Pablo Picasso’s significant 1958 portrait of Jacqueline Roque as L’Arlésienne is currently on offer at M.S. Rau Antiques. The work presents a brilliant display of the Cubist painter’s mature style, exemplifying his creative acuity throughout his long and prestigious career. The work, which is numbered IV, is the culminating canvas of a series of four he composed in a single day of the young Roque as a woman from Arles. Bringing together Picasso’s life-long obsession with the theme of the Arlésienne and his fixation on the women in his life, the powerful portrait is a poignant example of his creative genius.
The subject of the Arlésienne (or "woman from Arles") was a recurring theme throughout Picasso'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. Though he spent much of his life as a political exile in France, he remained a proud Spaniard, and his consequent love for bullfighting persisted throughout his life. In order to enjoy the spectacle, he often travelled to see the bloody ﬁghts at Arles’ ancient Roman arena. Both the shows themselves and the culture of Arles thus became frequent subjects in his work.
Perhaps more significantly, though, Picasso felt a deep connection to Arles due to the village's ties to Vincent van Gogh, one of his greatest artistic influences. Van Gogh had spent a troubled, yet productive fifteen-month period in Arles from early 1888 to mid 1889. During his time there, he created some 200 canvases that represent the height of his artistic achievement, including a series of six paintings entitled L'Arlésienne: Madame Ginoux from 1888.
Picasso's painting L’Arlésienne clearly pays homage to this important van Gogh series, both in subject and palette. The intense yellows of the background are reminiscent of the most famous of the van Gogh portraits, which is currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York).
Yet, the style is wholly and distinctly Picasso. Sharp Cubist forms, boldly applied paint and stark black lines lend the portrait a striking visual impact and delightful vivacity. Even depicted as L'Arlésienne, the subject’s raven-black hair and dark, almond-shaped eyes make her immediately recognizable as Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s muse who would become his second wife in 1961. She appears time and time again in his late works, unquestionably essential to his creative process. Thus situated, L'Arlésienne becomes a highly personal glimpse into the artist’s life, packed with emotional charge for his lover and longing for the culture of his youth.
M.S. Rau is pleased to present this significant portrait from such a key moment in Picasso’s career. Other notable works currently on offer at the New Orleans-based gallery include an Impressionist view of the Normandy seascape by Claude Monet and a poignant portrait of a fisherman by Vincent van Gogh. Click here to view our entire fine art collection.