Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Tête d'homme au cigare

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête d'homme au cigare
pen and ink on paper
8¼ x 5¼ in. (21 x 13.5 cm.)
Executed in 1912
Private Collection, France.
Private Collection, New York.
Richard Nagy, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1974, vol. 28, no. 69 (illustrated pl. 32).


Alexandra McMorrow
Alexandra McMorrow




In May 1912 Picasso broke up with Fernande Olivier, with whom he had been living since 1904, and left Paris in the company of his new love interest, Eva Gouel, with whom he had been having a clandestine affair since the previous summer. They arrived in Céret, where he had worked the year before. Picasso soon learned that Fernande was trying to find him, so in late June he hurried on to Perpignan and Avignon, and found a small house in the nearby town of Sorgues. He gave the address of his new hiding place at first only to Paris dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, and then a little while later to his friend Braque, with whom he planned to work side by side, as they had previously done in Céret. Braque and his girlfriend Marcelle arrived in July, taking up residence in a house nearby.

Among the first pictures Picasso completed in Sorgues was the Arlesienne, a portrait of a woman dressed in local costume, seen in three-quarter view (Zervos, vol. II, no. 356). Around this time he was drawing extensively, filling the pages of a carnet now in the Musée Picasso (their cat. 16), and working on larger sheets. There are numerous sketches of mustachioed men, often wearing bowler hats.
In contrast to the paintings that show the complexity and often limited legibility of Picasso's imagery during his recent 'hermetic' phase, these drawings possess a profoundly simple and almost classical beauty. They reveal the fundamental architecture of Picasso's cubist conceptions, without the distraction of excessive faceting, and allow a more directly communicative expression of the artist's humorous approach to his subjects. He would soon employ this type of drawing in his papiers colleés and to execute studies for his paper constructions. John Richardson wrote that "in 1912 the increasingly complexity of cubism obliged him to paint with unaccustomed slowness. Only pen and pencil could keep pace with the outpourings of his imagination. Anyone who takes the trouble to track down the sequences of drawings in Zervos's chaotic catalog or more recently the published sketchbook pages will be amazed at profusion, the sustained inventiveness. What draftsman since Leonardo has brought off such a feat?" (in A Life of Picasso, 1907-1917, New York, 1996, p. 248).

During this time, Picasso and Braque were the great pioneers of this new method of viewing and depicting the world. They sought a visual language that combined the order and science of the modern age with the timeless truth of the objects depicted, creating archetypes that are recognisable, harnessing a notion of the reality of the objects beyond their mere appearance.

The present drawing, executed in 1912, with its assemblage of geometrical forms comes at a pivotal time in both Picasso's career and personal life. Picasso's art was undergoing a transformation; the "analytic" cubist style of the past years was evolving into "synthetic cubism." As John Richardson explains, "Analytic cubism permitted the two artists to take things apart: dissect them 'with the practiced and methodical hand of a great surgeon' (as Apollinaire said of Picasso)...Synthetic cubism, on the other hand, permitted Picasso and Braque to put things together again, to create images and objects in a revolutionary new way, out of whatever materials they chose" (in A Life of Picasso, 1907-1917: The Painter of Modern Life, London, 1996, vol. 1, p. 106).

A comparable drawing, Tête d'homme circa 1912 sold Property from the Collection of James Annenburg La Vea, Christie's New York, 4 May 2004, lot 23.

We are grateful to Maya Widmaier-Picasso for confirming the authenticity of this drawing.