Picasso’s “Femme Accroupie (Jacqueline)” To Be Auctioned For First Time Ever


Picasso’s “Femme Accroupie (Jacqueline)” To Be Auctioned For First Time Ever

Pablo Picasso’s greatest love and muse, Jacqueline Roque, will shine under the spotlight in November when the rarely displayed "Femme Accroupie (Jacqueline)" comes up for auction at Christie’s.

Published on 30 October 2017

The hot-blooded Pablo Picasso, had many, many loves and lovers in his lifetime – but none, it is said, could compare with his second wife, Jacqueline Roque. She was just 27 when she met the 72-year-old Spanish artist at her cousin’s Madoura Pottery shop in Vallauris. So determined was Picasso to court Roque that he famously drew a dove on her house in chalk and brought her one rose a day for six months, until she finally began to return his affections.

They remained together over the last 20 years of Picasso’s life, and it is interesting to note that for 17 of those years, she was the only woman he painted. He went on to paint more than 400 portraits of Roque – certainly more than any other of his lovers and muses – and on 13 November in New York, Christie’s will auction one of them: the rarely displayed Femme accroupie (Jacqueline), which is estimated to sell for around US$20 to US$30 million.

An extremely unique opportunity for buyers

Picasso, Femme Accrouple, Jacqueline, Wealth, art, painting, auction

Although the painting was on public exhibition in London between 16 to 19 September and in Hong Kong between 28 September to 3 October, the chance to purchase it at auction will be nothing short of irresistible for high-profile and high-bidding collectors.

“A masterpiece such as this, appearing at auction for the first time, is a moment of true rarity in the art world,” says Jessie Fertig, Christie’s head of evening sale, impressionist, and modern art, “This painting of Roque hung in Picasso’s private collection for many years and has rarely been seen in public since 1954. It is a museum-quality painting on a grand scale, offering an extremely unique opportunity for buyers.”

Picasso’s “ultimate” paramour and muse

Equally tantalising, of course, are the insights that the oil on canvas work offers into Picasso and Roque’s relationship, and the inspirational power that Roque seemed to hold in Picasso’s eyes as his “ultimate” paramour and muse.

“Roque was Picasso’s great love,” Fertig explains. “He delighted in capturing Roque’s beautiful features, rendered here with a wonderfully thick impasto. Picasso embarked on his late, great period, which his biographer John Richardson succinctly defined and characterised as ‘l’époque Jacqueline’. It is her image that dominates Picasso’s work from 1954 until his death, longer than any of the women who preceded her.”

“The present painting is one of three large-easel-format canvases that Picasso painted on 8 October 1954, in a flourish of portraits that celebrate the artist’s new mistress, declaring her newly established pride of place in the artist’s life and work. In each of the three October paintings, Roque is seated on the floor in a compact, crouching pose, clasping her knees. From an open window behind her, golden light fills the room. The space is likely a corner of Picasso’s studio on the Rue du Fournas in Vallauris, in a building that had previously housed a perfume factory, the scents from which still graced the air.”

The brilliant primary colors in Femme accroupie (Jacqueline) illustrate a sunny day in the South of France during the early autumn of 1954, just when he and Roque had begun living together in the Midi, shortly after which they returned to Paris to reside in the artist’s studio. As Fertig also points out, a deeper look at the painting’s composition reveals volumes about the way Picasso’s artistic perspective worked. “Picasso often reconfigured a female subject’s visage as a composite of simultaneous, multiple views of the head.”

The source of inspiration

Picasso, Femme Accrouple, Jacqueline, Wealth, art, painting, auction, museum

Femme accroupie (Jacqueline) was also an opportunity for Picasso to pay tribute to his contemporary rival and friend, Henri Matisse, as well as the leading nineteenth-century French Romantic artist, Eugène Delacroix, whose work is credited as heavily influencing Matisse himself. “For years, Picasso had an homage to Delacroix on his mind, and the advent of Roque, just as importantly as the idea of a tribute to Matisse, induced Picasso to undertake his own series of odalisques,” relates Fertig. “The artist had become intrigued at Roque’s resemblance to the odalisque crouching at lower right in the Louvre version of Delacroix’s harem scene, whose face is seen in left profile.”

Roque’s characteristic habit of sitting cross-legged, with her legs drawn up to her chest, eventually prompted Picasso to create his Les Femmes d’Alger series (of which one painting went on to set a new world record in 2015 as the most expensive painting ever to be sold at auction, at just over US$179 million) as a tribute to the Delacroix-inspired odalisques of Matisse, and a declaration of the artist’s enduring affection for Roque. “Her source of inspiration was really two-fold,” says Fertig. “It was her unwavering commitment and love without tumult that served as a constant subject, available to be revisited and explored in endless ways.”

“And then, it was her draw stylistically. During his lifetime, Picasso had come no closer to North Africa than when as a youth, he lived among the relics of the old Moorish civilization in Andalucía, “Fertig adds, “In Roque, Picasso saw a subject made to be painted, and in her features, Africa had come to him. She possessed a classic Mediterranean appearance – jet-black hair, dark eyes and a long, narrow nose. She fully looked the part of Delacroix’s Algerian odalisque. Hélène Parmelin, a close friend of Picasso during his later years, observed, ‘Jacqueline has the gift of becoming painting to an unimaginable degree. She has within her that wonderful power on which the painter feeds. She flows. She unfurls ad infinitum. She invades everything… All the portraits resemble her, even though they may not resemble each other. All the heads are hers and there are a thousand different ones.’”

The eyes of the art world will no doubt be on Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in New York on 13 November, when the magnificent Femme accroupie (Jacqueline) comes up for auction for the very first time.

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