As was his custom, Picasso left Paris to work in the countryside during the summer of 1911. In early July he traveled to the village of Céret, where he remained for the next two months. Located in the Rousillon, on the border with his native Spain, Céret was home to his old friend, the sculptor Manolo Hugué, and to the American artist Frank Haviland Burty. Having lived in Céret since the end of 1910, Manolo was undoubtedly the catalyst for Picasso's decision to summer in the town.
Fernande Olivier, who joined Picasso in August, reports that Picasso rented the second floor of a large building in a park (fig. 1), with several rooms for a studio and lodgings. Throughout the summer, Picasso remained in contact with a limited group of friends, most notably Gertrude and Leo Stein, and his dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who saw to Picasso's material needs and kept him informed of events in Paris.
While in Céret, Picasso produced some of the most hermetic and mysterious paintings of his career. In dialogue with Georges Braque, who arrived in Céret on August 17th, Picasso embarked on a period of intense study, expanding and refining the vocabulary of Cubism. L'Indépendant (Nature morte à l'éventail) bears witness to the close artistic dialogue between the two men, and to their mutual role in the development of High Analytic Cubism.
On a café tabletop, Picasso has assembled several mundane objects, including a fan, a wine glass, a vase of flowers, and the local newspaper, L'Indépendant, identified by its masthead. Consolidating these objects in the center of the composition, Picasso establishes a vestigial figure/ground relationship, just as he systematically dismantles Renaissance space. Line is pryed apart from form and is divorced from its function as descriptive contour; color is pared down to a monochromatic scale of browns and greys; mass and volume appear in conflicting and contradictory relationships; objects are fractured and dematerialized; and shading does not obey a consistent source of light. The surface of the canvas itself appears fragmented, and form is atomized as Picasso turns to a sustained meditation on the tools of the Renaissance tradition of representation. As he compresses the pictorial space, the depicted objects appear at first to fan out in successive layers from the center and then to coalesce within a stable pyramidal structure. A linear scaffold or grid serves to lock the objects in place and insures that the central massing of form is adjusted to the framing edge of the picture. Picasso had begun to explore the full possibilities of the grid as a structural agent a year earlier, as a drawing of a nude from the summer/autumn of 1910 clearly demonstrates (fig. 2).
Discussing the dual function of the fan as an object and a structural device, Joseph Palau i Fabre has written:
Above all, the fan implies and imposes a structure
and its use, a rhythm, both concepts very much present
in the artist's work of the time. The fan offered him
both elements fused together. Closed, open, half-open,
its beating and, by extension, its configuration varies
constantly. Its transposition from closed to open,
blossoming forth like a flower with its corolla in the
air, is what most seems to have captivated Picasso....
in The Fan or L'Indépendant, the object itself
centers the composition and determines its very structure.
The consequences of the unfolding of the fan go beyond
the strict limits of its context and propagate themselves
through waves, some of which seem to fall back upon
themselves and create a cross-rhythm. Everything in
this painting is submitted to a kind of alternation
engendered by the configuration of the fan, to such an
extent that not only does it provoke parallel movements in
the vortex that can be seen below the handle of the utensil but it also sets up counter rhythms, such as the one that is engendered in the center of the top part of the painting,
which seems to contain the form--more simplified and almost abstract--of the fan itself. (J. Palau i Fabre, op. cit., p. 215).
A comparison with Braque's Chandelier (fig. 3), painted at the same time, illustrates the extent to which Cubism had become a joint enterprise. Like Picasso, Braque develops a pyramidal composition, although his forms are layered more consistently in a horizontal configuration, and the objects appear to dematerialize in a luminous, but indeterminate space. In both paintings, the presence of L'Indépendant is conspicuous, serving as a point of entry into the iconography of the café/studio still life.
The café and studio provided Picasso and Braque with a controled repertory of images with which to carry out their experiments. Indeed the hermetic world of the studio exists in poetic symmetry with their investigation into the terms and limits of signifying practices; the studio is a kind of laboratory for aesthetic exploration. It is useful to consider the joint project of Picasso and Braque as an analysis of the structural conditions of representation. In the work of both artists, there is considerable movement between representation and non-representation; between line as a marker of space, line as contour and sign and line as surface inscription.
The introduction of words into Cubist painting in the summer of 1911 (prefigured in Braque's graphic work of the previous winter) foregrounds this project, and addresses the problem of intelligibility in a new way. The presence of words serves to collapse the space of the painting by calling attention to the literal surface of the picture. Perception of the visual field now alternates between practices of looking and reading. More importantly, to the extent that words are signs for objects, ideas, or concepts that acquire meaning in combination, and through selection, they exist within a closed signifying system. As structural linguistics has demonstrated, the relation of a sign to its referent is arbitrary, inherently unstable, and fixed by context and convention. Picasso and Braque seem to have understood the potential for words to establish rich poetic resonances, just as they open deep fissures in meaning. The full implications of this approach to painting as a kind of sign language would be fully tested in the papiers collés of the following year.
The gothic script of L'Indépendant, faithfully copied by Picasso and Braque, also points to the artisanal roots of Cubism and the delight the two artists took in different forms of typography. As Robert Rosenblum has observed, there is great irony in Picasso's inclusion of Gothic type-face in a picture whose very structure identifies it as a quintessentially modern object. Moreover,
...Picasso's eye was constantly alert to the lesser
variations of type-face invented in modern advertising.
Thus, when he included a packet of cigarette papers
in his Cubist still lifes and identified the brand as
JOB, he was careful to imitate in the lettering the
lozenge-shaped 'O' that still characterizes the product.
Indeed, Picasso's scrutiny of such typographical
variants must have been stimulated in good part by the
innovations of commercial art and, in particular, the
posters of La Belle Époque, which provided him and
his fellow Cubists in Paris with a ubiquitous visual
environment. (R. Rosenblum, op. cit., p. 73).
It is this oscillation between high art and popular culture, between the world of the artist's studio and that of the café and music hall that makes Cubism of the years 1911-13 such a compelling record of a society wrought by change and the compulsive desire for novelty.
The first owner of the painting was Ambroise Vollard, who Picasso portrayed on at least three occasions: In a portrait executed in Paris in 1901 (E.G. Bührle Collection, Zurich); in a majestic portrait of 1910 (fig. 4) in which Picasso presents Vollard as a great connoisseur capable of understanding his challenging work (Vollard appears to be deeply engaged in reading a book or viewing a work of art); and in a classicizing line drawing of August 1915 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.) Picasso's involvement with Vollard ran deep in his professional career. He celebrated his first exhibition in Paris at Vollard's gallery in June 1901. In May 1906, Vollard bought twenty paintings from Picasso for the sum of 2,000 francs. Vollard held onto many of these Blue and Rose period works for several years and, much to Picasso's dismay, exhibited them in a show that ran from December 1910 to February 1911.
L'Indépendant subsequently entered the collection of the art dealer Paul Guillaume. Probably through his early trade in African sculpture, he met Guillaume Apollinaire, and opened his first gallery in 1914 on the Rue de Miromesnil. Guillaume's stock expanded to include works by Picabia and de Chirico and, by 1915, Kisling and Modigliani. In October 1916 Guillaume showed the work of Derain, and opened a new gallery at 108 Rue St. Honoré the following year. He began to purchase work by Matisse and Picasso, and expanded his business to include 18th and 19th century painting, as well as gothic and oriental sculpture. In 1920, he opened a new gallery on the Rue La Boétie, and carefully cultivated a clientele of wealthy collectors, including Dr. Albert Barnes. Guillaume prospered throughout the 1920s, and soon came to occupy a preeminent position in the Parisian art world. Modigliani painted a sensitive portrait of the elegant mécène in 1916 (fig. 5).
(fig. 1) Maison Delcros, the house in Céret occupied by Picasso in 1911
(fig. 2) Pablo Picasso, Nu debout, 1910, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
(fig. 3) Georges Braque, Chandelier, 1911, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
(fig. 4) Pablo Picasso, Portrait d'Ambroise Vollard, 1910,
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
(fig. 5) Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Guillaume, 1916, Gine Bonomi, Milan
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Signed bottom right 'Picasso'--signed again and inscribed on the reverse 'Picasso Ceret à Vollard'--oil on canvas
Signed bottom right 'Picasso'--signed again and inscribed on the reverse 'Picasso Ceret à Vollard'--oil on canvas
Philadelphia, Museum of Art, Masterpieces of Philadelphia Private Collections, summer, 1947, p. 74, no. 56
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Cubism 1910-1912, Jan.-Feb., 1956, no. 31 (illustrated)
Philadelphia, Museum of Art, Picasso: A Loan Exhibition of his Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints and Illustrated Books, Jan.-Feb., 1958, p. 17, no. 57a (illustrated)
Philadelphia, Museum of Art (on loan, 1965)
Dallas, Museum of Fine Arts, Picasso, Two Concurrent Retrospective Exhibitions, Feb.-March, 1967, p. 94, no. 19 (illustrated, p. 29). Philadelphia, Museum of Art (summer loan, 1970)
Basel, Kunstmuseum, Picasso, aus dem Museum of Modern Art, New York und Schweizer Sammlungen, June-Sept., 1976, p. 48, no. 21 (illustrated in color, p. 49)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso, A Retrospective, May-Sept., 1980 (illustrated, p. 144)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Picasso and Braque, Pioneering Cubism, Sept., 1989-Jan., 1990, p. 197 (illustrated in color)
24 x 19¾ in. (61 x 50 cm.)
W. George, La Grande Peinture Contemporaire de la Collection Paul Guillaume, Paris, 1930 (illustrated, pl. 129)
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1942, vol. II* (Oeuvres de 1906-1912), p. 131, no. 264 (illustrated)
G. Habasque, Cubisme, Geneva, 1959, p. 50 (illustrated in color)
J. Leymarie, Picasso, Métamorphoses et Unité, Geneva, 1971,
p. 36 (illustrated in color)
F. Russoli and F. Minervino, L'Opera completa di Picasso cubista, Milan, 1972, p. 108, no. 412 (illustrated)
J.-L. Daval, Journal de l'art moderne 1884-1914, Geneva, 1973,
p. 242 (illustrated in color)
R. Rosenblum, Picasso and the Typography of Cubism, London, 1973, p. 74, no. 126 (illustrated)
M. Gasser, "Bilder aus einer Privatsammlung", Du, no. 406, Dec., 1974, p. 26, no. 406 (illustrated)
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso en Cataluña, Barcelona, 1975,
no. 230 (illustrated)
P. Daix and J. Rosselet, Picasso, The Cubist Years, 1907-1916, London, 1979, p. 267, no. 412 (illustrated)
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso, Cubism (1907-1917), New York, 1990, p. 215 (illustrated in color, p. 216, no. 595)
Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Paul Guillaume, Paris
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clifford, Radnor, Pennsylvania
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne
Acquired from the above by the late owner