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Personnage a la pipe
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Personnage a la pipe
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About the item

Personnage à la pipe is one of Picasso's last canvases on the theme of the musketeer, a character that became his emblem at the end of his life. This subject first emerged in his production in 1966, the year after his ulcer surgery and during a lengthy period of convalescence when he wanted to prove to himself that his creative ability had not lost its luster. The musketeer was a subject that invigorated Picasso's artistic spirit during this fragile period of his life, compelling him to create a series of canvases that celebrated the gallantry of manhood in its prime. Inspiration from this theme was not without precedent: Matisse had found refuge in reading The Three Musketeers while recuperating from his illness in the south of France and enjoyed the escapism and flights of fancy that these stories offered. But it was Picasso who significantly incorporated the character into his painting, arguably codifying the musketeer for the 20th century. He first produced a series of engravings and works on paper that explored this theme (see fig. 2) and, later, a variety of canvases of the musketeer, festooned in colorful regalia and brandishing a symbol of his virility - a pipe, instrument, weapon, or even a paintbrush.\n\nThese pictures are understood to be disguised portraits of Picasso, and their iconography was indicative of his self-awareness in the years before his death. Gone from his paintings were the veiled references to the artist as the victorious gladiator or centaur, as these indefatigable characters were not indicative of the artist's failing stamina and lost youth. The vainglorious musketeer was believed to be a more appropriate incarnation, offering a spectrum of interpretations that occupied the artist until his death.\n\nAs he developed this series during the late 1960s and into the 70s, the musketeer became a multi-dimensional figure, exhibiting a range of personalities including card players, musicians (see fig. 3) and pipe smokers, illustrating his adventures as a bon vivant. In the work under discussion, completed just two years before the artist's death, the musketeer has become an amalgamation of defining symbols. Unlike earlier versions of this subject in which the artist is careful to render the likeness of the figure through costume and presentation, such as in Mousquetaire à l'épée assis, 1969 (see fig. 4), the present work is identifiable as part of the musketeer series only by particular attributes. For example, the figure's head has few distinguishing features save for the plumed, wide-brimmed hat and the long pipe, which the artist's biographer Christian Zervos had once mistaken for a cigar. The figure in this picture is seated in what appears to be a wicker chair, but its gold and red outline, particularly on the left side of the painting, could also be interpreted as a cape. Nevertheless, the figure is unquestionably a man of stature, depicted here in the dignified manner of classical portraiture.\n\nFor Picasso, the musketeer signified the golden age of painting, and allowed him to escape the limitations of contemporary subject matter and explore the spirit of a past age. Here was a character that embodied the courtly mannerisms of the Renaissance gentleman, and Picasso's rendering of this image was also his tribute to the work of two painters he had adored throughout his life - Velasquez and Rembrandt. Picasso had devoted a large portion of his production throughout the 1960s to the reinterpretation and investigation of the old masters, an experience in which he reaffirmed his connection to some of the greatest painters in the history of art. The musketeer series was a continuation of this interest and began, according to his wife Jacqueline Roque, "when Picasso started to study Rembrandt," but his appreciation of other great figures of the Renaissance, including Shakespeare, also influenced the appearance of these characters.\n\nPicasso seldom depicted himself directly, choosing instead to have thematic characters personify him. The smoking figure in the present work was yet another incarnation of the artist, now an old man, and revealed his particular preoccupations during these final years of his life: "The Pipe Smokers – a favorite theme of Picasso’s that goes back to Cubism – afforded him one way of assuaging his frustration. ‘Age has forced us to abandon [smoking],’ he said to Brassai, ‘but the desire remains. It’s the same with love.’ For Picasso man was no longer a godlike sculptor at the height of his maturity, nor was he the monstrous Minotaur, symbol of duality; he was a fictitious character, a carnival puppet whose identity and truth lay in masks and signs. Malraux accurately compared these figures to the flat and emblematic personages of the tarot. It was not without humor that Picasso created these characters, whose amorous adventures he chronicled in his etchings. Imagine painting musketeers in 1970! They were ornamental figures whose clothes were a pretext both for the blaze of blood red and golden yellow and for the resurgence of a newly found Spanishness" (Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot and Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 457-58).\nComparables:\nFig. 1, The artist in 1972, photograph by Edward Quinn\nFig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Tête de Mousquetaire à la pipe, February 10, 1967, Ink and wash on paper, whereabouts unknown\nFig. 3, Pablo Picasso, Musicien, May 26, 1972, oil on canvas, Musée Picasso, Paris\nFig. 4, Pablo Picasso, Mousquetaire à épée assis, July 19, 1969, oil on canvas, Maya Ruiz-Picasso Collection\nDated 16.11.71 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Pablo Picasso

dimensions

51 1/4 by 38 1/4 in. (130.2 by 97.2 cm)

exhibition

Venice, Centro di Cultura di Palazzo Grassi, Picasso, Opere dal 1895 al 1971, 1981, no. 331 New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Picasso, The Last Decade, 1984, no. 99

literature

Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, oeuvres de 1971-1972, Paris, 1978, vol. 33, no. 230, pl. 81 (titled Homme au cigare)

provenance

Estate of the artist (no. 13677) Marina Picasso (by inheritance from the above) Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva Acquired from the above on October 30, 1986

signedDate

Dated 16.11.71 on the reverse

consignmentDesignation

Property from the Estate of Ruth and Jack Wexler

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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