Henri Laurens (1885-1954) & Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
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Henri Laurens (1885-1954) & Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Femme debout

Henri Laurens (1885-1954) & Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme debout
terracotta and India ink
Height: 11 7/8 in. (29.8 cm.)
Conceived in terracotta by Henri Laurens in 1921; painted by Pablo Picasso between 1951-1953; this work is unique
Henri Laurens, Paris.
Pablo Picasso, Paris & Vallauris, by whom acquired from the above.
Marina Picasso, Paris, by descent from the above.
Acquired from the above; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 3 November 2008, lot 7.
Private collection, Europe, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie's, London, 9 February 2011, lot 27.
Private collection, Europe, by whom acquired at the above sale.
K. de Baranano, ed., Picasso: A Dialogue with Ceramics, Ceramics from the Marina Picasso Collection, exh. cat., Fundación Bancaja, Valencia, 1998, n.p. (illustrated p. 82).
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Masters of Modern Sculpture, November - December 1989.
Santa Fe, Gerald Peters Gallery, Picasso in Clay: Three Decades of Ceramics from the Marina Picasso Collection, August - October 2000, no. 11, n.p. (illustrated n.p.); this exhibition later travelled to Dallas, Pillsbury & Peters Fine Art, October - December 2000.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


Femme debout is an intriguing sculpture, created by the hands of two artists, working almost three decades apart from one another on her form. The terracotta sculpture was originally made by Henri Laurens, who had been such a pioneer in creating three-dimensional Cubist works during the 1910s; however, it was later acquired by Pablo Picasso who, circa 1951-53, painted it. At this point, Laurens' Femme en chemise became Picasso's Femme debout.
The fact that Picasso took Laurens' Cubistic sculpture and twisted it to his own new purposes reveals the scavenger-like interaction that he had with the work of other artists. Picasso's incredible creative drive had earlier led him to paint over a picture by Amedeo Modigliani when he had found himself short of canvases; during the 1950s, his pictures often showed an active glance aside at the work of Henri Matisse, the artist’s great friend and rival; and of course he plundered the canon of art history again and again. However, the transformation, or appropriation, of Femme debout is a more extreme act. Picasso has taken a Cubist sculpture by Laurens – perhaps in an act of reclamation considering he himself had pioneered the movement – and has deliberately subverted the other artist's use of negative space by adding his own shading and lively, playful swirls and curlicues, giving the woman hands more appropriate to the Venus of Willendorf-like proportions that she has. Likewise, Picasso has added the hair, the breasts and a beautifully stylised face. While this reveals Picasso's fascination with sculpture and also with ceramics during this period, when he was spending time in Vallauris as well as Paris, it also serves to recall Marcel Duchamp's irreverent addition of a moustache to Leonardo's Mona Lisa. Picasso has ushered in a new, more vivacious work, using his fellow artist's sculpture as a foundation.
Perhaps it was this sort of interaction between Picasso and Laurens that led to Françoise Gilot's observations regarding the meetings between the two artists that took place at the Paris foundry of Valsuani, who cast sculptures by both of them: ‘Laurens liked Picasso but better, I think, from a distance than at close range. He always greeted Pablo by saying something like, "What a pleasure to see you," but he said it so uncertainly that we were persuaded he wasn't quite so pleased as he claimed... A year or two later, after Laurens had been ill with a pulmonary congestion, the doctor sent him for a vacation to Magagnosc, not far above Vallauris. While he was there we called on him, and for the first time he seemed delighted to see Pablo. I think it was because he wasn't in his studio. Most of the painters and sculptors Pablo called on were a little uneasy when Pablo was in their ateliers, perhaps because Pablo often said, “When there's anything to steal, I steal”’ (F. Gilot & C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, Toronto and London, 1964, p. 317).

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