A portrait by Picasso’s of Marie-Therese Walter, has been sold at Sotheby’s London for £28.6m. Painted in 1932 the work titled, “Femme Assise Pres d’une Fenetre” (Woman Sitting Near a Window), was considered by Sotheby’s to be a highlight in Tuesday night’s auction.
Picasso was 45 years old when he met his young mistress by chance in 1927, when she was leaving the Paris subway. Marie-Therese was 17 at the time, and remained the artist’s lover from 1927 to 1938, while he was still married to Russian dancer, Olga Khokhlova. She refused to divorce him on the grounds that he was unwilling to split his wealth with her, as subject by French law and thus remained married to him from 1918 – 1954, when she died of cancer.
Picasso was a serial womanizer. When Marie-Thérèse became jealous of Picasso’s affair with the artist Dora Maar, in1936 she tracked her down to Picasso’s studio where she was modeling as the crying woman in his painting Guernica. Asked about this incident, in later life Picasso remarked that he had been quite happy with the situation and that when they demanded that he choose between them, he told them that they would have to fight it out themselves, at which point the two women began a cat fight. Picasso described it “as one of his choicest memories”.
History aside, this was never a good series of paintings by the master. They are over-sized, over-hyped and over-priced, however Helena Newman from Sotheby’s who take a different view said: “This portrait is a striking and notably modern-looking work from one of the artist’s most celebrated periods.” Newman added: “We are delighted that this stunning and monumental portrait, which is part of the defining series that introduced his ‘golden muse’ to the public eye, fetched such a strong price.
The billionaire Art Dealer Larry Gagosian, always quick to cash in on a trend mounted an exhibition of Picasso portrait’s of Marie-Therese Walter at his New York Gallery in 2011. “Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’amour fou”, the third show in a trilogy of commercial Picasso exhibitions organised by writer and scholar John Richardson. It is thought that Gagosian may have played a role in the purchase of this unflattering example of Picasso’s work.
Last nights sale was the second most lucrative for a Sotheby’s evening sale in Impressionist and Modern catagory in London, with 18 lots selling for more than £1m. Yesterday’s total raised £121m.