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Would you pay $139 million for this painting by Picasso?

Sold by auction and setting new records

By Raymond G. TaylorPublished 29 days ago Updated 14 days ago 4 min read
Woman with watch, Pablo Picasso, 1932

Not sure I would buy it at the price, but then again I don't have 139,000,000 in folding to spare. To me, Picasso is one of the artists who define the 20th century. He was 18 years old when the century began (strictly speaking 19) and he lived through a fair chunk of it, not least two world wars.

Of all of the artists I have ever seen, any century, I don't think any have moved me more than Picasso. An artist that has something of a dodgy rep, not least because of recent research indicating a propensity for misogynistic behavior. This is an important point to consider. Can you separate an artist from their art? Not really. Misogynist or not, this work by Picasso fails to create any great impression on me. Why? Dunno. I would have to spend some time looking up at it in order to work that out and such a thing is hardly likely, as this work is not on public display.

Misogyny: Can you separate an artist from their art?

If Picasso were a misogynist, it is not difficult to see it in many of his works. Not least the portraits he painted of his lovers and former lovers. Looking at this one, hardly flattering, it gives no indication of who the sitter was, other than in respect of her relationship to the great artists.

I have a vague memory of reading somewhere, probably an exhibition of Picasso portraits some years ago in London, that when the artist depicted his subject sitting, it meant she was dead to him. If this is a valid interpretation of this particular coding (and Picasso paintings are full of hidden codes) then it must mean that the relationship had either ended, or was about to.

Femme a la Montre (Woman with a Watch) becomes the most valuable work sold at auction this year and, sold for $139 million dollars, the second highest price ever paid for a Picasso. The painting depicts Marie-Therese Walter, the French model who was also a lover of the Spanish artist, and the subject of many of his paintings. It was previously owned by the late art collector Emily Fisher Landau, and has been bought by an anonymous buyer (BBC).

Femme a la Montre is one of many Picasso paintings that depict a woman in a state of grotesque nudity or semi nudity. I find these paintings difficult to look at. On the one hand, the approach is clearly intended to have an element of erotica, on the other, the gross anatomical depiction is at best, unsightly, at worst pornographic.

Although it is difficult to fully appreciate a painting that is represented merely as a .jpg on screen, I can see little to win my heart in this one. The work appears to me to be flat. Not merely two dimensional but squashed into a single plane. Many of Picasso's paintings were deliberately two dimensional and I can't think that in this case the lack of a third dimensional was accidental or unintended. Perhaps the great artist was trying to portray something other than great art. Perhaps he was painting in a style more suited to a graphic poster than a painted portrait? I can only guess at the man's intentions as I have no way of knowing what they were.

I would like to comment on the use of color but color is not my strong point so I am not going to. Other than to say Picasso often used reds and greens together, as in this picture. The blue of the background is an intense sky-blue that suggests to me cheerfulness, rather than the low mood of the blue-period blues.

This article has been written without any reference to art history and without consulting any art experts. It is a non-expert view. Or, as a colleague put it: We are all art experts!

What strikes me more than anything is the way the sitter's breasts are portrayed. In Picasso portraits I am used to seeing breasts deployed for erotic effect or in a way that conveys feminine virtue. Agreed, this may not be the kind of comparison that meets modern standards of equality and inclusion. But in this painting, the breasts seem to suggest repulsion rather than attraction. They appear pointed and pointing, like two barrels of a

Picasso, Woman with a book,

shotgun, or the points of two bladed weapons. Compare the Woman with Watch with the above painting of Marie-Thérèse, Woman with a Book. Here we can see a much more flattering and enticing image, showing far more sensual lines, including the breasts, which appear more natural and with more life. Also, if you compare the faces, in Watch, the face is in flat profile and with almost no color. In Book, the face is facing forward and slightly to one side. The complexion is more alive and colorful. Looking at the fingers of the right hand in Watch, they appear to be grasping at something or threatening to scratch the viewer. In Book, the hands are open, the left hand perhaps in conversation or invitation. I am not sure which painting came first but I am pretty certain that Woman with Watch was not intended to convey love.

Add to this the appearance (Woman with Watch) of the forearm which bears a watch and a hand that appears to have five fingers rather than four and a thumb. Is Picasso trying to suggest a deformity of the limb, with the hand resembling a five-toed foot? And why the watch? Is it there because Marie-Therese wore a watch on her right wrist or is it another thing with hidden meaning? The time displayed would appear to be 25 minutes to 5. Could this be the time that Picasso decided it was over? Is Picasso calling time on Marie-Therese?

O ~ 0 ~ o ~

More from the author: Art for our sake eight

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About the Creator

Raymond G. Taylor

Author based in Kent, England. A writer of fictional short stories in a wide range of genres, he has been a non-fiction writer since the 1980s. Non-fiction subjects include art, history, technology, business, law, and the human condition.

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Comments (3)

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  • Lamar Wiggins14 days ago

    Thanks for the lesson. Of course, I know of Picasso but know nothing about him really. And to answer your question, NO, I would not pay that kind of money for anything, lol. Can you imagine what the monthly payments would be on a loan like that 😆.

  • Mark Graham25 days ago

    Welcome to the world of abstraction.

  • Mariann Carroll28 days ago

    I love abstract art it’s open for interpretation. I will be honest, I rather have my love ones pictures and memoirs be hanging on my wall .

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