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    Description

    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
    Tête d'homme, 1970
    Ink and crayon on cardboard
    12-3/8 x 8-3/4 inches (31.4 x 22.2 cm)
    Signed and dated upper left: 27.12.70 III / Picasso
    Dated verso: Dimanche / 27.12.70.

    PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF ROD MCKUEN AND EDWARD HABIB

    PROVENANCE:
    R.S. Johnson International Gallery, Chicago, Illinois;
    The Estate of Rod McKuen and Edward Habib, Beverly Hills, California.

    EXHIBITED:
    R.S. Johnson International Gallery, Chicago, "Picasso: 20 Drawings 1967-1971," no. 18.

    LITERATURE:
    Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Vol. 32, Oeuvres de 1970, Paris, 1977, no. 345, illustrated.

    Picasso painted Tête d'homme, this whimsical, dynamic portrait of a man wearing a hat and ruffled collar, in 1970 when he was 89 and not about to slow down. Indeed, between 1968 and 1972, he astonishingly completed over 500 etchings, 400 paintings, and hundreds more drawings. The art historian Marie-Laure Bernadac points out that "the most striking feature of [Picasso's] late period is undoubtedly its vitality. It is conveyed by the prodigious volume of the output and by the speed and vehemence of the execution, the one being the corollary of the other (M. Bernadac, "Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model," in Late Picasso, The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 84). Bernadac goes on to describe the motivation behind Picasso's colossal production: "The final ten years can be seen as a crossing of barriers, a liberation of knowledge and technique, a return to nature, spontaneity, the 'childhood' of art and a savage, primal immediacy in painting" (Ibid., 50). Picasso explored a variety of themes in his late work: nudes, families, amorous couples, the artist and his model, Arcadian musicians, toreadors, matadors, and musketeers. He also reintroduced one of his longtime favorite characters, the melancholy clown Pierrot, the subject of Tête d'homme.

    Originating in the sixteenth-century Italian commedia dell'arte, the stock theater characters Pierrot, Columbine, and Harlequin figured prominently in western literature, music, theater, and art. Pierrot, the sad, naïve buffoon pining for the love of Columbine, was recognizable by his painted white face, floppy cap, ruff, and white pantaloons and blouse with large buttons; the manipulative, flirtatious Columbine adopted a ballerina's costume; and the devilish, sophisticated paramour Harlequin sported a vibrant diamond-patterned leotard. By the early twentieth century, both Pierrot and Harlequin-one sensitive, the other clever-symbolized the modern artist, and they appeared widely in visual culture, for example, in posters by Jules Cheret and paintings by Georges Seurat, James Ensor, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Cézanne. Picasso joined this tradition as early as 1901 with Seated Harlequin, followed by his Rose Period paintings of saltimbanques (acrobats). During the teens and early twenties, he rendered numerous Cubist portraits of Pierrot and Harlequin, such as Harlequin with Guitar (1914), Pierrot and Harlequin (1920), and the masterwork Three Musicians (1921). His Neoclassical interpretations of the characters include the adult Pierrot (1918) and numerous portraits of his young son, notably Paul as Harlequin (1924) and Paul as Pierrot (1925).

    Picasso exuberantly returned to the theme of Pierrot and Harlequin in the 1960s, between 1969 and 1971 alone featuring them in scores of drawings. Most of the drawings focus on the bust of a single character-Tête d'Arlequin, Tête de Pierrot, or, more generally, Tête d'homme-while others depict the two characters standing side by side in full costume, and a handful, Harlequin dancing with a nude. The present lot, Tête d'homme, belongs to a series from December 1970 in which Picasso utilized a vertical curvilinear line to bisect the face of Pierrot, in one swift motion shaping a forehead, eye socket, elongated nose, fleshy lips, and chin. In these ink drawings, Picasso variously plays with the patterning of Pierrot's hat and ruff, and he often includes explosive bits of color, as in the pink scribbles of Pierrot's cheeks. Tête d'homme, in fact, perfectly exemplifies Picasso's late aesthetic and techniques:

    "Among the conventional signs of [this] period are the hairpin eyes, . . . horizontal figures of eight (infinity) for noses, spirals for ears, swirls for hair, double-ellipse hats with pompoms, and a number of recurrent decorative motifs such as stripes, checks, stars, arrows, fishbones and vague but vigorous scrawls. The use of these prime signs, which evoke the drawings of children . . . and which he combines with repetitive ornamental motifs, creates what can only be called 'pattern painting.' . . . [This] slangy art . . . , the refusal to conform or to accept the bounds of elegance or style, is the final manifestation of Picasso's ineradicable anarchism. . . . The other characteristic element of the last period is the artist's tendency to use repetition as a mode of creation. Picasso always preferred the idea of the series, and the set of variations, to that of the unique, finished masterpiece" (Ibid., 87-88).

    At the same time that Picasso was working through his series of Pierrots and Harlequins, he was creating other series of men in hats: musketeers, matadors, toreadors, Arabian kings, and the artist with his model. During this 1969-1971 period, he almost always depicted the artist wearing some type of hat, clearly aligning himself with the historical and theater characters populating his oeuvre. The author Brigitte Baer underscores, "What are all the disguises in aid of? One may well ask. Musketeers, swathed in their cloaks, Spanish-style; men in 16th-century ruffs, or in 17th-century lace collars, buckled shoes and plumed hats; harlequins, Punchinellos, pierrots; resplendent 19th-century soldiers, turbaned figures straight out of Rembrandt or the Arabian Nights; . . . painters in little round black-framed glasses à la Goya; the disguises they wear [are] images of himself (B. Baer, "Seven Years of Printmaking: The Theatre and its Limits," in Late Picasso, The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, pp. 116-17). Picasso clearly would have seen himself in the hat-wearing Pierrot of Tête d'homme. He continued this man-in-hat theme up until his death, as evidenced by one of his last self-portraits, The Young Artist (1972), "a seated young painter grasping his brush and wearing the eternal hat" (Bernadac, p. 83). Bernadac explains the significance of Picasso's portraiture vis-à-vis this painting: "Picasso's confrontation with the human face. . . [brought] him back to a confrontation with himself, the painter," and this confrontation "[made] him into the great portrait-painter of the twentieth century" (Ibid).




    Condition Report*: Hinged to mat via upper corners verso; moderate time staining and fading; minor edge wear along the upper edge; soft handling creases throughout, most notably two creases to the right half, one approximate 3 inch crease extending from the upper right edge and one approximate 3 inch crease extending from the lower right edge.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2018
    29th Thursday
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