Pablo Picasso (Spanish (worked in France), Malagá, Spain 1881 - 1973 Mougins, France)
Women and Child by the Sea, 1920
Signed in graphite, lower right: Picasso; dated upper right, in artist's hand: 31.7.20
Graphite on off-white wove paper
10 11/16 x 16 3/4 in. (27.2 x 42.5 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1955
This playful yet elegant line drawing is one of numerous sketches and paintings of bathers at the seashore that Picasso produced in the years after the First World War. The Oberlin sheet exemplifies the mixture of clarity and elasticity in line and figural proportion that first emerges in Picasso's work during this period.
From 1917 to the mid 1920s, Picasso worked simultaneously in a wide variety of pictorial idioms. While continuing to develop the mode of Synthetic Cubism that he and Braque began in 1912-13, he also created many works whose ideal subjects, classicizing models, and figural integrity (compared with the Cubist works) reflected a widespread conservatism in French art and culture during the postwar years.1
Picasso's "Neoclassical" works of the late teens invoked a wide range of artistic prototypes. The pictorially precise yet anatomically distorting line invokes the drawings of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, who was taken to represent the classical ideal in French art during this period, and whose paintings and drawings were greatly admired by Picasso and many of his contemporaries (see Ingres's lithograph of his painting, Odalisque).2 In addition, the theme of nude women resting and playing in dancelike movements (and simply delineated) recalls Matisse's immensely influential Le Bonheur de vivre of 1905-6 (Merion, Penn., Barnes Foundation, inv. 719), which was itself a response to Ingres's Golden Age (Cambridge, Mass., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, inv. 1943.247). Picasso's rhyming of the horizon line with the contour of the central, reclining figure in the Oberlin sheet (and in many of his other bather drawings during this period) seems particularly indebted to Matisse's merging of line in both figure and landscape in the center of the Bonheur de vivre.
Moreover, as Leo Steinberg has noted of Picasso's drawings from this period onward, the implied torsion of the figures--their presentation of frontal, back, and side views all at once--reflects sixteenth-century <H Mannerist > prototypes for eroticizing the female body.3 Most important, Steinberg notes that these drawings' concentration of various views into one figure was a means of suggesting figural volume and dimensionality through the most simple, nonillusionistic means available in two-dimensional representation: pure line:
Picasso's line tends to snare a hidden dimension--at certain strategic moments it becomes a horizon, at every point of which the mind can sight into depth and zoom in....While his stylus pretends to pan along the outline of a cylinder, his imagination makes that cylinder turn like a drum or spit, so that a longitudinal contour ends up recording an implied transverse motion....When he traces the innocent flank of a body, he seems not to be thinking a margin but a continuous hither and thither. A meander of the three-dimensional references collapses into a one-dimensional line.4 The Oberlin drawing, executed during the summer of 1920 at Juan-les-Pins, shares many traits with other drawings completed that summer and after. A series of bather drawings in gouache executed some weeks after the Oberlin drawing has a similarly pared down, pyramidal composition, the apex of which pierces the horizon, which is in turn echoed by a reclining figure.5 Although many of Picasso's drawings of bathers from this period share the simple lines, distorted poses, and elongated proportions of the Oberlin sheet,6 the deliberately childlike conception of the figures and the slightly grotesque character of their distortions set this drawing apart from these other works. However, Picasso's painting of 1923, By the Sea,7 which appears to be the culmination of these drawings, shares the Oberlin drawing's childlike address and extreme distortions, while the pose of its background figure is very close to that of the figure on the far right in Women and Child by the Sea.
Work (C) 1998 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Pablo Picasso moved to Paris from Barcelona in 1904, where he would remain until 1945. Here he began to meet artists and writers such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, and Kees Van Dongen, and dealers such as Ambroise Vollard and Daniel Henry Kahnweiler. The saltimbanques, jesters, and harlequins of his Blue Period (1902-4) continued to be the dominant subjects of his Rose Period (1904-5), although the work of this period is distinctive for its lighter palette and less melancholic mood. During this period he also produced several sculptures and prints. The most experimental period of his early career, around 1906-7, culminated in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon of 1907. By the end of 1908, Picasso moved towards early (analytical) Cubism, working in partnership with George Braque to formulate an artistic paradigm that would have an extensive impact on the art of the first half of the twentieth century. Picasso continued to work in a Synthetic Cubist idiom into the early 1920s. He joined the Spanish Republican cause, painting the monumental Guernica (Madrid, Centro de la Reina Sofia) in 1937 in protest against the bombing of a Basque town by pro-Franco German bombers. Leaving Paris in 1946 he lived in Antibes and Vauvenargues, continuing to create numerous works in various media, including graphics and ceramics. Never aligning himself with any movement after Cubism, he remained extraordinarily productive until the end of his life and was one of the most versatile and influential artists of the twentieth century.
Zervos, Christian. Pablo Picasso. 33 vols. Paris, 1932-78.
Barr, Alfred H. Picasso: Fifty Years of his Art. New York, 1946.
Zervos, Christian. Pablo Picasso (A Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings). Vol 6. Paris, 1954.
Bloch, Georges. Pablo Picasso: Catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé et lithographié, 1904-1969. 2 vols. Bern, 1961.
Rubin, William, ed. Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective. Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1980.
With Galérie Louise Leiris, Paris
Collection Curt Valentin, New York (in Zervos, but not Stechow)
With Buchholz Gallery, New York, from whom purchased in 1955
New York, Buchholz Gallery, 1947. Painting and Sculpture from Europe. 2 - 28 January. Cat. no. 30.
Ann Arbor, Museum of Art, The University of Michigan, 1956. Drawings and Watercolors from the Oberlin Collection. 11 March - 1 April. No cat.
Little Rock, Arkansas Arts Center, 1987-88. Picasso: The Classical Years, 1917-1925. 4 December - 31 January. Cat. no. 8.
Zervos, Christian. Pablo Picasso (A Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings). Vol 6. Paris, 1954, p. 165, no. 1386.
Hamilton, Chloe. "Catalogue of R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund Acquisitions." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 16, no. 2 (Winter 1959), cat. no. 64; no. 3 (Spring 1959), ill. p. 277.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1976, pp. 56-57, fig. 175.
The unmounted sheet is medium weight, with a slightly cloudy sheet formation and a distinct texture. A fine grid pattern is visible beneath the soft black line of the drawing which seems to have no relation to the paper support. The drawing was made over another textured material, and the pressure of the pencil transferred this pattern. There are two watermarks: at top left: S C C; and at center right: a three-pronged shape topped by a bird.
The sheet is somewhat darkened in the image area from light exposure, with tiny brown stains or foxing scattered throughout, and a slight paper fold down the center. The sheet was treated in 1976: old hinges were removed, stains and discolorations were reduced with local bleaching, and the center fold was reduced with manual pressure and burnishing.
1. The climate was first described by the writer Jean Cocteau (who was close to Picasso at the time) as a "call to order" in his Le Rappel à l'ordre (Paris, 1926). For an art historical account of the period, see Kenneth E. Silver, Esprit de corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1914-1925 (Princeton, N.J., 1989).
2. The lithograph (AMAM inv. 69.24) is after Ingres's Odalisque of 1814, Paris, Musée du Louvre.
3. Leo Steinberg, "The Algerian Women and Picasso at Large," in Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art (New York, 1972), pp. 183-86.
4. Leo Steinberg, "The Algerian Women and Picasso at Large," in Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art (New York, 1972), pp. 187,189.
5. See, for example, Quatre baigneuses, 19 September 1920, Juan-les-Pins, gouache on paper, 21 x 27.3 cm; Paris, Musée Picasso, inv. M.P. 941.
6. See, for example, the Bathers, 1918, graphite, 23.2 x 31.1 cm, Cambridge, Mass., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Paul J. Sachs Collection.
7. Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. Collection, oil on panel, 81.3 x 100.3 cm; reproduced in Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Picasso: Forty Years of his Art, 2d ed. (New York, 1939), fig. 180.