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

Femme au chapeau

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme au chapeau
inscribed and dated ‘VAUVENARGUES 20-4.61.’ (on the reverse)
oil and brush and black ink on panel
29.7/8 x 24¾ in. (76 x 63 cm.); oval
Painted in 1961
The artist's estate.
Marina Picasso, Paris.
Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva.
Private collection, Tokyo.
Private collection, New York, by whom acquired from the above in July 2003; sale, Christie’s, New York, 9 May 2007, lot 45.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1962 et 1963, vol. 19, Paris, 1968, no. 468 (illustrated pl. 152).
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, The Sixties I, 1960-1963, San Francisco, 2002, no. 61-056, p. 132 (illustrated).
E. Mallen, ed., Online Picasso Project, Sam Houston State University, OPP.61:195 (accessed 2013).
Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art, Pablo Picasso, Collection Marina Picasso, November 1990 - January 1991.
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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas


Pablo Picasso painted Femme au chapeau on 20 April 1961, only a little more than a month after he married Jacqueline Roque, whose features are clearly distinguishable in this portrait. His marriage appears to have spurred Picasso into a period of fantastic creativity - even by the standards of the fecund 1960s, when he was thrusting himself into his painting with a vigorous energy that belied his years.

In Femme au chapeau, Picasso has presented Jacqueline's features within a rounded format, a roundel that recalls the tondo pictures of some of the Old Masters. During the 1960s, Picasso continued the tireless innovation that had begun decades earlier with the precocious boldness of vision of his Blue Period and had led through the Rose Period, Cubism, Surrealism and beyond. At the same time, he was looking increasingly at the legacy of the great artists of the past, not least because he was more and more aware of his own standing - since the death of his friend, fellow painter and former artistic rival Henri Matisse, Picasso was often referred to as the greatest living artist. Accordingly, he looked now to the dead artists for competition. For instance, it was during the period that he painted Femme au chapeau that he was also repeatedly visiting Edouard Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbe in a string of energetic re-imaginings, as he had earlier done with Velázquez's Las meninas and Delacroix's Les femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement.

In Femme au chapeau, it is not so much the artistic heritage of a single artist that Picasso appears to have been confronting than the entire tradition of the past. The oval format recalls the antique portraits seen in so many venerable buildings, not least the châteaux of France. It was only three years earlier, in 1958, that Picasso himself had acquired his own castle, the Château de Vauvenargues. Picasso had bought the property as a retreat, as he had discovered that his home outside Cannes, the Villa La Californie, was increasingly subject to surrounding development that was having a detrimental effect on the level of privacy that Picasso was able to enjoy. After all, he was a celebrity in his own right. Now, he was a victim of his own fame, all the more so as he himself, decades earlier, had been a part of the social crowd who had brought the fashionable crowds to the South of France during the Summer, back when it was considered off-season. Now, those same crowds were pushing him out.

Picasso often responded to the acquisition of new homes with a string of seigneurial visions of his new domain. This was true of his move to the capacious Vauvenargues; in addition, he depicted interiors replete with antiques, as well as creating his own 'family portraits' such as this one, and another that had the name 'Jacqueline de Vauvenargues' emblazoned upon it. John Richardson even pointed out that Picasso sometimes adopted almost heraldic colours in his pictures of this period; these were in evidence in Femme et fillettes, a picture formerly in the collection of the author Michael Crichton which showed Jacqueline enthroned, apparently surrounded by her and Picasso's daughters, and which had been painted on the same day as Femme au chapeau (see J. Richardson, 'L’Epoque Jacqueline,’ pp. 17-48, in Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, exh. cat., London & Paris, 1988, p. 20). Picasso revelled in being the castellan, but also in exploring the range of contrasts between expectation and reality. Be it in his emphatically casual attire or in the modern idiom of his deliberately faux-antique portraits such as Femme au chapeau, Picasso enjoyed undermining people's assumptions, ever the playful rebel.

In Femme au chapeau, Picasso's games run deeper: he has resorted to a style of painting that almost evokes stained glass in way that he has contained the swathes of colour that he has used to show Jacqueline's features within outlines that recall leading. This was a technique that had come to the fore during the years of his greatest paintings of Marie-Thérèse Walter, when he was the owner of another château, at Boisgeloup, which itself had a chapel filled with stained glass. In Femme au chapeau, these fields of monochrome add a sense of formality to the work, emphasising its structure, perhaps recalling the three-dimensional works on folded paper that Picasso was beginning to create at that time and which would later be recreated in metal, resulting in some of his most iconic monuments. They also hark back to some of the pictures he had created a decade earlier showing his former lover Françoise Gilot and their children, Claude and Paloma.

The fact that Picasso has limited the palette of Femme au chapeau to black, white and ochre, with a mere dash of grey, also results in the painting serving as a deliberate parallel to both the linocuts that he was enjoying making during this period and also the ceramics he had decorated in Vallauris, where he had met Jacqueline and where they had married earlier that year. In this way, he was managing to blur boundaries between old and new, between his various media, and, as was often the case in his paintings of the women in his life, between styles associated with other lovers. In all these ways, the artist revealed his undiminished capacity for somersaulting over conventions, even as he approached his eightieth birthday.

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