Auction  September 15, 2020  Chandra Noyes

Picasso Portrait of Dora Maar to make Auction Debut

courtesy christie's

Next month Christie’s is offering a rare and valuable Picasso work at auction: a portrait of Dora Maar, one of his greatest muses. A highlight of Christie’s October 6 Evening Sale of 20th Century Art in New York, the work is estimated to fetch $20–30 million.

Paintings of Maar are amongst Picasso’s most valuable. In Femme dans un fauteuil, a 51- by 38-inch canvas, she is shown seated in an armchair wearing a jacket and blouse with a feathered hat. Depicted in cool tones, the figure, though distorted by Picasso’s cubist lens, still radiates the chicness that Maar was known for.

Maar met Picasso in 1936 and over the course of their nine-year, tumultuous relationship, he would paint her portrait many times. His most famous image of her is as the Weeping Woman, part of series showing Maar in distress. In 1941, the year Femme dans un fauteuil was painted, the two were largely confined to their Paris studio. Though the city was occupied by the Nazis and chaos reigned in the streets, this was a productive and inspired period of creation for Picasso.

courtesy christie's

Pablo Picasso, Femme dans un fauteuil, 1941.

“As Paris entered its second year under German occupation, Picasso retreated to his left-bank studio on the rue des Grands Augustins and executed a staggering sequence of paintings of his lover Dora Maar. By turns anguished and lyrical, aggressive and despondent, the works all share an urgency, making them as much expressions of Picasso’s state of mind as portraits of Dora,” Conor Jordan, Christie’s Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art, remarked in a statement.

An artist, photographer, and poet in her own right, Maar was a creative collaborator with Picasso. Until recently, history has relegated her to being only his muse. With recent books and major exhibitions, Maar is finally getting the recognition she deserves. The growing acknowledgment of Maar’s own artistic merit and achievements only adds to the value of this work and other portraits of her. The Christie’s sale marks the painting’s first time at auction, where it will be sold alongside works by Paul Cézanne, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Joan Mitchell.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is Managing Editor for Art & Object.

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