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Tête de femme (Portrait de Françoise)
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About the item

Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme (Portrait de Françoise)\nDated 15 Juin and 7.12/46 on the reverse\nOil on canvas\n21 5/8 by 15 in.\n55 by 38 cm\nPainted on June 15 and December 7, 1946.
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NY, US
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notes

With triumphant colors and exceptional graphic confidence, Tête de femme conveys the sense of optimism that characterizes Picasso's work in the years immediately following World War II. The model for this work is the artist's lover and muse from this period, Françoise Gilot. Within the trajectory of Picasso's portraiture, Françoise's visage has come to signify a time of intense happiness for the artist. The two artists met in May 1943, while Picasso was still in his tumultuous relationship with Dora Maar, and it was not until 1946 that they settled in Cap d'Antibes in the south of France.  The period that followed was marked by great personal fulfilment, during which Picasso was, probably more than at any other time, devoted to his family, including the couple's two children, Claude and Paloma.  This happiness in private life spilled into the artist's work, resulting in a number of portraits of his muse and their children.

Over the years Picasso's depictions of Françoise became increasingly stylized, often conveying a sense of fecundity and grace (fig. 1). Françoise's youthful spirit and her interest in art not only inspired Picasso, but also encouraged a new direction in his portraiture. The French photographer Brassaï met Françoise at Picasso's studio on the Rue des Grands-Augustins in December of 1943 and was instantly taken with the young artist: "Very young -- seventeen or eighteen years old -- passionate about painting, eager for advice, impatient to prove her talent... I was struck by the vitality of this girl, by her tenacity to triumph over obstacles. Her entire personality radiated an impression of freshness and restless vitality" (Brassaï, quoted in William Rubin, ed., Picasso and Portraiture, Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Paris, Grand Palais, 1996-97, p. 415). With Françoise by his side, Picasso gradually abandoned the high-keyed palette and distortive figuration that had dominated his wartime portraits of Dora Maar and embraced a more liberated approach.

This sensibility imbues Tête de femme with elegance and clarity. The figure here adopts an almost formal pose, looking straight at the viewer.  As Frank Elgar pointed out: "The portraits of Françoise Gilot have a Madonna-like appearance, in contrast to the tormented figures he was painting a few years earlier" (Frank Elgar, Picasso, New York, 1972, p. 123). Picasso selects a succinct palette of primary colors to surround his figure while rendering her facial features with a virtuosic interplay of greys, whites and yellows. Her arresting gaze forms the focal point of the composition, engaging the viewer in an unavoidable dialogue.

Though the resemblance to Françoise is unmistakable here, Michael Fitzgerald points out that Picasso felt liberated from naturalism in his portraits of her: "Picasso's portraits of Françoise also were not drawn from life; yet the dialogue between artist and subject influenced their form. Françoise was not interested in truly naturalistic images, and, unlike in the cases of Picasso's other wives and mistresses, there are almost none that reproduce her features strictly" (Michael Fitzgerald, "A Triangle of Ambitions: Art, Politics, and Family during the Postwar Years with Françoise Gilot," in Picasso and Portraiture, op. cit., p. 416). Though he eschews fidelity to form, Picasso captures in Tête de femme the youthful vibrancy of this inimitable muse and the renewed sense of hope that she embodied after the conclusion of World War II.

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Pablo Picasso

dimensions

21 5/8 by 15 in. 55 by 38 cm

literature

Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1944 à 1946, vol. 14, Paris, 1963, no. 162, illustrated pl. 71

The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Liberation and Post-War Years, 1944-1949, San Francisco, 2000, no. 46-056, illustrated p. 76

provenance

Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris

Saidenberg Gallery, New York

Acquired from the above


*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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