©Pablo Picasso - A lamp. La Lampe 1931

Picasso A lamp 1931
A lamp. La Lampe
1931 162x130cm oil/canvas
Private collection

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From Sotheby’s:
Picasso's revelatory La Lampe introduced an extraordinary and unexpected new presence in Picasso's paintings. As a singular composition, it appears to be a vibrantly colorful ode to classicism: a plaster bust, framed and illuminated against the dark archway and surrounded by a garland of philodendron leaves. But there is much more to this picture than meets the eye, as it is the story behind the canvas that adds another powerful dimension. What we see here, bathed in the warm glow of a gas lamp that hung in his Boisgeloup studio, is the unmistakable likeness of the artist's mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Painted during the summer of 1931, the theme of illumination is timely. It was during these months that Picasso began to cast his artistic spotlight on his young lover - a sensual young blonde whose unveiled presence here would raise the suspicions of Picasso's wife the following year. Up until this point he had only referenced his extramarital affair with Marie-Thérèse in his pictures in code, sometimes imbedding her initials in a composition or rendering her strong, Grecian profile as a feature of the background. By 1931 Picasso could no longer repress his creative impulse with regard to Marie-Thérèse, and she became the primary focus of art. He occupied himself during the first few months of the year with modeling large plaster heads of her likeness. Not stopping there, he even incorporated these sculptures into a series of paintings between 1931 and 1932. It is one of these plaster heads that we see here, cast in the powerful light of the artist's studio. The fact that the androgynously-featured head and strong profile could be taken for the artist's own was a clever means for the artist to merge himself with his beloved. But no matter how one reads this picture, Marie-Thérèse's presence as the central feature of his art is without question here. La Lampe, and the others in this series that were to follow it, brought about a revolution in Picasso's art and in his life.