Picasso’s private works go on show

Sotheby’s sale includes drawings, sculptures and ceramic works that the artist kept behind in his studio
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Picasso and the architect Jacques Couelle, 1960. Photograph illustrated by Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso
Picasso and the architect Jacques Couelle, 1960. Photograph illustrated by Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso

In the old days, an artist's subject often came first, explains E.H. Gombrich in his canonical work of art history, The Story of Art. “They received a commission to paint say, a Madonna or a portrait, and they then set to work to carry it out as best they could. When commissions of this kind became rarer, artists had to choose their own subjects.”

Some decided to focus on reliable, if somewhat hackneyed themes that would attract buyers, while others “refused to become illustrators of this kind. If they had to choose a subject themselves they would study some definite problems of their craft,” Gombrich writes.

 

Nature morte aux fruits (1945) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso
Nature morte aux fruits (1945) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso

“Henceforth an increasing number of artists took it for granted that what mattered in art is to find new solutions for what are called problems of ‘form’. To these artists then, ‘form’ always came first and ‘subject’ second.” 

Pablo Picasso chose the latter route, producing an enormous amount of work throughout his long and productive life. Light bulbs, flowers, mythical creatures, guitars, bottles, as well as countless depictions of men and women appear in his paintings, drawings and sculptures.

 

Pichet ‘Femme’ (1955) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso
Pichet ‘Femme’ (1955) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso

The artist did not rely on commissions, only sold a portion of his work, and kept back most of his sculptures, and many of his paintings and drawings, some of which served to decorate his studio, guiding and inspiring his artistry.

 

Vase de fleurs (1955) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso
Vase de fleurs (1955) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso

A huge number of these pieces were passed on to dedicated museums in Paris and Malaga following his death. Yet 10,000 artworks, including around 300 paintings were passed on to his granddaughter Marina Picasso. A selection of 100 such works on paper and 70 ceramics and terracotta sculptures will go up for sale at Sotheby’s in London next month.

The sale, Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso, is on show at Sotheby’s in New York from tomorrow (13) until 16 January, and at Sotheby’s Bond Street home 29 January – 4 February, prior to the auction on 5 February.

 

Tête de femme (1923) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso
Tête de femme (1923) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso

“Offering an intimate glimpse into Picasso’s private world,” the auction house says, “the scope of the selection presented here is truly remarkable, spanning every decade of the artist’s career and covering an eclectic variety of subjects and media.”

Femme débout (1945) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso
Femme débout (1945) by Pablo Picasso. Part of Sotheby's Picasso in Private: Works from the Collection of Marina Picasso

There doesn't appear to be any breath-taking, unseen masterpieces in here, yet the wide variety of jugs, cutouts, sketches and sculptures reminds us how wildly heterogeneous Picasso’s art remained throughout his life.

For more on the way artists live and work, get a copy of In the Studio, a publishing collaboration between Gagosian Gallery and Phaidon, which includes photographs of Picasso’s studio as well as reproductions of Picasso’s works inspired by the studio, and plenty more besides.


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