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Femme couchée à la mèche blonde
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About the item

Femme couchée à la mèche blonde is one of Picasso’s most monumental depictions of his muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, and is one of only a few canvases of this large format executed in 1932. Picasso met Marie-Thérèse (fig. 1) in January 1927, when she was seventeen. With the words "I am Picasso. You and I are going to do great things together", the forty-six year old artist introduced himself to the young woman, who would soon become his mistress and muse for more than a decade. Many years later Marie-Thérèse recalled the circumstances of their sudden first encounter: " I knew nothing – neither about life nor about Picasso. Nothing. I had been shopping at Galeries Lafayette and Picasso saw me coming out of the Metro" (quoted in L. Levy, Picasso, London, 1991, p. 88).\n\nPicasso was instantly captivated by the youthful, unpredictable spirit of Marie-Thérèse, as well as by her voluptuous physique. The sense of newly-found freedom following his increasingly turbulent relationship with his wife Olga, and the sensual and erotically charged love for his new mistress, resulted in a large number of oils, sculptures and drawings which culminated in a series of masterpieces painted in 1932 (figs. 3 & 4). As John Golding observed: "1932 saw a marked change in Picasso’s art, not so much stylistic as in terms of mood and of sexual imagery... Marie-Thérèse’s full, passive, golden beauty was to preside over Picasso’s art for the next four years, most typically she is seen in what appears to be a dreamless sleep... Everywhere there are symbols of growth and fertility" (J. Golding, Picasso in Retrospect, New York and Washington, 1973, pp. 110-11).\n\nIn June 1930 Picasso acquired the Château de Boisgeloup, seventy kilometres from Paris, which became a refuge for the artist and his muse. Its stables were converted into a sculpture studio, where Picasso increasingly devoted his time and creative energy to sculpture, including a number of plaster busts and reclining nude portraits of Marie-Thérèse. The influence of this medium is visible in the present work in the monumental, sculptural force with which the female body is portrayed. At the same time, the psychological state of the sleeping woman resonates in the soft modelling of the figure, creating an atmosphere of reverie and carefree abandon. Seeking to convey his erotic desire, Picasso generates morphological permutations and distortions of the female anatomy. Abandoning any attempt at naturalism, he creates a figure composed of biomorphic forms, a technique that developed from his earlier, Surrealist works (fig. 2).\n\nThe soft, pale skin, blonde hair and characteristic profile of Marie-Thérèse are all recognisable in the present work. Françoise Gilot, who became Picasso’s companion in the late 1930s, evoked Marie-Thérèse’s features: "I found Marie-Thérèse fascinating to look at. I could see that she was certainly the woman who had inspired Pablo plastically more than any other. She had a very arresting face with a Grecian profile. The whole series of portraits of blonde women Pablo painted between 1927 and 1935 are almost exact replicas of her... She was very athletic, she had that high-colour look of glowing good health one sees often in Swedish women. Her forms were handsomely sculptural, with a fullness of volume and a purity of line that gave her body and her face an extraordinary perfection" (F. Gilot and C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, pp. 241-242).\n\nFig. 1, Pablo Picasso, Photograph of Marie-Thérèse Walter, 1929\nFig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Nu couché, 1932, oil on canvas, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris\nFig. 3, Pablo Picasso, Nu couché aux fleurs, 1932, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York\nFig. 4, Pablo Picasso, Figures au bord de la mer, 1931, oil on canvas, Musée Picasso, Paris\nSigned Picasso (upper left); dated 21 Decembre M.CM.XXXII on the stretcher
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medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Pablo Picasso

dimensions

130 by 162cm.

exhibition

New York, Marlborough Gallery Inc. and New York, Saidenberg Gallery Inc., Homage to Picasso for his 90th Birthday, 1971, no. 42, illustrated in the catalogue Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Nudes - Nus - Nackte, 1984, no. 62, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Picasso - der Maler und seine Modelle, 1986, no. 15, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

literature

The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Surrealism 1930-1936, San Francisco, 1997, p. 149, no. 32-168, illustrated

provenance

Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris Galerie Beyeler, Basel Meshulam Riklis, New York (Sale: Christie's, New York, 10th May 1994, lot 21) Purchased at the above sale by the previous owner

signedDate

Signed Picasso (upper left); dated 21 Decembre M.CM.XXXII on the stretcher

time_period

Painted on 21st December 1932.

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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