NEW YORK – Appearing at auction for the first time in nearly 35 years, Pablo Picasso’s riveting 1953 portrait of his partner and muse, Francoise Gilot, will appear in Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art on May 12 in New York.
Femme assise en costume vert (Sitting Woman in Green Costume) belongs to a group of portraits Picasso created in the late winter of 1952 and the early spring of 1953 that depict Gilot during the couple’s time living with their two children, Claude and Paloma, at the villa La Galloise in Vallauris, France. While Picasso produced an impressive body of work testifying to the joy he experienced with Gilot and their children, this mesmerizing painting reflects the tensions between the two artists in this late stage of their relationship, as well as Picasso’s continued stylistic versatility.
Prefiguring his bold planar sheet metal sculpture from the 1950s and 1960s, Femme assise en costume vert recalls Picasso’s pioneering Cubist compositions in its angular and delineated form, as well as his tortured portraits of Dora Maar from the late 1930s and early 1940s. In its striking evocation of form and elegantly restrained palette, Femme assise en costume vert is a profound and highly technical painting marking the culmination of Picasso and Gilot’s personal and artistic collaboration.
Picasso’s portraits of Francoise Gilot – an artist in her own right, who will celebrate her 100th birthday this November – are seldom seen at auction, underscoring the importance of Femme assise en costume vert’s appearance in the May Evening Sale. Estimated to achieve $14 million – $18 million, the work was last sold in December 1986 at Sotheby’s London, when it brought $567,986.
During the time in which Femme assise en costume vert was executed, Picasso and Gilot’s relationship was deteriorating. Gilot was aware of Picasso’s infidelity and whilst he attempted to persuade her to stay, she was determined to leave and pursue her career as an artist. In response to this, Picasso painted numerous portraits of his partner, many of which, like the work to be offered in May, show Gilot either seated in an armchair or involved in domestic activity; it is as though Picasso felt in painting her that he could keep her as a presence in his life. Only a few months after Femme assise en costume vert was painted, Gilot would leave Picasso to begin a life of her own in Paris with their two children.
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