“Picasso’s creativity peaked between Marie-Thérèse and Dora Maar,” Lampley said, adding that this was a time of “incredible paintings and experimental change,” a parallel to the horror and drama surrounding World War II. Lampley noted that before Marie-Thérèse fever hit the art market, Maar was Picasso’s most popular muse, with “explosively radical and experimental” works selling for the highest prices.
“Dora Maar’s works were popular before, not only for the representation of the photographer, but also because it characterizes the period of Guernica, the artist’s masterpiece,” added Widmaier-Picasso.
Gill, however, argued that Walter hasn’t overtaken Maar in popularity, pointing to the “Picasso 1932” show as merely having raised awareness of Walter. As a result of the exhibition, more and more high-quality portraits of Walter are being drawn into the market. “It’s created the perception that Marie-Thérèse is the muse you want at the moment,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a long-term change in the market. It just shows the strength of the broader market for Picasso.” According to Gill, Walter and Maar are tied for the top spot.
Among the top 200 Picassos, 18 are confirmed portraits of Maar, with an average auction price of $31.1 million in today’s dollars. The most valued of these, Dora Maar au chat (1941), sold for $95.2 million in 2006 ($118.8 million in today’s dollars), falling right behind Walter’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust as the second-most expensive of Picasso’s muse portraits sold at auction. It’s interesting to note that because Walter and Maar overlapped as Picasso’s muses, the artist also painted joint portraits of them, as well as portraits of a single woman with a mix of both of their styles and features. For example, Buste de femme au chapeau (1939)—which sold for $21.6 million in 2017—fuses Walter and Maar’s faces and styles, Walter’s blonde hair with Maar’s signature wide-brimmed hats.
In 1943, Picasso met his next muse, 21-year-old Françoise Gilot, when he was 61 years old; the couple stayed together for 10 years. Of the top 200 Picasso works, seven are painted portraits of Gilot, with an average sale price of $15.5 million in today’s dollars. The most highly valued of these, Femme au chignon dans un fauteuil (1948), sold for almost $30 million in 2015 ($31.7 million in today’s dollars). It’s also notable that the oldest of these sales took place in 2009. Lampley believes that after the Walter fad has passed, Gilot—along with Picasso’s last muse and second wife, Jacqueline Roque—will rise to the title of the artist’s most popular muse. (“People should start buying now,” she said.)