Picasso’s ‘La Fenêtre Ouverte’ to be auctioned for the first time
New Delhi: La fenêtre ouverte (1929, estimate: £14,000,000-24,000,000), presented at auction for the first time, is a seminal work from Pablo Picasso’s Surrealist period. The painting will be featured in Christie’s 21st edition of The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale, which will be held on March 1, 2022, as part of the 20/21 Shanghai to London auction series.
La fenêtre ouverte is a work of striking visual power, impressively scaled and rendered with a bold colour palette and direct handling. This complex and compelling studio scene, painted on November 22, 1929, is one of a series of Atelier works that Picasso began around 1926, richly symbolic and radically constructed paintings that reveal the artist’s multi-faceted interests at the time. Other works from this series can be found in museums such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Paris’s Musée National d’Art Moderne, Le Centre Pompidou. La fenêtre ouverte is a rich source of personal and artistic symbolism. It is a still life, a veiled Atelier scene, and a Surrealist distortion of reality.
Two highly abstracted figures tower in the foreground of this painting. A plaster bust on the right appears to be a disguised image of the artist’s great lover and muse at the time, Marie-Thérèse Walter. The figurative object on the left, a jumble of feet intersected by an arrow, is thought to be an abstracted, symbolic representation of Picasso himself. In the background, two spires of the Sainte-Clotilde church can be seen. According to John Richardson, this work depicts the secret Left Bank apartment that Picasso and Marie-Thérèse shared as a hideaway during their relationship. A configuration of abstracted objects is depicted in the foreground in an arrangement reminiscent of the artist’s earlier cubist still lifes.
Olivier Camu, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s: “Held in the same European collection for half a century, this powerful and explosively coloured painting from the highpoint of Picasso’s Surrealist period and two years into his clandestine love affair with Marie-Thérèse, represents a brilliant fusion of the different passions and inspirations that defined the artist’s life at the end of the 1920s. Relishing the secret nature of their romance, Picasso could not help but include his lover’s presence in the form of the plaster bust in this painting. Marie-Thérèse’s presence in Picasso’s life reinvigorated every area of his work, her statuesque form and radiant beauty, as well as her youthful, carefree sensibility inspiring the artist to create works that stand as the finest of his career. This metamorphosised, cryptically coded work stands as a fascinating self-portrait of Picasso and his golden haired muse, which we are thrilled to present to the market for the first time as a major highlight of the 21st edition of The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale.”
Although Marie-Thérèse did not appear in full form in the artist’s work until the spring of 1931, when he created the sentinel-like plaster busts, her profile and sweep of hair are instantly identifiable in La fenêtre ouverte. Her presence in the artist’s life and art was unknown at the time, but the iconic visual idiom that Picasso developed in his portrayals of her, in profile and with the luminous white visage, was already present.
La fenêtre ouverte was included in Picasso’s landmark 1932 retrospective, which was first shown at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris from June to July, before moving to the Kunsthaus Zurich from September to October. The painting was also included in the seminal survey exhibition ‘Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage’ at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1968.
Picasso’s La fenêtre ouverte will be on display in New York from February 4 to 8, 2022, and in Hong Kong from February 15 to 17, 2022, before travelling to London from February 23 to March 1, 2022.