Pablo Picasso has a vast collection of incredible paintings, most of which are very unusual. Now, one of the portraits he created of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter just sold for a whopping $67.5 million!
How Picasso Saw His Lover
"Femme nue couchée" (Naked woman reclining), a portrait made by Pablo Picasso, just went to auction for the first time. The painting of Picasso's lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, was presented by Sotheby's in New York, where it was sold for over $60 million. An anonymous seller received it from Picasso's descendants in 2006. Previously, it resided in the artist's estate. The painting, which appears to depict a sea creature with tentacles, was painted in April 1932. It’s not the only portrait he did of Walter, who was the mother of the artist’s second child, Maya. She was a constant inspiration for a variety of his works. Picasso’s other creations include “Bust of a Woman,” “Femme endormie,” “La Lecture,” and many more.
When the artist and his muse first met, Walter was only 17 years old. The 45-year-old creator was still married to the Russian-Ukrainian dancer Olga Khokhlova. Picasso died in 1973, and Walter ended her life soon after in 1977. The two weren’t together until the end, yet Picasso’s portraits of Walter might be the most popular works for collectors. Just last year, another painting of Walter from 1932, "Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse),” sold for $103.41 million. Another, "Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur" (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust), broke records with its price tag of $106.5 million in 2010.
A Radical Departure From Tradition
Picasso and Walter’s relationship became idealized and romanticized through the artist’s works and exhibitions about them. For example, Gagosian's "Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L'amour fou" in 2011 featured about 80 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints of Walter. Likewise, Tate Modern's "Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy" in 2018 showed how obsessed Picasso was with the young lover, which wasn’t exactly a positive. Most of the time, the artist enjoyed her image rather than her character traits. In 1936, Picasso changed the narrative. He started a new relationship with photographer Dora Maar. The two relationships inevitably overlapped.
Yet, Maar became one of Picasso's inspirations and models, too. The artist still seemed to care about Walter and their shared child, as he supported them both financially until the end of his life. But their romance wasn't as perfect as fans may like to believe. On the contrary, the works are filled with a sensual atmosphere. Picasso saw Walter as a nude human posing in blues. Each portrait represented Walter in different states and in a variety of Picasso's styles. In "Femme nue couchée," though, she’s a completely different creature. Her arms and legs turn into tentacle-like limbs of grey. It’s a "radical departure from tradition,” says Brooke Lampley, chair and head of global fine art sales at Sotheby's. "This striking painting is at the same time a deeply lyrical ode to the artist's unbound desire for Marie-Thérèse...With her fin-like, endlessly pliable limbs, the portrait continues to enchant as it perfectly captures Picasso's muse as the ultimate expression of his genius."