Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) Portrait of Ambroise Vollard with His Cat
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Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)
Portrait of Ambroise Vollard with His Cat
Signed and dated "Picasso 13·2·1938" in ink l.r. and on the reverse.
Crayon and ink on paper, sheet size 8 1/8 x 5 1/4 in. (21.0 x 13.3 cm), framed.
Condition: Taped to silk-covered mat at four corners, trimmed sheet (probably by the artist) along left and top margin.
Provenance: Daniel Sickles, Paris, France; Hans Peter Kraus, New York; Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (née Braman) Grasso, Essex, Connecticut.
Literature: Johnson, Una E., Ambroise Vollard, Editeur [Prints, Books, Bronzes], New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1977, pp. 32, 44; [Collection Daniel Sickles] Bibliothèque d'un Amateur, Très Beaux Livres Illustrés Modernes Dans d'Importantes Reliures dont 53 Signées de Pierre Legrain, Exemplaires uniques dont Les Fleurs du Mal Illustrées par Rouault, Deuxieme partie, Paris: Musée Galliéra, 21 May 1963 (no. 265); Kraus, H.P., The Illustrated Book, Catalogue 108, no. 138, 1964 (illus. plate XLVII).
Exhibitions: Impresario Ambroise Vollard, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 9 - September 7, 1977 [cover illustration for exhibition brochure]; Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, January 15 - February 19, 1978 (lent to the traveling exhibit by Mr. and Mrs. Graham H.R. Jenkins [Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Braman] on February 28, 1977).
N.B. The present work was one of eight original drawings included in the sale of a presentation copy of Souvenirs d'un marchand de tableaux by Ambroise Vollard, published by Éditions Albin Michel in 1937, which was pen inscribed and gifted to his chauffeur Marcel Z. Meraud.
Ambroise Vollard was amongst Picasso's earliest dealers, beginning their relationship in 1901 and ending with Vollard's tragic death in 1939. He was influential in introducing Picasso to prominent collectors, such as Leo and Gertrude Stein, as well as works by artists he represented such as Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse. Though his role as Picasso's primary dealer waned after 1911, Vollard continued to promote him over the decades through his work as an éditeur of editioned bronzes, prints, and art books. (1) The Vollard Suite, a series of 100 etchings commissioned by Vollard in 1927 and completed in 1937, is among Picasso's most ambitious print work in scale and subject. In the series, one of the themes examined is the artist's relationship to his muse. While allusions to his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter figure prominently, three profile portraits of Vollard serve as an end cap to the series, presumably as a salutatory gesture.
Picasso was known to have made only a small number of portraits of Vollard in various medium, including the aforementioned etchings. His best known portrait of Vollard is also his earliest, dating to 1910, which is a paradigm example of Picasso's "analytic cubist" style. A graphite portrait on paper dated to 1915 is also known, which is a naturalistic rendering of Vollard in a formal seated pose. The present work, in its synthesis of facets and lines, strikes a balance between the fragmented depiction of 1910 and the meticulously composed portrait of 1915. It captures a moment of domestic absorption between Vollard and his cat. The frenetic lines masterfully convey the cat's attempts to right itself from its vulnerable, cradled position, while the heavy contours of Vollard's hand expresses his attempt to tame its wildness.
The present portrait, a recently rediscovered work, may have been the inspiration for the etching with aquatint entitled "Vollard et son Chat" c. 1960, as well as an undated oil painting in a private collection of the same subject.
(1) Tinterow, Gary. "Vollard and Picasso." Cezanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. Pg. 101.
Paper tape hinged to silk along right and left margins, subtle acid burn from tape to four corners, gold leaf along top edge, unevenly trimmed left margin with binding punch hole l.l. The work was probably bound into the presentation copy of the Vollard book inscribed to Marcel Z. Meraud, and cut from the binding at a later date.