Pablo Picasso, ‘L'Arlésienne’, 1958,  M.S. Rau Antiques
Pablo Picasso, ‘L'Arlésienne’, 1958,  M.S. Rau Antiques
Pablo Picasso, ‘L'Arlésienne’, 1958,  M.S. Rau Antiques
Pablo Picasso, ‘L'Arlésienne’, 1958,  M.S. Rau Antiques
Pablo Picasso, ‘L'Arlésienne’, 1958,  M.S. Rau Antiques

More than any other artist, Picasso defined modern art of the 20th century by his establishment and development of one of its major movements, Cubism. Combining bold, primary colors with a jarring angularity, L'Arlésienne epitomizes Picasso’s mature Cubist style of the 1950s. The work, which is numbered IV, is the culminating canvas of a series of four he composed in a single day. Its subject is the young Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s muse who would become his second wife in 1961. She is immediately recognizable here from her raven-black hair and dark eyes, though she dons the triangular shawl and pillbox-style headdress of a woman from Arles.

The subject of the Arlésienne (or "woman from Arles") was a recurring theme throughout the great master's career. He painted his first series of Arlésiennes in 1912, and again in 1937, with Lee Miller as his model. His bond with the city of Arles ran deep, in part due to his enthusiasm for bullfighting, but also for the city's ties to Vincent van Gogh, one of Picasso's greatest artistic influences. That influence is fully felt in this striking portrait, which closely resembles a series of six paintings entitled
L'Arlésienne: Madame Ginoux composed by van Gogh in 1888. The intense yellows of the background are reminiscent of the most famous of these van Gogh portraits, which is currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York).

Towards the end of his career, Picasso deepened his study of the Old Masters, immersing himself in the works of Velázquez, Courbet, Delacroix and, of course, Van Gogh. Beginning in 1954, he produced several series known as "Variations," which were wholly based upon masterworks by these artists. Reworkings of Eugène Delacroix's Women of Algiers and Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas, for example, included as many as fifteen different variations on the original. The present work, which is one of a series of four, exemplifies the ways in which he imposed his own distinctive way of seeing and creating onto the works of those painters he most admired.

Born in 1881 in Málaga, Spain, Picasso spent his childhood studying drawing and painting under his father, Jose Ruíz, who taught at the local art school. Picasso spent a year at the Academy of Arts in Madrid, before traveling to Paris in 1900. Landing in the center of the European art world, Picasso began to mingle in the company of other artists, quickly establishing himself as a critical figure in the thriving Parisian art scene. Critics have often divided Picasso’s artistic output into distinct phases based on his color scheme and style of painting. It was around 1907 that Picasso became very influenced by African masks and art which began making their way into Parisian museums following the expansion of the French Empire into Africa. The faces and simplified, angular planes of the women in Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon clearly derive their style from African masks and sculptures, and this painting is often heralded as the beginning of Cubism.

Signature: Signed and dated “ 14.7.58 IV Picasso” (upper left)

“Bonne Fete” Monsieur Picasso: from Southern California Collectors, October 25 – November 12, 1961, UCLA Art Galleries, Los Angeles, no. 44 (illustrated)
Legacy of Spain: Modern Masters of Spanish Painting, 20th Century, January 2 – March 4, 1969, Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego & Putnam Foundation, Timken Gallery, Balboa Park (illustrated)
Selected Works by Picasso, 1982, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Picasso: A Contemporary Dialogue, July 20 - August 31, 1996, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, no. 70, pg. 94 (illustrated)
Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection, October 30, 2015 - April 10, 2016, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

Pablo Picasso: Oeuvres de 1958 á 1959, Vol. 18, Paris, 1959, by C. Zervos, p. 86, no. 304 (illustrated)

Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne
Mr. & Mrs. David E. Bright, Los Angeles
Sotheby’s, New York, 14 May 1986, lot 284
Private Collection, Geneva
Habsburg Feldman, 8 May 1989, lot 52
Private Collection, New Jersey
Private Collection, Boston
Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection, Washington D.C.
M.S. Rau Antiques, 2018

About Pablo Picasso

A prolific and tireless innovator of art forms, Pablo Picasso impacted the course of 20th-century art with unparalleled magnitude. Inspired by African and Iberian art and developments in the world around him, Picasso contributed significantly to a number of artistic movements, notably Cubism, Surrealism, Neoclassicism, and Expressionism. Along with Georges Braque, Picasso is best known for pioneering Cubism in an attempt to reconcile three-dimensional space with the two-dimensional picture plane, once asking, “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” Responding to the Spanish Civil War, he painted his most famous work, Guernica (1937), whose violent images of anguished figures rendered in grisaille made it a definitive work of anti-war art. “Painting is not made to decorate apartments,” he said. “It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Picasso’s sizable oeuvre includes over 20,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, theater sets, and costume designs.

Spanish, 1881-1973, Malaga, Spain, based in Paris and Mougins, France