Girl with a flower basket

Pablo Picasso • Painting, 1905, 155×66 cm
About the artwork
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Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Nude
Style of art: Expressionism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1905
Size: 155×66 cm
Content 18+
Artwork in selections: 16 selections

Description of the artwork «Girl with a flower basket»

The fall of 1905 was a turning point in the career of Pablo Picasso. The artist finally began to receive recognition, and his well-being improved. At the beginning of the year, he moved from the “blue” period to the “pink” one, nevertheless he remained a typical Bohemian artist penniless, one of the many unknown in Montmartre who could not be sure the next time he would eat. Inwardly, he felt isolated and lonely, despite a wide circle of friends who were in poverty along with him.

However, by the end of the year, Picasso found a new love, Fernando Olivier, who moved to him and became the first among women who had a significant impact on his life and work. In addition, he was "discovered" by two astute and enthusiastic collectors - the brother and sister of Gertrude and Leo Stein. They acquired three of his paintings, the second of which was “A Girl with a Flower Basket”, helped to start a career and, finally, freed from financial problems.

For decades, the portrait was accompanied by interesting stories, from the time of writing to the period when it was owned by two famous families - first the Steins, then Peggy and David Rockefellers.

From blue to pink

The years of the “blue” period were difficult for Picasso. The young artist lived in extreme poverty, constantly hungry and alienated. All this he expressed in blue-tinted images of emaciated, emaciated, unhappy souls who barely survived on the sidelines of society.

In the spring of 1904, the painter rented a studio on the top floor of a dilapidated building on Ravignan Street 13. Poet Max Jacob dubbed this shelter for artists “Bateau Lavoir” or “Floating Laundry”. In August, 24-year-old Picasso met Fernando Olivier, a romantic relationship with which favorably influenced his art. The delight of physicality and sensual joy began to supplant the young man's once excruciating preoccupation with estrangement and despair.

In the early summer of 1905, Picasso spent six weeks in the north of Holland, where he “rediscovered the pleasure of looking at female bodies and drawing them,” wrote his friend and biographer Pierre Deux. “He gave up long faces and sharp features, full of suffering, poverty and despair. A new sense of delight manifested itself in smooth, round faces, pink bodies, happy expressions. In the works relating to the last months of 1905, everything is conveyed by thin bends and bathed in warm light, ”the writer noted.

Picasso wrote The Girl with a Flower Basket after returning to Paris from Holland, probably in the early fall of 1905. Soon after completion, it was acquired by a dealer Clovis Sago, once a former baker and clown. According to Picasso, the merchant was "a master at assessing the degree of despair of the artist and deriving maximum benefit from it." Picasso, who was penniless after the trip, Sago chose three things - "Girl ..." and two Dutch gouaches, for which he offered 700 francs. The artist initially refused, but after a few days decided to still sell the paintings. However, Sago cut the amount to 500 francs. Picasso was outraged by such impudence, and he left. By the time the artist realized that he had to accept or die of hunger, the offer was reduced to 300 francs. In the end, Sago paid 75 Francs for “Girl ...”. This dealer was one of the main reasons for the lifelong distrust that Picasso had for merchants.

Heroine personality

Clovis Sago called the portrait “Pavement Flower”, which, perhaps, more accurately indicates the true occupation of the heroine. At that time, it was clear that the sale of flowers hid prostitution. We know the name of the model - Linda the flower girl. According to journalist and writer Jean-Paul Crespel, she "sometimes posed for local artists." In addition to Picasso, she wroteKees Van Dongen and Amedeo Modigliani.

In the notebook that Picasso used in 1905 - 1906, there is a sketch of a young girl made in black ink. She is dressed in a long white dress for the first communion and holds a bouquet of flowers. Probably, this is how the artist originally wanted to present the flower girl Linda. On the completed picture in her basket are red poppies - a symbol of bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Such rites of adolescence, symbolizing the transition from innocence to experience, from youth to early adulthood or, more broadly, from the sacred to the secular, are an important topic in the portraits of young men and women in the “pink period” of Picasso.

From Steins to Rockefellers

Gertrude and Leo Steins were brave collectors who were not afraid to acquire scandalous paintings Cezannea, Gauguin,Renoir and Matisse. Picasso's first work, which Leo bought from Clovis Sago, was"Acrobat family with a monkey" (1905). Soon after, he returned to the gallery with Gertrude, and then they were shown the painting "Pavement Flower" - the one that is now called "Girl with a Flower Basket".

Gertrude Stein did not like the work, she found something repulsive and shocking in the pattern of her legs and feet. The writer almost quarreled with her brother over this picture. As a compromise, Sago suggested cutting the canvas, but potential buyers refused.

Judging by Leo's notes, he bought his favorite item without his sister’s consent. “That day I came home for dinner, and Gertrude was already eating. When I said I bought the painting, she threw the knife and fork and replied: “Now you ruined my appetite. I can’t stand this picture with legs like a monkey’s, ”he wrote in his memoirs. Art historian John Richardson noted that “the girls' feet are the least like monkeys” and suggested that Gertrude’s visual memory was “spoiled” by the monkey on the “Acrobat Family” that Leo bought first.

However, a few years later, when Stein was offered a huge amount for "Girl ..." and Leo wanted to sell it, Gertrude did not agree. In a book about Picasso, published in 1938, she did not mention her initial reaction and stated: "A young girl with a basket of flowers, full of grace, delicacy and charm, was written at the great moment of the Harlequin period."

After the death of Gertrude Stein in 1946, the painting passed to her long-time lover - American writer Alice Babette Toklas, who still had 21 more years. In 1968, billionaire David Rockefeller assembled a group of collectors to buy the famous Stein collection. They determined the order of choice by numbered pieces of paper, which they pulled out of a hat, and the banker got the first number. He and his wife Peggy acquired the “Girl with a Flower Basket,” which the couple placed in the library of their home in New York.

After the death of Peggy and David Rockefellers, work among others was put up for auction in 2018 and went for $ 115 million. She became the sixth in the list of the most expensive paintings sold at public auction, and the fourth work of Picasso with a value of over one hundred million dollars. No other artist in history has yet reached a similar level.

According to two sources in The New York Times, "Girl ..." was acquired by members of the Nahmad family - world-famous art dealers and gallery owners. However, representatives of the dynasty did not respond to a request from journalists for the purchase of Picasso's work.

Author: Vlad Maslov