The early 1960s were a time filled with change all for the good for Pablo Picasso. It was during this time that he married Jacqueline Roque almost a decade into their relationship, and also that he moved to his new home at Mougins, a villa named Notre-Dame-de-Vie. Painted at Mougins on the 12 and 13 May 1963, Femme dans un fauteuil, les bras croisés. Buste is an intimate portrait of his wife that is filled with energy and colour. Since their marriage, Picasso had painted his new wife time after time, reflecting his great enthusiasm for the theme and for the sitter. Jacqueline would come to be Picasso's most frequently painted subject over the two decades of their relationship, appearing in a range of styles, guises and incarnations in his pictures.
In Femme dans un fauteuil, les bras croisés. Buste, Jacqueline is shown seated, almost in profile, hinting at an informal domesticity. In the background is a window, in her hands a flower, meaning that this picture appears as a small narrative element from a mediaeval romance. Picasso painted her several times as the maiden in the tower, as the châtelaine from the Middle Ages, a theme that was especially pertinent in their other home, the ancient fortress at Vauvenargues. The smallness of the window adds to this sense of mediaeval confinement, as though this were a dark-haired Rapunzel. This theme was all the more personal for Picasso as it placed him in the position of the knight, the chivalric lover, wooing his princess. In this sense, Jacqueline is not merely seated, but is instead enthroned within Picasso's universe.
The presence of the flower also recalls some depictions of the Madonna in Old Master paintings, lending it a weight of possible symbolic content. In some of the religious paintings of the Renaissance, Mary was shown holding objects or flowers that had implied meanings, emphasising different aspects of her life or attributes. Here, Jacqueline holds a small flower that has little meaning to the modern viewer, yet which implies meaning and significance. In this way, it relates to Picasso's own highly personal and personalised iconographic associations. Different sitters and subjects provoked different reactions and thoughts in Picasso. This eventually led to certain codified manners or elements in the various depictions of his subjects. A clear example of this is given in the similarity of the key facial features of Jacqueline, which here recall those in Femme assise dans un fauteuil from the previous year, also being offered in this sale. While it is only natural that in two portraits of the same woman Picasso should have painted her in a similar manner, the almost hieroglyphic nature of those features as captured by the artist reveals some of his mental processes. These processes are made all the more apparent by the evolution of these features between the two pictures, which were painted only a matter of months apart from one another.
Despite the overt femininity of Jacqueline's features in Femme dans un fauteuil, les bras croisés. Buste, which are accentuated by the hair, the flower and the figure itself, Picasso has deliberately instilled a certain brutality into the shape of the face, with the nose far more pronounced, angular and rigid. As Picasso painted Jacqueline over the years, he came to create many pictures in which her face was fused with that of the artist's Afghan hound, Kabul. Here, her nose consists of a pronounced geometric form that prefigures the more openly canine nose of those later works, again charting the evolution of the motif. Fortunately, this brutality is absent in Jacqueline's features here, but is highly conspicuous in the brushwork with which Femme dans un fauteuil, les bras croisés. Buste has been painted. This brutality fills the work with a gestural sense of energy, of life. The artist has clearly attacked the canvas with gusto. In painting his young bride, he has shown a youthful energy that belies his years, perhaps showing off his qualities as a cavalier by dancing with a brush instead of a sword. There is a rich contrast between the areas of high impasto and other areas where there is little paint at all, leaving the surface of this picture highly textured. It appears to chart the movements of the painter himself, each brushstroke placed on display as a catalogue of bold movements. These are made all the more apparent through the contrasts between the colours, with the red of Jacqueline's clothes in particular thrust into relief by the cooler green of the background.
This brutality-- perhaps best seen in the woman's torso, which has been painted using a skeleton-like arrangement of brushstrokes-- shows Picasso's own reaction to the artistic movements of his period. His exploration of the potential of the paint itself as a material, combined with his intensely gestural manner, relates less to his former colleagues Gris or Matisse and more to a newer generation of contemporaries, for instance Jean Dubuffet, Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning. In Femme dans un fauteuil, les bras croisés. Buste, he has taken some of the aspects of Art Brut and Abstract Expressionism but has turned them to his own use, creating an image that is filled with the energy, directness and existential angst of the Post-War artists, yet has created something that is uniquely Picasso, that sings with a romantic joie de vivre that may appear anachronistic yet is completely timeless and completely honest.
Femme dans un fauteuil, les bras croisés. Buste
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated 'Picasso 12.5.63' (upper left); dated '12/13.5.63.' (on the reverse)
New York, Marlborough, Inc., Homage to Picasso for his 90th birthday, Joint exhibition of Paintings and Works on Paper: Years: 1924-1971, October 1971, no. 89 (illustrated 98).
Chemnitz, Kunstsammlungen, Picasso et les femmes, October 2002 - January 2003, p. 394 (illustrated in colour p. 339).
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
51 x 35 in. (130 x 89 cm.)
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, oeuvres de 1962 et 1963, vol 23, Paris, 1971, no. 273 (illustrated pl. 126).
The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolours and Sculpture, A comprehensive illustrated catalogue 1885-1973: The Sixties I 1960-1963, San Francisco, 2002, no. 63-142 (illustrated p. 373).
Galerie Louise Leiris (D.H. Kahnweiler), Paris (no. 012844; photo 62741), Paris.
R.S. Johnson Fine Art.
Private collection, Illinois.
John Minken, USA.
Private collection, Spain, by whom acquired from the above in 2000.