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Femme endormie
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Femme endormie
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Femme endormie

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About the item

In 1932 Picasso, then 51, painted some of his most celebrated portraits of his youthful mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. He had met her in Paris some years before, and the wealth of images she inspired during the late 1920s and early 1930s has been acclaimed as one of the most remarkable aspects of the artist's career. Picasso's relationship with Marie-Thérèse was kept a well-guarded secret, not only because of his marriage to Olga Kokhlova, but because of her age. Nevertheless, in 1931 her presence - which had already begun to infiltrate his work, notably in the series of bathers at Dinard in 1928 and 1929 (see figs. 1 and 2) - became the catalyst for a crucial new departure in his work.\n\nIt is in works such as Femme endormie that Picasso most successfully celebrated Marie-Thérèse's full, passive and golden beauty. Abandoning the prevailing strands of geometric figuration and shocking Surrealist deformation that characterized much of his work of the 1920s, Picasso began to use emphatic arabesques and ample, harmonizing curves. Early in 1930 the artist provided his young lover with an apartment at 44, rue la Boètie, not far from where he and Olga lived. Soon afterward he bought the seventeenth-century Château de Boisgeloup near Gisors, where he was able to spend time with his young mistress away from his family. There he began to make massive plaster sculptures inspired by her classical profile (see fig. 3) and strong athletic body, a type of blonde beauty which had now become for him the personification of erotic desire.\n\nIn this work Picasso depicted Marie-Thérèse asleep, a theme that he was to come back to in a series of works that explored his mistress in different reclining poses, nude, with her arms raised and crossed above her head (see fig. 4). The image of sleep and the way in which Marie-Thérèse appears to lose herself in its oblivion links this work, through the association with the unconscious, with Picasso's most fertile Surrealist images. Roland Penrose, commenting on the series, notes: "Most of these figures painted with flowing curves lie sleeping, their arms folded round their heads ... The sleeper's breasts are round and fruitlike and her hands finish like the blades of summer grass. The profile of the face, usually with closed eyes, is drawn in one bold curve uniting forehead and nose above thick sensuous lips" (Roland Penrose, Picasso, His Life and Work, London, 1958, p. 243).\n\nIn the present painting, Picasso combined yellow and violet, colors that he favored in his treatment of Marie-Thérèse's hair and flesh. He also places her head between two other complementary hues, red and green, thickly applied and enhanced by the use of black. Writing about another of these sleeping women, Robert Rosenblum makes this point: "The eruptive force of Picasso's passion could even be translated into language; for in words as well, he made love to Marie-Thérèse, describing her rapturously and chromatically in the image-ridden, unpunctuated flow of his poetry of 1935, [with] her ‘cheveux blonds’ and her 'bras couleurs lilas’ " (Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Modern Art, New York; Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1996-97, p. 345).\n\nThe frank and uncomplicated avowal of Picasso's desire and love for Marie-Thérèse is particularly evident in this work, and serves as a reminder that for her, too, this period was a happy and fulfilling one. As she said many years later, "He covered me with his love."\n\nComparables:\nFig. 1, Marie-Thérèse photographed by Picasso at Dinard during the summer of 1929. Musée Picasso Document.\nFig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Baigneuse, August 15, 1928, oil on canvas, Musée Picasso, Paris\nFig. 3, The artist in his sculpture studio at Boisgeloup in 1931. Photograph by Bernès-Marouteau, Picasso Archives\nFig. 4, Pablo Picasso, Nu dans un jardin, August 4, 1934, oil on canvas, Musée Picasso, Paris\nInscribed Boisgeloup and dated 16.5.XXXII on the stretcher
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Pablo Picasso

dimensions

18 by 18 in. (46 by 46 cm)

literature

David Douglas Duncan, Picasso's Picassos, Lausanne, 1961, illustrated p. 215 The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Surrealism, 1930-1936, San Francisco, 1997, no. 32-046, illustrated p. 106

provenance

Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the artist) Eleanore Saidenberg, New York (acquired from the above) Private Collection

signedDate

Inscribed Boisgeloup and dated 16.5.XXXII on the stretcher

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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