Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Property from a French Collection
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Tête d'homme

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête d'homme
inscribed and dated 'Boisgeloup 10 juillet XXXIV' (upper right)
pencil on paper
20 1/8 x 13 ½ in. (51.2 x 34.2 cm.)
Drawn in Boisgeloup on 10 July 1934
Estate of the artist.
Marina Picasso, Geneva (by descent from the above).
Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva (acquired from the above).
Claude Berri, Paris (acquired from the above).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
C. Zervos, Picasso, Paris, 1962, vol. 8, no. 223 (illustrated, pl. 102).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso: from the Minotaur to Guernica (1927-1939), Barcelona, 2011, p. 439, no. 629 (illustrated, p. 194).
Munich, Haus Der Kunst; Cologne, Josef-Haubrich Kunsthalle and Frankfurt, Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Pablo Picasso: Ein Ausstellung zum hundertsten Geburtstag, Werke aus der Sammlung Marina Picasso, February 1981-January 1982, p. 345, no. 182 (illustrated, p. 344).
Miami, Center for the Fine Arts, Picasso at Work at Home: Selections from the Marina Picasso Collection with Additions from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 1985-March 1986, p. 77, no. 66 (illustrated).
Kunstmuseum Bern, Picasso und die Schweiz, October 2001-January 2002, p. 370, no. 114 (illustrated).
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Pablo Picasso Metamorphoses: Works from 1898 to 1973 from the Marina Picasso Collection, May-July 2002, p. 124, no. 57 (illustrated, p. 52).


“To me there is no past or future in art,” Picasso declared in 1923. “The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was” (quoted in D. Ashton, ed., Picasso on Art, New York, 1972, p. 4).

A decade later, when Picasso drew this extraordinary male head, the art of ancient Greece was on his mind more than ever. In summer 1933, he had received a commission to illustrate a new translation of Aristophanes’ satire Lysistrata; that autumn, Christian Zervos—the Greek-born publisher of Cahiers d’Art and Picasso’s catalogue raisonné—came out with the book L’art en Grèce, which the artist quickly began mining for inspiration. The present Tête d’homme has a classical immensity and sculptural solidity, as though the graphically rendered forms had in fact been hewn from marble. Perhaps we should see in this “strange personage”, as Palau i Fabre described him, a senior deity of the Greek pantheon—Zeus or Poseidon, for instance—or a Trojan hero such as the cunning Odysseus on his epic quest, an apt surrogate for Picasso himself (op. cit., 2012, p. 194).
This bearded man of protean identity appears once more in Picasso’s work from 1934, now as an artist at his easel, gazing upon the ecstatically swooning figure of Marie-Thérèse (Zervos, vol. 8, no. 239; Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, Bloomington). Semi-clad in a tunic with a Grecian-style ornamental border, Marie-Thérèse plays the role of sleeping Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus after helping him to slay the Minotaur, a myth that figures prominently in Picasso’s Suite Vollard prints from 1934-1935. Her bearded admirer here must be the wine god Dionysus, who rescues Ariadne and makes her his bride.
In a virtuoso display of creative pluralism, the mythic aura of the subject in the present sheet vies with a whimsical, consummately Picassian formal inventiveness. The bulbous forms of the beard coalesce into the head, breasts, and buttocks of a recumbent nude, while the Dalí-esque handlebar moustache finds an echo in the playful quiff of hair. “It seems to me,” wrote André Breton in 1933, “that the most important aspect of his work is the ceaseless temptation to confront everything that exists with everything that might exist, to conjure up from the unknown everything that could urge the familiar to display itself less unthinkingly” (quoted in E. Cowling, Picasso: Style and Meaning, London, 2002, p. 458).

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