an object means to finish it, to destroy it, to rob it of its soul"'(quoted in Marie-Laure Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model”, in Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972 (exhibition catalogue), The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, pp. 87-88). The freedom and spontaneity of La Parade, together with the recourse to archetypal figures and symbols, reflects a growing awareness of his own mortality and a final reconsideration of his past. A burst of creativity, it demonstrates how Picasso allowed himself total liberty in style and subject matter. 'I have less and less time and I have more and more to say' commented Picasso in his last decade (quoted in Klaus Gallwitz, Picasso Laureatus, Lausanne & Paris, 1971, p. 166).
During 1917-24, Picasso collaborated with the Ballet Russes, an itinerant ballet company, conceived by Sergei Diaghilev, which was widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century. As he collaborated on several productions, his theatre years caused him to travel to Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and London. His most iconic work for the Ballet relates to the 1917 production of Parade, the subject of the present work, for which Picasso produced elements in two distinctive styles: a magnificent Cubist stage and a neoclassical curtain. The idea behind the ballet Parade derived from Jean Cocteau, the plot centered around a parade of circus artists who quirkily tried to attract the audience members into entering an indoor performance. Upon the opening of Parade, Picasso's cubist costumes created a notable scandal but also attained brilliant success. Newly married to the ballet dancer Olga Koklova, this phase of Picasso’s life was undoubtedly the most enjoyable of his early life, and it ensured him to revisit the theme throughout his career. Executed in pencil, Picasso creates a strange cast of extravagantly thespian characters, giving La Parade a striking individuality; it has the spontaneity of a whimsical drawing but is coupled with a rare breadth of decorative vision.
The present drawing has distinguished provenance having been in the personal collection of Haaken Andreas Christensen, one of the preeminent figures of the Norwegian art world, whose collection was offered in a memorable sale at Sotheby's London in 2008, to fund the French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres. Christensen pioneered a highly influential gallery which thrived at the centre of the Oslo cultural art scene for more than forty years. Christensen graduated from the University of Oslo with a master's degree in art history and his choice of thesis on Gustave Courbet brought him to Paris where he befriended the legendary dealer Daniel Henry Kahnweiler and encountered works by Picasso. La Parade exemplifies Picasso’s extraordinary skill at capturing an imaginative and amusing narrative on paper.
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