During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Picasso devoted hundreds of paintings, drawings, and prints to the depiction of his two youngest children, Claude and Paloma, born to his companion Françoise Gilot in 1947 and 1949. By then in his mid-sixties, a public figure of world-wide renown, Picasso found in his spirited offspring a stylistic fountain of youth, which left deep imprints on his pictorial language. In the paintings of Claude and Paloma, Picasso created an unequalled symbiosis of subject and form, depicting the children's untrammeled world of play and fantasy in a surface-bound, graphic style that is decidedly tailored to the modes of expression of a child. Kirk Varnedoe has written, "Whether in recognition of a new age of permissive thinking about early childhood or out of a greater concern to absorb for himself some of the budding vitality of their youth, Picasso in the early 1950s doted on the childishness of Paloma and Claude; rather than imposing premature adulthood on them in his work, he often let their games, their toys, their own creations--as well as the mercurial intensity of their emotional life--inform his art" (Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 160).
Picasso met Françoise Gilot in May 1943 at Le Catalan, a popular restaurant and artists' haunt on the Left Bank. When he learned that Françoise--then twenty-one years old, exactly forty years Picasso's junior--was an aspiring painter, he invited her to his studio on the nearby rue des Grands-Augustins. She visited several times in the ensuing weeks, eager for advice and impatient to prove her talent. Picasso was taken with her vitality, intelligence, and passion for art, and as the war ended, Françoise found herself the most likely candidate for Picasso's next love interest, his relationship with Dora Maar having drawn to a bitter end. Although Françoise resisted Picasso's initial entreaties to come live with him, he persisted, and in the spring of 1946, he succeeded in convincing her to stay with him in Golfe-Juan while she was convalescing from a broken elbow. Following their return to Paris in April, she took the decisive step of moving in with him. "The more time went by, the more I realized I truly needed him. Sometimes it seemed to me...physically impossible to breathe without him" (quoted in P. Daix, Picasso: Life and Art, New York, 1993, p. 289).
Picasso and Françoise spent increasing periods of time on the Côte d'Azur, first in Golfe-Juan, and then in Vallauris, where the artist purchased a house known as La Galloise. Picasso was keen to start a new family with Françoise and wasted no time. Their son Claude was born in May 1947 and daughter Paloma followed nearly two years later in April 1949. By this time, Picasso had very nearly perfected his vision of a classical Mediterranean paradise. He found a vacant factory near La Galloise in which to establish spacious studios for painting and sculpture, and he spent more and more time at the Madoura pottery works nearby, indulging his pleasure in making hand-decorated ceramic wares. "In this fertile and friendly atmosphere Picasso inevitably resembled the chief of a tribe--a tribe which had as its nucleus the family at La Galloise and extended to the craftsmen at the potteries," Roland Penrose recalled. "The tribe also embraced many local tradespeople and artisans...all sharing admiration and affection for the little man with black eyes and white hair who had come to live among them and to whom the new celebrity of their town was due... Even if they did not understand his work they were conquered by his personality" (Picasso: His Life and Work, Berkeley, 1981, pp. 371-372).
By 1950, however, Picasso's relationship with Françoise was under increasing strain. Picasso was, of course, deeply involved in his painting, and he devoted almost all of his spare time to the pro-peace activities of the French Communist Party. Françoise desired no role in this increasingly visible aspect of her partner's life. Instead, she remained out of the limelight at La Galloise, immersed in raising Claude and Paloma. At the same time, after a hiatus of several years, Françoise began to take a renewed interest in furthering her own painting career; Picasso was ambivalent and pressured her to have a third child instead, which she firmly refused to do. Finally, rumors began circulating that Picasso had also been seeing another woman, an art student in her mid-twenties named Geneviève Laporte. The definitive break in the relationship with Françoise occurred in September 1953, when she left La Galloise and moved with the children to Paris. "Right up to the last minute Pablo was convinced I would back down," Françoise recalled. "When the taxi pulled up and I got into it with the children and our bags, he was so angry he didn't even say good-bye. He shouted 'Merde!' and went back into the house" (Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 357).
His struggles with Françoise notwithstanding, Picasso seems to have taken great joy in observing the world through the eyes of his two young offspring. His older daughter Maya, a teenager at the time, later recalled, "The coming of peace allowed him to believe in a creative future. Of course, he was going to go on creating and inventing as an artist; but what creation is more fantastic and unpredictable than a baby?" (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1995, p. 65). In the present canvas, painted when Paloma was just nine months old and Claude was nearly three, the children are perched on diminutive chairs, observing the viewer with the curiosity and sense of expectation typical of their young age. As if seated on the floor, we meet the children's gaze: the viewpoint is that of a child rather than an adult, one of the primary strategies that Picasso used to lend his subjects a stature not normally accorded children and simultaneously to draw us into the youngsters' minds. Picasso slightly enlarged the proportions of the children's small heads, making them extremely rounded and giving them huge cheeks, and he exaggerated their chubby, grasping fingers as well, emphasizing their uniquely child-like proportions. Even their slightly disarticulated limbs function not just as cubist riffs, but a way of capturing the uncoordinated gestures of a baby or toddler, not yet adjusted to his or her own body, or certain of how to navigate the outside world.
The paintings of Claude and Paloma mark a dramatic shift in Picasso's response to childhood. When Picasso first became a father, with Olga Khokhlova in 1921, he depicted his young son Paulo in an elegant, neo-classical style and with a decorous, courtly bearing that is decidedly not child-like; often, the boy assumes an explicitly adult role (harlequin, pierrot, torero, etc.). The portraits of Maya, born to Marie-Thérèse Walter in 1935, show her with the pudgy proportions of a toddler, typically clutching a toy boat or a doll. However, her full mouth and graceful profile lend the paintings a suggestion of adult sensuality, while her fancy dress and grave expression recall the formal infanta portraits of Velázquez. It was not until the birth of Claude and Paloma that Picasso began to depict children in their own world, wholly untamed by decorum. Most often, we see them engrossed in play, clutching a rattle or a ball, sprawled on the floor with a toy train, guarding a wooden horse protectively, or zooming through La Galloise on a scooter (figs. 1-2). Werner Spies has explained, "Especially in the compositions in which Claude and Paloma appear together...the scenes are dominated by the enfant sauvage. Instead of being members of a private retinue or charming child-women, his children now began to act their age" (ibid., p. 46).
Equally novel in the depictions of Claude and Paloma is Picasso's subtle appropriation of a child-like approach to form, reflecting the subject matter of the paintings. In some, the figures of the children are reduced to the most elementary and radically simplified contours, recalling the stick-figure illustrations of young children (see especially the series from 1954, which tellingly depict Claude and Paloma in the act of drawing: e.g., fig. 3). In other examples, including the present painting, Picasso took the opposite approach, filling the picture surface from edge to edge with linear patterns and repetitions of form: the stripes on the children's clothes, the ropy texture of their tousled hair, the woven and carved designs on the chairs, and especially the distinctive floor tiles, their decorative medallions and rosettes whirling across the canvas beneath Claude and Paloma's dangling feet. The result of this emphasis on graphic elements (coupled in the present painting with a highly restricted palette) is to create a nearly abstract, all-over interweave of figure and ground, accentuating the planar character of the pictorial space. Even the children themselves here are transformed into two-dimensional designs, the light coming through the window at the left pooling in dense, white planes on their bodies and offsetting them like patterns against the dark, neutral interior wall.
While this style was not limited to Picasso's portraits of his children (compare, for example, his variations on Courbet's Demoiselles des bords de la Seine and El Greco's Portrait d'un peintre, both painted just a month after the present canvas), it takes on a particular significance in the paintings of Claude and Paloma. The flat, additive quality of the composition reproduces a child's strategy for describing reality, with its detail-obsessed rendering of the immediate surroundings that verges on a horror vacui. Spies has explained, "His procedure was anti-hierarchical, subordinating no one form to any other, but instead adding element to element to produce the pictorial continuum which was at the heart of Picasso's concerns at the time" (ibid., p. 48). The wheel-shaped medallions of the floor tiles echo the round, childish faces of Claude and Paloma, linking the figures with their environment in a clever visual rhyme; the repetition of circular forms, moreover, lends the composition a dynamism that evokes the restlessness and perpetual motion of young children, the entire environment shaped by their sensibilities. More generally, the autonomy of artistic creation, in which such parameters as space, color, and proportions are governed by a logic inherent only to the picture, corresponds to the insularity of the child's sphere of existence, a world far removed from adult conventions and restraints.
Picasso's own statements during this period also speak to his powerful identification with children's art. In 1949, during a visit to an exhibition of children's drawings in Paris, Picasso commented to Herbert Read, "When I was their age I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them" (quoted in Pablo Picasso: The Time with Françoise Gilot, exh. cat., Graphikmuseum Pablo Picasso, Münster, 2002, p. 13). On another occasion, he remarked to Brassaï, "Unlike in music, there are no wunderkinder in painting. What you might consider a precocious genius is in reality the genius of childhood. It disappears at a certain age, leaving no trace. I, for example, didn't have this genius. Not even my very first drawings could have hung in a show of children's art. They lacked the childish awkwardness, the naive quality, almost completely" (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1995, pp. 17-18). Picasso's extended observation of Claude and Paloma gave the artist a belated opportunity to explore a child-like pictorial idiom. Markus Müller has concluded:
"Picasso's pictures of children have to be seen against the background of these remarks as artistically calculated, brilliant stagings of childishness. They also offered Picasso opportunities for reflection, clothed in play, about artistic mimesis Picasso describes the child's world as analogous to the world created by the artist: it is changeable and yet as free as possible of perceptive and representative conventions" (exh. cat., op. cit., 2002, pp. 13-14).
Picasso in his studio with the present painting, after 1955. BARCODE: 28856665
Picasso with Claude and Paloma, Vallauris, 1950. BARCODE: 28856658
(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Claude et Paloma jouant, 1950. Private collection. BARCODE: 28856634
(fig. 2) Pablo Picasso, Françoise dessinant auprès de ses enfants, 1950. Private collection. BARCODE: 28856641
(fig. 3) Pablo Picasso, Claude et Paloma dessinant, 1954. Sold, Christie's, New York, 6 May 2008, lot 8. BARCODE: 18132274
Claude et Paloma
Oil and ripolin on panel
Please note the additional exhibition information:
New York, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition, May-December 1957, p. 98 (illustrated).
Dated and inscribed 'vendredi 20.1.50. Vallauris' (on the reverse)
Pablo Picasso , 1950s, Paintings, oil, France, Modern, figures
Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, Picasso: peintures, 1900-1955, June-October 1955, no. 117 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Cologne, Rheinisches Museum Köln-Deutz and Hamburg, Kunsthalle--Altbau, Picasso, 1900-1955, October 1955-April 1956, no. 108 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition, May-December 1957, p. 98 (illustrated).
Marseille, Musée Cantini, Cinquante chefs-d'oeuvre de Picasso, May-July 1959, no. 48.
London, Tate Gallery, Picasso, July-September 1960, p. 54, no. 183 (illustrated, pl. 46b).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective, May-September 1980, p. 400 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Cologne, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Museum Ludwig; Frankfurt am Main, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut and Kunsthaus Zürich, Pablo Picasso: Eine Ausstellung zum hundertsten Geburtstag, Werke aus der Sammlung Marina Picasso, February 1981-March 1982, p. 385, no. 243 (illustrated in color, p. 171, pl. 55; illustrated again, p. 385).
Venice, Centro di Cultura di Palazzo Grassi, Picasso: opere dal 1895 al 1971 dalla Collezione Marina Picasso, May-July 1981, pp. 373-374, no. 292 (illustrated in color, p. 133, pl. 63; illustrated again, p. 373).
Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art and Kyoto Municipal Museum, Picasso: Masterpieces from Marina Picasso Collection and from Museums in U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., April-July 1983, p. 299, no. 186 (illustrated in color, p. 153; illustrated again, p. 299).
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria and Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Picasso, July-December 1984, p. 161, no. 151 (illustrated in color).
Tokyo, Seibu Art Forum and Ohtsu, Seibu Hall, Pablo Picasso, Collection Marina Picasso, November 1990-January 1991, no. 22 (illustrated).
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, A Tribute to Pablo Picasso, October 1993-February 1994.
Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Picassos Welt der Kinder, September 1995-March 1996, p. 254, no. 140 (illustrated in color, pl. 140; illustrated again in the artist's studio, opposite title page).
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Picasso, 1937-1953: Gli anni dell'apogeo in Italia, December 1998-March 1999, p. 110, no. 39 (illustrated in color).
Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie, Pablo Picasso Métamorphoses: oeuvres de 1898 à 1973 de la collection Marina Picasso, March-June 2001, p. 126, no. 90 (illustrated in color, p. 89).
Kunstmuseum Bern, Picasso und die Schweiz, October 2001-January 2002, no. 141 (illustrated in color).
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Pablo Picasso Metamorphoses: Works from 1898 to 1973 from the Marina Picasso Collection, May-July 2002, p. 126, no. 90 (illustrated in color, p. 89).
Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Picasso: de la caricatura a las metamorfosis de estilo, February-May 2003, p. 208, no. 209 (illustrated in color).
Vienna, Albertina Museum, Goya bis Picasso: Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, April-August 2005, p. 366, no. 160 (illustrated in color, p. 367).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History, November 2006-March 2007, p. 280 (illustrated in color, p. 281).
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
45 5/8 x 35 in. (116 x 89 cm.)
D.-H. Kahnweiler, "Le sujet chez Picasso" in Verve, vol. VII, nos. 25-26, Paris, 1951 (illustrated in color).
W. Boeck and J. Sabartés, Picasso, New York, 1955, pp. 301 and 499, no. 499 (illustrated, p. 426).
D.D. Duncan, Picasso's Picassos: The Treasures of La Californie, London, 1961, p. 244 (illustrated).
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1965, vol. 15, no. 157 (illustrated, pl. 95).
H. Kay, Picasso's World of Children, New York, 1965, p. 152 (illustrated, p. 153).
D.D. Duncan, Goodbye Picasso, New York, 1974, pp. 172 and 299 (illustrated in color, p. 172).
L. Gallwitz, Picasso, The Heroic Years, New York, 1985, p. 74, no. 92 (illustrated).
M. Anthonioz, L'album Verve, Paris, 1987, p. 366 (illustrated).
L. Clergue, Picasso, mon ami, Paris, 1993, p. 30 (illustrated in situ with the artist, p. 28).
P. Daix, Dictionnaire Picasso, Paris, 1995, p. 192.
B. Léal, C. Piot and M.-L. Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 380 (illustrated in color, p. 381, fig. 942).
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: The Fifties I, 1950-1955, San Francisco, 2000, p. 3, no. 50-005 (illustrated).
Estate of the artist.
Marina Picasso (by descent from the above).
Jan Krugier, acquired from the above.