The Picasso portrait of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter reaches 67.5 million dollars

Written by Jacqui PalumboToyin Owoseje, CNN

Pablo Picasso’s most curious painting of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, in which she appears as a sprawling sea creature, sold for $67.5 million, above the $60 million estimate .

“Femme nue couche” (“Nude Woman Reclining”), made its auction debut on Tuesday at a Sotheby’s sale in New York. Ahead of the sale, the auction house said the anonymous seller acquired the work directly from Picasso’s descendants in 2006 after it had been in the artist’s estate for decades. Picasso died in 1973 and Walter in 1977.

Marie-Thérèse Walter gave birth to one of Picasso’s four children, a daughter named Maya. Credit: Apic/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

The work, painted in April 1932 during a prolific period for the celebrated modern artist, was one of many he made of Walter, who became the mother of his second child, Maya. When they met, she was 17 and he was 45 and married to Russian-Ukrainian dancer Olga Khokhlova.

Walter’s portraits of Picasso have become highly sought after, with his other 1932 works “Woman Seated by a Window (Marie-Thérèse)” selling for $103.41 million last year, and “Nude, green leaves and bust“, sold for a record $106.5 million in 2010.

The couple’s rocky romance was also idealized through exhibitions such as Gagosian’s “Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’amour fou” in 2011, which featured around 80 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints by the sitter, and “Picasso 1932 : Love, Fame, Tragedy” in 2018, which focused on the obsessive year in which he made numerous works in his likeness. Picasso began an affair with photographer Dora Maar around 1936, overlapping her relationship with Walter, and Maar too, and she too became one of his artistic subjects.

by Pablo Picasso "Woman in red-orange beret" from 1938, is a later portrait of Walter, painted three years after the birth of their child and when Picasso had begun another affair with the photographer Dora Maar.  It sold for over $40 million last year.

Pablo Picasso’s “Woman with a Red-Orange Beret” from 1938, is a later portrait of Walter, painted three years after the birth of their child and while Picasso had begun another affair with photographer Dora Maar. It sold for over $40 million last year. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s and MGM Resorts

Through Picasso’s gaze, Walter was depicted dreaming sensually, fully nude in shades of blue and formally posing in furs, each work playing with the picture plane in his bold, abstract style. But in “Reclining Naked Woman” she transforms into another species entirely with serpentine gray limbs. Brooke Lampley, president and head of global art sales at Sotheby’s, described “Reclining Naked Woman” as a “radical departure from tradition”.

“This striking painting is at the same time a deeply lyrical ode to the artist’s unbridled desire for Marie-Thérèse,” she said in a press release ahead of the sale. “With its infinitely flexible, fin-like limbs, the portrait continues to enchant as it perfectly captures Picasso’s muse as the ultimate expression of his genius.”

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