Signed Picasso (lower left); dated 28.8.56 on the reverseoil on canvas130 by 162.Painted in Cannes on 28th August 1956.\nSigned Picasso (lower left); dated 28.8.56 (on the reverse)\nPainted in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Picasso’s depictions of his two youngest children are among his most intimate representations of childhood. Unlike the earlier and often more formally posed portraits of Paolo and Maya, Picasso’s paintings of Claude and Paloma offer an informal picture of his growing children. Picasso was a devoted father and took great pleasure from spending time with his children as the many photographs from this period indicate and in these works he set out to capture the essence of this experience. More than any others they illustrate his innate understanding of childhood and children and his special capacity for bridging the gap between their world and the adult world around them. \nMarkus Müller described Picasso’s achievement in this respect: "In works of art like these 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. Picasso was able to make use of precisely this potential based on imagination of a specifically childish description and appropriation of the world as nectar for his art" (M. Müller, ‘The Période Françoise’, in Pablo Picasso. The Time with Françoise Gilot (exhibition catalogue), Graphikmuseum Pablo Picasso, Münster, 2002, p. 14). From his observations of his own children at play together Picasso began to develop a new pictorial idiom that took direct inspiration from their view of the world. Marina Picasso once recalled her grandfather saying ‘At eight, I was Raphael. It took me a whole lifetime to paint like a child’ (quoted in M. Picasso, Picasso. My Grandfather, New York, 2001, p. 182); these paintings balance the lively energy and realism that came from the close observation of his children with the increased range of expression that they inspired.\n\nRather than showing the children formally posed, in many of the paintings Picasso depicts the pair at play, crawling across the floor or with their toys, and not accompanied by an adult but absorbed in their own worlds. Werner Spies describes how the physical realities of painting his children in this more natural way influenced Picasso’s work: ‘the boy’s body, observed in reality, challenged Picasso to launch into a series of innovative stylistic distortions. Yet these, too, retained their basis in actual observation. Picasso accentuated the sense of verismo by emphasising characteristic details. Many of the depictions have a dynamic effect, playing on the contrasts between the figures, or opposing horizontals to verticals. Occasionally the relationships of form are reduced to silhouettes’ (Picasso’s World of Children, op. cit., p. 48). Yet in this new simplicity Picasso was influenced not only by his observations of his children playing, but also by the insight this gave him into their view of the world. Unsurprisingly, drawing appears to have featured regularly as a pastime for Claude and Paloma and photographs suggest that Picasso often guided them in this activity. In turn, this experience and insight presented Picasso with a fresh range of artistic possibilities. Spies explains: ‘In some depictions of Paloma, Claude, and their mother, Françoise Gilot, the figures are reduced to the most elementary contours… In this they presage a group of works of Picasso’s late period, the cardboard and sheet metal sculptures… The cutout technique itself, the childlike simplification of silhouette, the play with that correspondence between scale and significance which children project onto their view of the world – all clearly indicate that these works partake of a childlike will to form’ (ibid., n.p.). Borrowing from his cubist experiments Picasso uses bold horizontal and vertical lines, and the juxtaposition of coloured and patterned planes to create a sense of depth and proportion in otherwise strikingly two-dimensional compositions. This distinctive combination recalls the work of Henri Matisse, Picasso’s long-time rival and friend, who had died two years previously in 1954.\n\nAll these elements are brilliantly combined in Les enfants. Picasso uses the same bold lines and juxtaposition of pattern and colour, but the exquisite detail with which he renders Claude’s expression marks the present work as among the most technically and psychologically rich paintings of this period. He deftly captures the solitary interior world of his young son in a portrait that is full of expression and character. Yet there is a curious tension at the heart of the composition; just as Picasso builds up the detail of Claude’s face he simultaneously casts it into shadow and the detail with which he renders his son is contrasted with the stark simplicity of the black lines that he uses to depict the figure of Paloma in the background. In these paintings of his children the silhouette is often used to signal absence, or, as in his 1954 painting Mère et enfants, to highlight the difference between adult and children’s worlds; in Les enfants, it works in both senses allowing the children to occupy their own separate worlds whilst indicating the new distance from them that Picasso was feeling. Spies explains this further, indicating the present work as part of a wider shift in the Picasso’s depictions of children at this time: "First of all, Claude and Paloma suddenly cease to appear. This had biographical reasons. After Picasso’s separation from Françoise, the children were permitted to visit their father only during vacations. One of the last depictions of them, dated August 28, 1956, is entitled The Children. Claude is still recognisable in this painting, but Paloma’s features have been left out" (ibid., p. 53). Picasso had separated from Françoise Gilot three years previously in September 1953 and this tender portrait of his children captures something of the uncertainty that he must have felt during this turbulent period. Among his most truthfully observed depictions of childhood, Les enfants is a remarkable example of Picasso’s insight into the world of his children and the profound effect that this had on his art.