1881-1973 | Spanish
Tête d'Homme Barbu V
(Head of Bearded Man)
Signed "Picasso" (upper left); dated and numbered "2.4.65 / V" (en verso)
Oil on canvas
More than any other artist, Pablo Picasso's ever-evolving style has come to define modern art of the 20th century. With its bold colors and jarring simplicity, Tête d'Homme Barbu V embodies the compelling portraits that dominated his late career. It is part of an important series of bearded men portraits that the artist composed during the last few years of his life. These works are among the most highly personal and intimate of his career, and serve as remarkable examples of his mature style with their highly modern expressivity.
Many of Picasso's works from his last years capture the visage of his wife Jacqueline, who was his chief model during this period. In April, however, on the exact day this work was painted at his home studio in Mougins, France, Picasso changed direction and produced a series of individual portraits of men. His male subjects derive from various sources. Most often they were self-referential portraits, in which he explored previous iterations of his own self. His bearded men series, however, likely depicts his chauffeur Maurice Bresnu, whose burly figure, dark hair and curly beard are clearly distinguished in Tête d'Homme Barbu V. Highly modern and expressionistic, the work is a visual representation of Picasso's burst of creative energy in the last years of his life. Numbered V, it is one of six similar canvasses that he composed over a period of just two days in April 1965.
Bresnu was one of the few men that Picasso saw during his final years. He had come to work for the Picasso household in early 1965, meaning this was among the very first series Picasso composed of the man. It is part of a prolonged series of busts that the artist executed that year, which included portraits of not just Bresnu, but also Jacqueline and the artist himself. In these works, he explored an extreme simplification of form, breaking the figure down to its basic essentials. Remarkably, though, he still managed to capture the most distinguishing features of his subjects in just a few choice brushstrokes. Composed with a highly simplified palette and sparsity of line, Tête d'Homme Barbu V nevertheless successfully evokes the distinctive visage of his companion.
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. Pushing the boundaries of his own creativity throughout his long career, Picasso devoted himself to artistic production. The result was one of the richest and most important oeuvres in art history.
The work is accompanied by a letter of authentication from Claude Ruiz Picasso on behalf of the family and the Picasso Authentication group.
Canvas: 16 1/8" high x 13" wide
Frame: 25 1/16" high x 21 13/16" wide
Pablo Picasso, Volume 25, 1971, by C. Zervos, p. 53, no. 92 (illustrated)
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
Private collection, Europe
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans, 2018