Les Dejeuners

Pablo Picasso

Les Dejeuners , 1961

Works on paper
10.75 x 16.5 Inches
Pencil on paper
Unique artwork
$295,000
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Galerie Beyeler, Basel. Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1972. Christie’s, New York, May 7 2014 (lot 105)

About the artwork

Picasso’s drawing Les Dejeuners (1961) comes from the robust series based on Edouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe. In this series, Picasso created approximately twenty-seven paintings and two hundred works on paper all varying in composition and material. This particular work on paper was drawn with pencil and shows two nude figures, male and female, lounging by the water. The male figure is holding what appears to be a shepherd’s staff, which is also a symbol of rest, and draws reference to Manet’s original painting in which one of the men is lounging and holding a smaller walking stick. The female figure appears to be bowing to the male figure and her profile is full frontal, whereas in Manet’s painting the woman is depicted more modestly in side profile. This work was creating during a period in which Picasso was interested in the raw sensuality of nudes, specifically female nudes. Susan Grace Galassi, art historian and curator, explained, “Over the course of his transformations, [Picasso] strips away Manet's overlay of realism, and takes the female figure back to something more timeless, enduring and primordial.” This is only one example of Picasso’s many reimagings and reworkings of Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, and the rate at which Picasso is producing work in this period is attributed to his belief that as long as he painted, he would live.

About the artist

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Producing over 20,000 works in his lifetime, Picasso’s oeuvre consists of painting, collage, sculpture, etchings, and ceramics. Born in Málaga, Spain, Picasso’s interest and practice in art began at an early age. His father Don José Ruiz y Blasco was an artist and teacher and began training Picasso in drawing and oil painting at the age of seven. He eventually went on to study at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, Spain’s top art academy at the time, for a brief period before permanently moving to Paris in 1904. 


In Paris, Picasso cultivated a network of artists, poets, writers, and collectors who would help inspire new approaches to his art. For example, his friendship with Georges Braque led to the birth of early Cubism, in which both artists were attempting to reconcile three-dimensional space with the two-dimensional picture plane. Picasso’s fascination with pre-Roman Iberian sculpture and African and Oceanic art also began after his move to Paris and heavily influenced his style of Cubism. The painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon marks Picasso’s break from traditional composition to the beginning of his experimentation with Cubism. Cubism would appear in his work to varying degrees for the rest of his long career, but there were periods in which it was less pronounced. The 1920s mark Picasso’s transition to his Neoclassical period and later Surrealist period. 


Picasso’s monumental work Guernica was painted in 1937 in response to his outrage over the Spanish Civil War. Arguably one of Picasso’s most overtly political pieces, this work not only shows the horror of wartime but also Picasso’s deep connection to his Spanish roots, even while living in France. By the late 1940s, Picasso moved to the south of France, and his international fame continued to increase. In 1957, Picasso had a massive retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art that attracted over 100,000 visitors in its first month and is said to have solidified Picasso’s prominence among the art world. Creating work up until he died, Picasso's work remains central to many collections both public and private, and the artist is credited with defining the visual language of modernism. The fascination with Picasso' artistic genius will likely never fade. 

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