Françoise with a Bow in Her Hair
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Date: June 14, 1946
Medium: Lithograph (crayon on lithographic paper transferred to stone)
Dimensions: Sheet 660 x 500mm, 26 x 19 1/2″
Signature: Signed “Picasso” in pencil
D. Wye, A Picasso Portfolio: Prints from the Museum of Modern Art; New York, 2010, ills. p. 136.
Edition: Numbered 20/50 (there were also 5 unnumbered artist’s proofs); printed by Mourlot prior to polishing out the stone
Paper: Cream Arches wove; untrimmed; deckled edges on top and bottom
Provenance: Private collection, Alexandria, VA
Impression: Very fine
Condition: In excellent condition, with but trace discoloration at the top edge along the right above the image resembling a faint water mark, invisible except upon close scrutiny
Price: Upon request
Despite wartime privations, Picasso began creating lithographs in earnest in 1945. Although the subjects varied, their star was Françoise Gilot, whom he had met two years before. In these early lithographs of his new muse, he famously applied a very spare line, but one nonetheless laden with greatly evocative emotion. These eight portraits of Françoise, which Picasso created on the same day, are among his finest lithographs. This is one of my very favorites of the series of eight, and of his entire portraiture of Françoise. Notably, this is the only one of the series of eight that the MOMA chose to display in its 2010 retrospective of Picasso prints (see ref. above), as well as to illustrate in its highly selective catalog, both drawn from their vast Picasso print collection.
Though more than two decades past the peak of his neoclassical period, these elegant portraits of Françoise have their roots firmly planted in that Picassian tradition. They however represent a loosening of that style, yet a different path he took in his further elaboration of classicism, much as the 1960s saw an even further loosening of his style in his endless self-reference to his earlier periods.
It is widely held that the series of line drawings and prints of Françoise to which this exemplar belongs were inspired by Matisse. I don’t quite buy it, but, in any event, my feeling is that anyone looking to collect a Matisse of this type should instead turn to Picasso’s depictions of Françoise. Despite the economy of line–or perhaps because of it–Picasso brilliantly captures the essence and emotion of his subject. In my opinion, such physiognamy was well beyond Matisse’s reach.
John Richardson, one of Picasso’s principle biographers, has written about this period as follows:
“Once again a change of circumstances resulted in a change of style. The end of the war, the beginning of an idyllic new relationship (with Françoise Gilot) and the resumption of Mediterranean visits after an interval of five years are all reflected in these light-hearted pastorales in which centaurs, satyrs and nymphs frolic and make love. Gone is the agonized look of Dora Maar; instead Françoise serenely gazes out at us from a series or radiant portraits often painted in a manner that recalls Matisse. From 1945 onward Picasso applied himself to lithography, completely revolutionizing the medium. He also injected new life into the art of ceramics, installing himself at Vallauris in order to do so. There, in 1948, Picasso bought a derelict scent factory so as to have sufficient studio space, and settled himself, Françoise and their two young children, Claude (born in 1947) and Paloma (born in 1949), in a villa nearby. The decade ends with a spate of paintings and lithographs, mainly of family life, which testify to the artist’s happiness.” (John Richardson, Picasso: An American Tribute, New York, 1962).