It is hard to believe now but, when Pablo Picasso first arrived in Paris in 1901, he was living in such poverty that he was reduced to burning his artworks as a means to keep warm. Considering that one of his paintings, Juene Fille Endormie painted in 1935, has just sold for around £13.5 million inLondon– those paintings would, in today’s market, have been extremely expensive firewood. Christies, who were expecting a price of between £9 million and £12 million, were extremely pleased with this outcome.
Juene Fille Endormie, a portrait of one of Picasso’s lovers – Marie-Therese Walter, is one that captured the imagination as it was last viewed in public in 1939. Further fuelling interest in the portrait is the fact that it was anonymously donated to the University of Sydney on condition that the proceeds of the sale were used to fund scientific research.
The piece shows Marie-Therese resting her head on her arms and, at first glance, does not appear to be a typical Picasso as the palette of colours used is unusual for him. The style, however, is very distinctly Picasso.
Marie-Therese is said to have been Picasso’s most important muse and she appears in several of his most celebrated pieces. Initially, she was embedded in the paintings and made completely unrecognisable as their relationship was kept a secret for a long time. The secret nature of their relationship was due to Picasso being married to Olga Khokhlova and also the scandalous age difference between the two.
Marie-Therese was twenty eight years younger than Picasso. Their relationship was finally revealed when Picasso painted Marie-Therese in the painting,La Lecture. Itwas when this painting was unveiled that Olga Khokhlova realised that there was a mistress and left Picasso.
Picasso’s private life was interesting on its own but what really made Picasso’s life story really interesting is that the artist achieved critical acclaim and was recognised as an artistic genius during his own lifetime. It is even said that when Picasso was 13, his father – also an artist – saw a sketch that Picasso was busy with and decided that he would give up art completely as his son had already so far surpassed his own talent.
Greatly acknowledged as one of the greatest artists of all time, Picasso’s jumbled personal life may have contributed to making him the great artist he was.