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Buste d'homme
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Buste d'homme
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Buste d'homme

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About the item

Picasso's richly-textured figure of a man, saturated with blocks of bold color and dripping with thick paint, was completed less than a month before his 88th birthday.  "You see, this isn't over!" Picasso exclaimed in 1969 to his friend Hélène Parmelin around this time, "I still have things to say" (quoted in Hélène Parmelin, "Picasso on his Little Terrace," reprinted in Picasso Mosqueteros (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2009).  Indeed, all of the paintings that Picasso completed during this year would be the subject of a monumental one-man show that Picasso was planning in the hallowed halls of the Palace of the Popes in Avignon (fig. 1).  The grand scale of this venue, with its sweeping Gothic arches and quatrefoil windows, was ideally suited to the monumental scale and tone of Picasso's paintings, many of which were thinly-veiled depictions of himself.  This self-reverential exhibition at the former seat of the Papacy was the ultimate act of self-canonization for the artist, who was already considered a god in the world of art.  This would be the first of two spectacular showings of Picasso's late works in Avignon, but the only one held during the artist's lifetime.  The present work, which featured prominently on the great stone walls of the Chapel of Clement VI, is a stunning example of the magisterial works on view.\n\nParmelin wrote at length about Picassos's paintings of 1969, many of which she saw under production at the artist's studio at Notre-Dame-de-Vie:  "During Picasso's last years — marked by his Avignon paintings — he often spoke of the obscure direction that his research has taken, a movement closer and closer to reality.  The canvas becomes so true that, he says, 'one can no longer see the difference between it and reality.  It is natural'" (op. cit., p. 288).  Picasso's objective to paint 'nature' is in direct opposition to the examples of abstraction and minimalism that were prolific in the art world during the 1960s.  Grounding his work in figuration, he embarked on a  major series of monumental paintings featuring the theme of the musketeer, which became one of the key subjects of his late work.  Picasso had devoted a large portion of his time and passion throughout the 1960s to the reinterpretation and investigation of the old masters, an experience in which he reaffirmed his connection to some of the greatest painters in the history of art (fig. 2). The musketeer series was a continuation of this interest and began, according to his wife Jacqueline Roque, "when Picasso started to study Rembrandt," but his appreciation of other great figures of the Renaissance, including Shakespeare, also influenced the appearance of these characters.\n\nTowards the end of his life, the image of the musketeer evoked Picasso's Spanish heritage and his nostalgia for the youthful vigor of his early years. As Marie-Laure Bernadac has observed: "If woman was depicted in all her aspects in Picasso's art, man always appeared in disguise or in a specific role, the painter at work or the musketeer. In 1966, a new and final character emerged in Picasso’s iconography and dominated his last period to the point of becoming its emblem. This was the Golden Age gentleman, a half-Spanish, half-Dutch musketeer dressed in richly adorned clothing complete with ruffs, a cape, boots, and a big plumed hat … All of these musketeers are men in disguise, romantic gentlemen, virile and arrogant soldiers, vainglorious and ridiculous despite their haughtiness. Dressed, armed, and helmeted, this man is always seen in action; sometimes the musketeer even takes up a brush and becomes the painter" (Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 455).\n\nAs the character of the musketeer developed in Picasso’s paintings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he became a multi-dimensional figure, exhibiting a range of characters including card players, musicians and pipe smokers, often wearing swords or accompanied by female nudes.  The present work features the character in a bust-portrait, reminiscent of the noble self-portraits of the old masters with whom the artist identified during his final years.  The influence of legendary painters such as Velázquez and Delacroix are evident in Picasso’s works from this period, yet with his fluid technique, Picasso made no attempt here to create a spatial portrait. Rather, his flat layers of paint give the musketeer’s face a mask-like quality, and his wide-brimmed hat and his garments are reduced to geometric planes and undulating lines. The energy which results from this synthesis of styles and subject matter reflects the passion Picasso maintained into his later years. \nSigned Picasso (lower right); dated 27.9.69 on the reverse
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NY, US
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medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Pablo Picasso

condition

Excellent condition. Original canvas. Some of the thick areas of white are slightly discovered, due to the nature of the pigment. Under UV, there appears to be only one tiny spot of retouching in the center of the left side in the black. 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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

51 1/8 by 38 1/8 in.

exhibition

Avignon, Palais des Papes, Pablo Picasso: 1969-1970, 1970, no. 87, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Homme assis)

literature

Rafael Alberti, Picasso en Avignon, Paris, 1971, no. 26, illustrated in color Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1969, vol. 31, Paris, 1976, no. 448, illustrated pl. 131 The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Sixties III: 1968-1969, San Francisco, 2003, no. 69-455, illustrated p. 249

provenance

Galería Maison Bernard, Caracas (after 1970) Sale: Christie's, New York, November 13, 1984, lot 164 Acquired at the above sale

signedDate

Signed Picasso (lower right); dated 27.9.69 on the reverse

time_period

Painted on September 27, 1969.

consignmentDesignation

Property From the Collection of Milton Ginsburg

creator_nationality_dates

1881 - 1973


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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