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Press Release


Picasso at the Bateau Lavoir


Jeune Garçon nu à Cheval is one of only two Rose Period oil paintings related to Picasso’s unrealised group composition, later called L’Abreuvoir (The Watering Place) (fig. 2.), and the only one remaining in private hands. It was painted in 1906, while Picasso was living with his first great love Fernande Olivier in the Bateau Lavoir, a bohemian enclave in Montmartre. This was a time of great personal happiness and intense creativity for Picasso, who was experiencing the beginnings of critical success following his 1901 exhibition at the gallery of renowned dealer Ambroise Vollard. Afterwards, he moved from the melancholy Blue Period, which was inspired by the suicide of his close friend Carles Casagemas, into what would later be known as the Rose Period. X-rays (fig. 3.) have revealed a Blue Period composition underneath the painted surface of Jeune Garçon nu à Cheval, similar to Les Deux Saltimbinques (Harlequin and Companion) (fig. 4.) in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow. This is evidence of Picasso’s habit of recycling canvases at a time when he could not afford new ones. Picasso took advantage of access to a wealth of inspiration in Paris, with the opportunity to see works by modern and contemporary artists in Vollard’s gallery and in the growing collection of his friends and patrons Leo and Gertrude Stein. He wandered the corridors of the Louvre, admiring works by the old masters and studying a cache of recently-excavated Iberian sculptures. In Jeune Garçon nu à Cheval, Picasso synthesised a number of these disparate influences, ranging from the South Pacific landscapes of Paul Gauguin and weighty figures of Paul Cézanne to the heroic nude kouroi of pre-classical Greek sculpture.

This painting is made all the more desirable by its fascinating provenance, having been given to Picasso’s friend and neighbour in the Bateau Lavoir, the Dutch painter Kees van Dongen, around 1906 in exchange for a landscape entitled La Vigne. Van Dongen held on to this painting by Picasso for over 40 years, and it can be seen hanging on the wall in a lithograph of Picasso in his Studio (fig. 5.), one of a series of illustrations by van Dongen for Roland Dorgelès’ colourful memoirs of life in Montmartre, Au Beau Temps de La Butte (1949).

Dickinson is dedicating a room on its stand to this rare and remarkable Rose Period painting and to the artistic influences affecting Picasso at the time it was executed. Due to the rarity of Rose Period paintings on the market, this work’s significance as a stylistic link between the artist’s earlier saltimbanques and the revolutionary paintings to come, and its historically important provenance, Jeune Garçon nu à Cheval is an intriguing example of Picasso’s genius during this extremely formative and fertile period in his early career.