Over the course of his life, Picasso often spent his summers at the Côte d'Azur. In 1955, he finally moved to the south of France, where he purchased La Californie, a nineteenth-century Belle Epoque style villa situated on a hill above Cannes, with views of Golfe-Juan and Cap d'Antibes. It was around this time that Picasso began a series of paintings that were self-reflective in nature, often depicting the interior of his studio. This period would be one of the most prolific of Picasso's career, during which time he became increasingly preoccupied with depictions of himself in relation to great artists of the past. The present work, painted at La Californie in 1956, demonstrates this particular fascination and the artist's growing self-awareness.
L'Homme au maillot rayé is one of four oils Picasso painted on 20th and 21st September 1956, depicting a man in a striped jersey, all executed in a similar, strongly linear style (C. Zervos, op. cit., nos. 209-211 & 216; fig. 1). In the last decades of his life, Picasso often depicted himself in his role as a painter, with the artist's attributes such as a paintbrush, palette or easel (fig. 2). Whilst such attributes are omitted in the present portrait, it certainly contains strong autobiographical references, showing the man wearing the striped shirt that identifies him as Picasso himself (fig. 3). The artist was not, however, interested in mere self-representation, and this group of portraits reflect the complexity of his sentiments regarding his role as an artist.
In his discussion of the various guises and metamorphoses of the male figure in Picasso's late paintings, Kirk Varnedoe commented: 'Amid all these camouflages, however, the one avatar Picasso embraced most consistently in his final decades was the one with the least disguised self-reference: the figure of the artist [...] The focus was not on his own circumstances. Neither live models nor traditional palettes, which are constant attributes of these late studio scenes, had anything to do with his practice, and the artists in question almost never display his features in more than allusive fashion; they tend to be stock types, typically bearded, which Picasso never was. Here, as in the case of countless male busts or figures, Picassoesque combinations of traits can come and go within a series in a way that suggests we may risk a certain arbitrariness in singling out one or another as an authentic self-examination' (K. Varnedoe, 'Picasso's Self-Portraits', in Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 162).
Fig. 1, Pablo Picasso, Homme assis sur une chaise, 21st September 1956, oil on canvas, Private Collection
Fig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Le peintre et son modèle, 1963, oil on canvas, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich
Fig. 3, Pablo Picasso with bread fingers, 1952. Photograph by Robert Doisneau
Oil on canvas
Oslo, Galleri Haaken, Picasso: Peintures - Sculptures - Dessins, 2004, illustrated in colour in the catalogue and detail illustrated in colour on catalogue cover
99.5 by 80.5cm. 39 1/8 by 31 3/4 in.
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1956 à 1957, Paris, 1966, vol. 17, no. 211, illustrated pl. 83
Marilyn McCully, Picasso. A Private Collection, London, 1993, mentioned p. 212
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Fifties II, 1956-1959, San Francisco, 2000, no. 56-209, illustrated p. 71
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
Saidenberg Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Europe (acquired circa 1990. Sale: Sotheby's, London, 24th June 2002, lot 36)
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner