Picasso's art was closely related to his personal life, and the women depicted in his paintings were always influenced by Picasso's female companions at the time. In Femme au grand chapeau. Buste, the female figure is inspired by Jacqueline, the last love of his life, whom Picasso married in 1961. Although it is not a direct likeness of Jacqueline, with its large eyes and sharp profile, the seated figure bears the features with which Picasso usually portrayed his wife. The essence of Jacqueline, who never posed as his model, is always present in his portraits of the period. As evidenced by vitality of the present picture, Picasso's waning sexual potency is countered by his power of vision and creativity, by the swift, confident application of paint, and the remarkably bold free-flowing treatment of color. The love that Picasso felt for his wife is reflected in the passionate vitality and excitement radiating from the present work.
The relationship and synergy between the artist and model was one of profound complexity, 'the more Picasso painted this theme, the more he pushed the artist-model relationship towards its ultimate conclusion: the artist embraces his model, cancelling out the barrier of the canvas and transforming the artist-model relationship into a man-woman relationship. Painting is an act of love, according to Gert Schiff, and John Richardson speaks of 'sex as metaphor for art, and art as a metaphor for sex' (Marie-Laure Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model', in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 77).
In his discussion of Picasso's late works, David Sylvester links them to his early masterpiece, Demoiselles d'Avignon, both distinguished by the 'raw vitality' which they have as their central underlying theme: "The resemblance of figures in the Demoiselles and in late Picasso to masked tribal dancers is as crucial as their scale in giving them a threatening force. It is irrelevant whether or not particular faces or bodies are based on particular tribal models: what matters is the air these personages have of coming from a world more primitive, possibly more cannibalistic and certainly more elemental than ours. Despite the rich assortment of allusions to paintings in the Renaissance tradition, the treatment of space rejects that tradition in favour of an earlier one, the flat unperspectival space of, say, medieval Catalan frescoes... At twenty five, Picasso's raw vitality was already being enriched by the beginnings of an encyclopaedic awareness of art; at ninety, his encyclopaedic awareness of art was still being enlivened by a raw vitality" (David Sylvester, ibid., p. 144).
The present work belonged to the collector Patricia Kennedy Lawford (1924-2006), the sixth of nine children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy and sister to the 35th president of the United States. Once married to the actor Peter Lawford, she was known for her love of international travel and for her sophistication, which led her to acquiring this impressive picture. According to her son Christopher, Mrs. Lawford visited Picasso at his studio in the late 1960s, where she first saw the present work among all of his paintings on view. She immediately fell in love with the picture and arranged to purchase it through his dealer Kahnweiler at the Galerie Louise Leiris. Given the Kootz label on the reverse of the painting, it is most likely that Leiris shipped the picture to Kootz in New York for delivery to Mrs. Lawford, who kept it in her private collection for the rest of her life.
Oil on canvas
36 ¼ by 28 ¾ in. 92 by 73 cm
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 25, Paris, 1972, no. 143, illustrated pl. 81
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawing and Sculpture, The Sixties II, 1964-1967, San Francisco, 2002, no. 65-250, illustrated
Lucien Clergue, The Intimate Picasso, Louis Stern Fine Arts, Los Angeles, 2009, photograph of the artist posing with this picture pl. 17
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the artist)
Kootz Gallery, New York (probably on consignment from the above)
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, New York (acquired from the above)