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"Nature Morte Sur Une Table Carrée (Still Life On A Square Table)," by Pablo Picasso

Updated: Jun 2, 2018

Nature Morte Sur Une Table Carrée (Still Life On A Square Table), Executed December 1922; Gouache, pen and brush, and black ink on paper; Signed Picasso in ink upper left; Size - Sheet 5 1/2 x 4 1/8", Frame 16 3/4 x 16 1/2"; Framed floated on a custom wrapped linen mat, silver wood frame, and plexiglass; Catalogue Raisonne: C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1973, vol. 30, no. 411 (illustrated, pl. 132).

"Nature Morte Sur Une Table Carrée (Still Life On A Square Table)," by Pablo Picasso

In the summer of 1919 Pablo Picasso and his wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khoklova whom he had married the year before, went to the South of France for their second honeymoon. There Picasso began a series of drawings and gouaches of guéridons, or pedestal tables, which would occupy him for much of the next several years. The guéridons were so central to his work at this time that the art historian John Richardson devoted an entire chapter entitled Summer at Saint-Raphaël (The Guéridon) to them in his definitive multi-volume biography on the artist. Richardson explainted that "Picasso's traditional attitude toward the bride who loved to sit for him made it very difficult to portray her in any but a traditionally representative way. To reconcile conventional love for Olga with his pursuit of modernity, he turned to the subject of the anthropomorphic guéridon, which had preoccupied him the previous winter, and applied it to Olga instead of himself..." The flat that couple was staying had a large window that could be opened, leading to a decorative railing trimmed balcony that overlooked the top of the town's bandstand, beach, and onto the sea. As Richardson notes, "Sketches of the room done soon after their arrival depict its contents: an armoire à glace, a coat rack, a fringed chaise longue, a radiator, a pair of portes-fenêres framing the view, and, to Picasso's delight, a little dressing table with a mirror on top, its shelves carved like daisies. Its kitschiness inspired a detailed drawing. In fact, as sketches reveal there was no guéridon in front of the Picassos' balcony window, only a four-legged table elsewhere in the room, which rings an occasional change on the guéridon theme." (A Life of Picasso, The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, New York, 2007, vol. 3, p 136-137).

During the early 1920's, Picasso worked alternately in both Cubist and Neoclassical styles, and sometimes interwove them. In 1920, the Cubist elements trumped the Neoclassical ones in Picasso's still-lifes, as he reduced the picture window, table and its accoutrements to simple geometric shapes. The resulting compositions become more abstract than those in prior years.

As Richardson notes, "The development of this last great period of Synthetic Cubism can easily be followed through the 'Guéridon'... No longer did Picasso feel obligated to investigate the intricate formal and spatial problems that preoccupied him ten years before. Instead he felt free to relax and exploit his cubist discoveries in a decorative manner that delights the eye... Never again did the artist's style recapture the air of magisterial calm that is such a feature of this last great phase of Cubism." (Picasso, An American Tribute, New York, 1962, p. 52)

With Synthetic Cubism, Picasso deconstructed objects and elements in his compositions and as Richardson stated that the resulting forms were "hard-edge square-cut diamonds," and "these gems do not always have upside or downside." Picasso wrote to Gertrude Stein, "We need a new name to designate them," and Maurice Raynal suggested "Crystal Cubism."

In December of 1922, when this work was created, Pablo Picasso was a forty-one years old and a new father. His first child, a son named Paulo, had been born in February the prior year. With this gouache Picasso, working in cubist style, constructs the four legged square table that occupied his main salon in Saint-Raphaël. The brown vertical rectangle surrounding the interior composition is the outline of the balcony window of the room. Vertical white brushstrokes of gouache are painted inside of the rectangular window border. Onto this white ground the four black legs of the table can all be seen from different vantage points. The objects on the square table, as viewed from above, have been deconstructed through analytical cubism; and are viewed from multiple vantage points. The view outside the balcony window of the top of the town's canopy bandstand, the beach, and sea have been depicted by vertical washes of the three primary colors; blue, yellow, and red. The composition is signed Picasso in black ink in the upper left, and the work is pictured and referenced in the Christian Zervos Catalog Raissone.

This is a spectacular museum quality work of art, and a similar piece (The Table (Le guéridon) by Pablo Picasso, Watercolor over graphite on paper; Executed on December 24, 1922; Size - Sheet: 6 7/16 x 4 1/8") is in the permanent collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. An absolutely wonderful original Pablo Picasso artwork, perfect for any collection!

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