Famous paintings by Picasso are everywhere — especially in the record books from New York’s art auction season.
While Picasso paintings have long dominated these auctions, his Nude, Green Leaves and Bust was sold in May, 2010 by Christie’s for $106.48 million, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction (the most expensive artwork ever sold is now Salvator Munti by Leonardo da Vinci; it sold in November, 2017 for just over $450 million).
Picasso painted Nude, a portrait of his then-mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, in only one day. It is breath-taking that one of the lesser known Pablo Picasso paintings commanded such a price. This new record eclipses the previous high earned by a Giacometti sculpture sold in February, 2010. And before that, the record-breaker was held another one of Picasso’s paintings, Garcon a la Pipe; it sold in New York for $104 million in 2004.
Pablo Picasso. Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, 1905. Oil on canvas, 39 1/4″ x 32″.
Art museums are delving into storage and dusting off other Picasso paintings and artwork to create exhibitions. The Museum of Modern Art, for instance, owns 1,100 of the 2,400 known Picasso prints, and is presently exhibiting one hundred of them in “Themes and Variations“; it runs until August 28, 2010. The Met’s “Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” showcases 300 Picasso artworks from its collection, including its total holdings of Picasso paintings, ceramic, drawings, and sculptures.
Pablo Picasso. Garcon a la Pipe, 1905. Oil on canvas, approx. 39″ x 32″.
The Met show displays Picasso’s artwork in chronological order, spanning his career from ages 19 to 97, or from 1900 to 1973. Although his drawings and prints are not typically on view, all are a part of this art exhibition. Similarly, the Met’s holdings of 34 Picasso paintings will all be shown, revealing the somewhat limited extent of its holdings (click for a listing of all Picasso artwork at the Met).
One of the Met’s most renowned Picasso paintings is At The Lapin Agile (left) commissioned by Frede Gerard (shown playing guitar in the background) for his cabaret, Le Lapin Agile. Now iconic of bohemain Parisian life at the turn of the century, this famous painting shows Picasso as a Harlequin with his lover, Germaine Pichot, at his side.
Left: Pablo Picasso. At The Lapin Agile, 1905. Oil on canvas, 39″ x 39 1/2″.
The most highly regarded of the Met’s Picasso paintings is surely The Portrait of Gertrude Stein, bequeathed by Ms. Stein in 1947. Completed in 1906, the Portrait of Gertrude Stein foreshadowed the creation of Cubism, a movement that arose from collaboration between Picasso and Georges Braque during 1908 – 1912. These co-founders discarded the Renaissance conception of painting as the translation of three dimensional form onto a flat picture plane using perspective and illusionistic drawing. Instead, Picasso and Braque – and later the Cubists – contended that objects didn’t have any fixed or absolute form, so that every vantage point could be captured in one pictorial whole.
In Portrait of Gertrude Stein, Picasso portrays her in an untraditional yet confident pose, with her right arm and hand contoured and the left, flat and stiff. Her bulk floods the picture frame, leaving her lifeless and more statue-like than human. Her hair sits rather than grows on her head. Most significantly, her mask-life face hints at the distortions that hallmark Analytic Cubism.
Stein reported that Picasso required more than 90 sittings to complete this painting, primarily due to constant re-workings of her face. Allegedly, Picasso was told that Stein’s portrait didn’t resemble her, to which he quipped, “It will.”
Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8″ x 32″.
Intrigued by Pablo Picasso paintings? Explore his remarkable series, Las Meninas.