Two Picasso portraits to highlight Christie's 20th Century Art Evening Sale

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Two Picasso portraits to highlight Christie's 20th Century Art Evening Sale
Pablo Picasso, Femme nue couchée au collier (1932, estimate: £9,000,000-15,000,000). © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

LONDON.- Christie’s will present two major portraits by Picasso as leading highlights in the 20th Century Art Evening Sale on 23 March. Painted on 18 June 1932, Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse) (estimate: £9,000,000-15,000,000) is one of the colourful, love-filled paeans that Pablo Picasso painted of Marie-Thérèse Walter in the first half of this seminal year. Painted some 30 years later, Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline) (1962, estimate: £6,000,000-9,000,000) depicts his wife Jacqueline. Both of these vibrant portraits represent significant stylistic moments in Picasso’s career.

“Keith Gill, Co-Head of Sale, 20th Century Art Evening Sale, Christie’s: “Christie’s is delighted to offer these two symbolic paintings by Picasso as star lots in our Evening Sale series on 23 March 2021. Seen together, Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse) and Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline) offer insight into the artistic development of one of the great masters of the 20th century. Both instantly recognisable – Marie-Thérèse in her iconic reclining pose and crown of blonde hair, and Jacqueline with her classical profile and wide eyed gaze – these two paintings encapsulate the defining iconography of these two great muses. Picasso’s career is often defined by the women who so powerfully shaped his artistic output, his feelings for his sitters igniting the canvas, imbuing the composition with expressions of the love and affection he felt for the women he depicted. We expect global interest in these masterpieces as we convene collectors in London via livestream from our salerooms in Hong Kong and New York.”

It was in 1932, widely regarded as one of the greatest years of Picasso’s career, that the influence of Marie-Thérèse truly made itself felt in Picasso’s art, as he began an extraordinarily bold and euphoric series of erotically charged depictions of his new muse that saw the artist reach a peak of his painterly production. Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse) presents a particularly intimate view of Marie-Thérèse. Blissfully unaware of her lover’s gaze, her eyes closed in private reverie, she reclines in front of a richly-coloured Baroque-style backdrop in the somnolent state that would become her pictorial signature. This painting is one of the finest of an important series of intimate, tender depictions of Marie-Thérèse that contrast with the larger scale portraits of her that Picasso was painting concurrently throughout the spring and summer of this seminal year. Other examples of this group can be found in the Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée Picasso, Paris and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse) was recently included in the Musée Picasso Picasso 1932, Année érotique catalogue of 2017-2018 in Paris.

It is the figure of the artist’s final muse, and wife, Jacqueline Picasso, who appears enthroned in Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline) (1962). Renowned for her raven coloured hair, dark, almond shaped eyes and striking, aquiline profile, Jacqueline appears in myriad ways in Picasso’s late work, his depictions of her dominating the art of the final two decades of his life. Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline) belongs to a series of compelling seated portraits of Jacqueline that he began in November 1962 and continued for the rest of the year. The motif of a woman seated in an armchair was one of the artist’s abiding subjects, appearing time and time again throughout the his career. From the undulant, deeply sensual depictions of Marie-Thérèse, and the highly wrought images of Dora Maar, Picasso constantly returned to this format, the abiding pictorial idiom of each picture defined primarily by the associated iconography of his muse at the time. In Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline), Jacqueline unquestionably commands the scene, her image invested with a sense of power and authority. With her hands resting boldly upon the throne-like chair, her regally poised head and all-seeing eyes demonstrate the artist’s thrall to his new wife.

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