A Pablo Picasso painting has sold for $139.4m at auction in New York, making it the second most expensive work by the artist ever to be sold at auction. Art Net reports that Femme à la Montre was painted in 1932, and is a portrait of Marie-Thérèrese Walter, the artist’s muse and mistress who first met him in Paris when she was just 17.
It is said that Picasso’s wife, the Russian-Ukrainian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, learnt about the affair when the portrait was exhibited in 1932. Walter went on to become the subject of other works by Picasso, who was considered by art critics to be in his most creative phase around this era.
Picasso is considered to be one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, and co-founded the Cubist art movement. He was already a highly competent naturalistic painter by early adulthood, and went on to develop a number of artistic styles throughout his lifetime.
Cubism breaks a subject up into segments and reassembles them to create an image of multiple perspectives, which can be semi-abstract or used to create a fully abstract geometrical pattern.
Femme à la Montre has a semi-abstract composition and strikingly intense primary colours, making it especially memorable amongst Picasso’s oeuvre.
Julian Dawes, the head of impressionism to modern art for the Americas at Sotheby’s, told Artnet after the auction: “At the end of the day, this is an exceptional price and an exceptional result with real competition.”
He added: “It’s just this love affair collectors around the world have with Marie-Thérèse Walter as the subject that elicits the most romantic, kind of delirious, effect on people. That was obviously how Picasso felt and I think that comes across in his work. For some reason, that is what resonates with audiences more than any of these other, other, other women.”
“The sharpness of this, the intensity of the colors and the overall purposefulness of the composition, I think is just like a world apart. The price that that work achieved is a testament to the iconic nature [of Picasso’s works in 1932].”
Femme à la Montre comfortably exceeded its $120m estimate by the auctioneers Sotheby’s. Other paintings in the collection included a 1958 Mark Rothko painting, Untitled, and a 1968 self portrait by US Pop Art artist Andy Warhol. There were also works by US painter Jasper Johns and the Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning.
The most expensive Picasso painting ever sold was The Women of Algiers (Version O), which sold at auction for $179.4m.
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