Editorial Staff
4 months ago

Editorial Staff
4 months ago

Pablo Picasso masterpiece of former lover is sold at auction for a massive $139m

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By: Mick the Ram

A famous painting by Pablo Picasso from 1932 has become his second most valuable piece fetching an eye-watering $139m in a sale at Sotherby’s – the oldest and largest internationally recognised fine art auctioneers in the world.

The masterpiece “Femme a la Montre” (Woman with a Watch) depicts Marie-Therese Walter, the French model, who was also a lover of the great Spanish artist, and the subject of many of his paintings during their time together.

It was previously owned by the late art collector Emily Fisher Landau, who bought it in 1968, and has been purchased by an anonymous buyer.

In May 2015, Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O” – Women of Algiers) sold at Christie’s Auction House in New York for $179.4 million, making it his most expensive work of art.


20th century artistic genius

Born in Malaga in 1881, Picasso grew up in Barcelona before moving to Paris in 1904. He became one of the most important artists of the 20th century, displaying remarkable innovation with his experimentation of styles and themes, probably most notably inspiring “Cubism”, where objects or people are seen from a collection of different angles at the same time.


Artist’s Golden Muse

Femme a la Montre is a portrait of Ms Walter seated in a throne-like chair against a vivid blue background. She had been just 17 years old when she met the then 45-year-old Picasso in front of the Galeries Lafayette in Paris in 1927, and it is said that within a week of meeting they had embarked on a sexual relationship. She earned the nickname: “Picasso’s golden muse”.


Relationship ends shortly after daughter’s arrival

This became a more permanent situation over time, even though Picasso was still married to Olga Khokhlova, a Ukrainian ballerina. It continued for nearly eight years and the couple had a daughter together – Maya Widmaier-Picasso.

However, soon after her birth he moved onto have a relationship with another artist Dara Maar and although he would still see Ms Walter and his child, they went their separate ways.

1932 difficult year for Picasso

He painted “Femme à la montre” which measures 51¼ x 38 inches (130 x 96.5 centimeters), in August 1932 – a year that has been called Picasso’s “annus mirabilis” – soon after the retrospective at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris ended.

According to Sotheby’s, the sense of release from keeping secrets about his affair “seems to have spilled out onto this extraordinary canvas.” They describe the piece as paying careful attention to every small detail, and creating a composition that is both “intensely complex and deeply harmonious.”

They add that whilst it is full of joyful, passionate abandon, at the same time it is “utterly considered and resolved”.

Inspiring pieces valued into the hundreds of millions

Ms Walter would become the inspiration for some of his most sought-after canvases, drawings and sculptures, including the “Femme Nue Couchee” (Nude Reclining Woman),  in which she appears as a tentacled sea creature, and was sold for $67.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York in 2022.

Other pieces have fetched remarkable sums of money. “Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse),” sold for $103.41 million in 2021, and “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” changed hands for $106.5 million in 2010.

Astonishing numbers

In a career spanning eight decades, Picasso created a staggering 150,000 pieces of art, a quite remarkable achievement.

He died in southern France in 1973, at the age of 92. Marie-Therese Walter died four years later in 1977, aged 68, sadly by suicide.


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