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Early Picasso to Highlight Christie's Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on May 4
Pablo Picasso, Les enfants et les jouets. Oil on board, painted in spring 1901. Estimate: US$5.5 – 7.5 million. Photo. Christie's Images Ltd 2011.


NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announces a special highlight of its Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 4 May: Les enfants et les jouets, an extraordinary work by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) painted in the spring of 1901 when the artist was only 19 years old and in his first flush of commercial success. The subject is among the earliest and most elaborate of the artist’s depictions of small children to be finished as a full-fledged oil painting.

Estimated at US$ 5.5 - 7.5 million, this brilliantly painted work is the second major oil from this early period in Picasso’s career to reach the auction block this year. In February, Christie’s London fetched US$ 7.8 million (£4.9 million) for the artist’s Sur l'impériale traversant la Seine, a 1901 painting consigned from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Both paintings are among an important group of works Picasso created in a flurry of creative inspiration as he adjusted to life in Paris and prepared for his first major exhibition at the gallery of the influential Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard.

Conor Jordan, Senior Vice President and Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s Americas, comments: “This scene of two small children amidst their toy horses and dolls is a work of irrepressible painterly élan. Picasso’s innate skill as a draftsman and his newfound excitement at the coloristic innovations of the Parisian avant-garde are evident in this work. Even at this early stage of his career, his searching eye found obvious enjoyment in the interaction of two infants, a theme he was to revisit throughout his legendary career.”

Picasso had arrived from Spain, talented yet still unknown, in May 1901 to begin his second stay in Paris. Through his friend and agent Pere Mañach he won an enviable opportunity to exhibit at Vollard’s gallery alongside his compatriot, the Basque painter Francisco Iturrino. Finding himself with only 20 paintings in his inventory, Picasso set about preparing works for the show at a furious pace that spring, painting appealing views of Paris, fashionable crowds at racetracks, still-lifes, and scenes with children, including Les enfants et les jouets. The painting may well have been among the more than 60 works selected for Vollard’s gallery show, which opened in June of 1901 to great critical acclaim. From a commercial standpoint, the exhibition was a rousing success for both the artist and for Vollard, with well over half of the paintings sold and enough income generated for the young Picasso to establish himself in Paris.

Les enfants et les jouets comes to auction from a distinguished European collector, whose family has owned the painting since circa 1960. The work will be exhibited to the public for the first time at Christie’s London from April 16-19 and again at Christie’s New York from April 29 – May 4.

Christie’s previously announced it will offer Claude Monet’s Les Peupliers (estimate: US$ 20-30 million), one of the most celebrated of the pioneering artist’s great series of works from his years in Giverny, and Pierre Bonnard’s Le petit déjeuner (estimate: $6-9 million). More highlights of the May 2011 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art will be announced in the coming days.

Auction: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Viewings: Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries April 29 – May 4, 2011

*Estimates do not include buyer's premium






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