Pablo Picasso

Verre et pichet

Oil on canvas: 15(h) x 21.6(w) in /

38.1(h) x 54.9(w) cm

Signed Picasso lower right; signed, dated 21 juillet 44 and numbered II on the reverse

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CL 3509

PABLO PICASSO

Malaga 1881 – 1973 Mougins

 

Verre et pichet

 

Signed Picasso lower right; signed, dated 21 juillet 44

and numbered II on the reverse

Oil on canvas: 15 x 21⅝ in / 38.1 x 54.9 cm

Frame size: 24 x 31 in / 61 x 8.7 cm

 

Provenance:

Heinz Berggruen, Paris 

The Eastman Family, acquired from the above in 1964

Richard Green, London, 2007

Corporate collection, USA

 

Exhibited:

New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Long Island Collections, 18th January – 15th March 2009

 

Literature:

C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1963. vol. 14, p. 2, no. 2 (illustrated) 

The Picasso Project, (ed.), Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture: 1940-1944, San Francisco, 1999, p. 362, no. 44-119, illus. 

 

 

On 21st July 1944, the day Picasso painted this picture, the allied forces had defeated the German army in Normandy and were heading towards Paris. The days of the German Occupation seemed to be numbered and people allowed themselves to hope that the war itself might be over by the end of the year. The city of Paris was liberated a month later when the Allies and Free French forces entered the capital on 25th August. During the war years, Picasso transcribed his bleak experience of occupied Paris into austere, solemn and often disturbing domestic compositions.  By the time he executed this radiant still life of a glass, pitcher and lemon, however, fragile yet increasingly hopeful notes had begun to imbue a new series of paintings which he completed in July 1944.  Picasso first painted Still life with oranges and Still life with glass and lemon, objects which would reappear frequently in future works, in mid June 1941. This summer series of Verre et pichet, encompassing fourteen successive canvases, were executed between the 19th- 28th  July 1944,  including examples in the Musée d’Art Moderne, St Étienne [44.2.1] and the Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand [L199/15].

 

Like many of the interacting objects within Picasso’s wartime still lifes, the glass and pitcher seem to negotiate a delicate balance between light and darkness, stability and disorder perhaps signifying the artist’s own psychological fluctuation between hope and despair. Poised upon an irregular diagonal line, the vivid, brightly coloured vessels cast geometric shards of light and shadow upon the fractured table, suggesting that any moment their equilibrium could be disturbed. The tension and anxiety implied by Picasso’s ordinarily angular and compressed glasses however, seems to have softened here into a curving almond-shaped cylinder, the blue/green circle within the white aperture creating the appearance of an eye. Picasso occasionally depicted an object such as a spoon or a flower in the glass, causing the light to refract within the water and casting interesting shadows upon the table. In contrast to earlier wartime works, Picasso more successfully combines or counters the distorted geometric renderings of his cubist period with the opulent arcs of his Neoclassical phase, the pitcher recalling the fruitful, voluptuous curves of his Nature morte au pichet et aux pommes dated 1919 (Musée Picasso, Paris).

 

Defying the very definition of the term nature-morte, the pointed lips of the animated glass and pitcher seem to face each other and harmoniously engage in a dialogue over the bright sphere; their essential transparency with sections of thick stripes and linear delineation reflecting each other’s internal structures. The central, spherical shape of the sun-like lemon is also echoed in the objects’ makeup; in the iris of the glass’s eye and the rounded belly of the ewer. Unlike the dark, claustrophobic interiors of many of Picasso’s wartime still lifes, there are no sinister corners or confined spaces here. The table, upon which the still life rests, occupies a warm, light-filled room. The objects themselves, representing positive symbols with life-giving associations, seem to emanate and reflect light, making the painting perhaps one of the brightest of this period.

 

It’s possible that the three components of the present still life represent members of Picasso’s unofficial, but intimate family unit, with the artist and Marie-Thérèse as the pitcher and glass, watching over their child Maya, in the shape of the lemon, shining in the radiant colour of hope: ‘Unlike the rage expressed in many portraits (usually of Dora Maar) during the war years, Picasso’s still lifes are more restrained and introspective and perhaps reflect the more calm domestic life he enjoyed with Marie- Thérèse and their daughter. Similarities can be appreciated between the poverty of his early Cubist days, when a bottle or jug of wine was so coveted, and the current bleak rationing of war, with the rarity of many everyday items, notably coffee. Indeed, not since his Cubist period, does Picasso seem so engaged with still life’ (Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture. A Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue 1885-1973, Nazi Occupation 1940-1944, The Picasso Project, Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1999, p. xiii).

 

Nature morte pot, verre et orange                                            Verre et Pichet

23 July 1944                                                                  24 July 1944

Oil on canvas: 33 x 41 cm                                               Oil on canvas: 33 x 41 cm

Musée d’Art Moderne, St Étienne                                    Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand

 

 

 

Note on provenance: Heinz Berggruen (1914-2007)

 

A German-Jewish art collector, dealer and patron, Heinz Berggruen made his name in post-war Paris as a gallery owner with a close relationship with Picasso, specializing in works by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse and Giacometti, and became famous in the mid-1990s by making ‘a powerful gesture of reconciliation by moving his modern art collection to Berlin.’[1] Berggruen gave up his gallery in 1980 to focus on his personal collection, which he loaned and donated to museums in the US and Europe, including 90 works on paper by Paul Klee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and seven Seurats to the National Gallery, London. The collection, which focused on Picasso and his contemporaries, was initially loaned to Berlin in 1996 and then acquired by Berlin’s State Museums in 2000, for a tenth of its market value and was renamed the Berggruen Museum.

 

Berlin born, Mr Berggruen worked as a journalist for Frankfurter Zeitung in the 1930s before leaving Nazi Germany for the United States in 1936, where he studied art at the University of Berkeley in California and became art critic for The San Francisco Chronicle. He became one of the first curators at the San Francisco Museum of Art, where he organised an exhibition of drawings by Diego Rivera and had an affair with his ex-wife, Frida Kahlo. He joined the US Army in 1942, serving in the Signal Corps, and finding himself in Paris at the end of the war, worked in the fine arts division of Unesco before opening an art gallery on the Left Bank. In 1949 he was introduced to Picasso by the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara:

“He was the most fascinating man I had the chance to meet in my life. He wasn’t playing the artist; he was just an extremely bright, witty, generous human being. I loved him. Throughout his long life, through all these various periods, starting with the Blue Period but even before, he was like a whole continent. His talent was so vast, until the end. It was a great experience to be with a man who was so wonderfully creative.”[2] The two men became friends and Berggruen went on to acquire more than 130 works by the artist.

 

Lee V. Eastman was a powerful entertainment lawyer. He and his second wife, Monique de T. Eastman, shared an enthusiasm for art and their collection consisted of works by Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and Pablo Picasso, amongst others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PABLO PICASSO

Malaga 1881 – 1973 Mougins

 

 

Born in Malaga in 1881, Pablo Picasso became a prominent figure amongst the avant-garde artistic life in Barcelona and made the first of his many visits to Paris in 1900. His early years are known as his ‘Blue Period’, owing to the dominant blue key used to portray the tragedy and misery of poor Parisian life. He settled in Paris in 1904, replacing the sad colours of his early years with a warmer palette consisting of fawns and pinks. During this ‘Rose Period’ he painted primarily actors, harlequins and scenes of circus life.

 

Influenced by his discovery of Primitive and African sculpture, Picasso’s art took a new direction. He finished Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907 and met Georges Braque soon after.  By 1909, they were able to define ‘cubism’ as a style, and progressed from Analytical Cubism to Synthetic Cubism to collage.

 

During the First World War, Picasso spent much time in Italy and was involved with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, for whom he designed stage sets and costumes. These years paved the way for his return to a more classical style, characterised by his series of monumental female nudes. Between 1925 and 1927 he was briefly connected with the Surrealist movement and in 1928 his first Minotaur subject appeared.

 

Picasso went to Spain in 1934 and painted many bull-fighting scenes. During the Spanish Civil War he sided with the Republicans and was appointed Director of the Prado for the Republican Government. His famous work Guernica, a response to the Spanish Civil War massacre, was painted for the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair in 1937. He remained in Paris during the Second World War and joined the French Communist Party after the Liberation in 1944.  Picasso moved to the Côte d’Azur in 1948 and devoted many of his latter years to lithography and ceramics.

[1] Alan Riding, The New York Times, 27th February 2007.

[2] Heinz Berggruen cited by John Green in The Guardian, 23rd May 2007.

Pablo Picasso