With over 20,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, theatre sets and costumes that convey subliminal yet revolutionary social and political messages, the artistic genius of Pablo Picasso has eminently impacted the development of modern and contemporary artwork. As a transcendental artist, Picasso used a wide array of creative styles; including Cubism, Abstraction, Neoclassicism, Surrealism and Expressionism.
Picasso’s earlier works between 1901 and 1904 are what are now commonly referred to as his Blue Period. They depict somber themes of poverty and despair painted in monochromatic blues; with elongated corkscrew bodies and other distorted features. However, in 1905, Picasso began to direct his attention towards pleasant themes depicting Harlequins and carnival performers in vivid hues of reds and pinks; which is now known as the artists Rose Period.
By the early 1930’s, Picasso’s Cubist style had become fully submerged in his artwork, as he turned to bold colors and complex contours that elicit a surreal, biomorphic quality. His artistic innovation allowed him to continue to produce a massive amount of works, which he reaped the benefits for with his acquired fame and fortune; leaving an artistic legacy that is still widely celebrated and continues to resonate throughout the world of art. Take
a gander at the ten most valuable and highly-prized Picasso paintings.
10. Au Lapin Agile (1904): $40.7 Million
Harlequins and circus performers featured in more colorful, joyous settings strike a veritable differentiation from Picasso’s melancholic Blue Period. Au Lapin Agile was originally created to decorate a bar in Montmartre; of which the inside is depicted in the painting itself. It is said that Picasso painted the piece in return for free meals at the famous cabaret in Paris. When it was finished, he presented the artwork to Frede; the owner of the cabaret, who then turned around and sold it for a mere $20 in 1912. In 1952, the painting was acquired by art collector Joan Whitney Payson. It was discovered then, that the value of the painting had skyrocketed from $20 to $60,000. The painting was finally sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $40.7 million.
9. La Lecture (1932): $40.7 Million
This oil on panel portrait depicts Picasso’s mistress and muse, Marie Thérèse Walter, asleep with a book upon her lap. Picasso met the seventeen year old in 1927 as she exited the Paris Metro, and they later began an affair which they kept secret because of age difference and the fact that Picasso was married to Olga Khokhlova at the time. After noticing that the facial features in the painting were not hers, Olga realized that her husband was having an affair and ended the marriage shortly afterward. Picasso painted La Lecture from December 1931 to its completion in January 1932, during what experts have named his Lovestruck Period. The painting went up for auction at Sotheby’s recently in 2011, and was sold for a little over $40.7 million to an anonymous bidder.
8. Yo, Picasso (1901): $47.9 Million
This 1901 painting by Picasso is a self-portrait from the artists Blue Period; which is the term used to define his early works between 1901 and 1904. The artworks are all monochromatic paintings with hues of blue and blue-green. Although he had difficulty selling them at the time, they have now become some of the artists most popular and sought-after pieces of art. During a 1981 auction at Sotheby’s, the painting sold for the six-figure amount of $5.8 million to a well-known art collector, Wendell Cherry. When Cherry took the painting back to the auction house in 1989, it was sold once again to the winning bidder for $43.5 million, plus a 10 percent Sotheby’s auction fee; which bumped the price up to $47.9 million.
7. Le Reve (1932): $48.4 Million
Marie Thérèse Walter forms the subject once again in this expensive Picasso painting. The scene is reminiscent of La Lecture, another painting from the same series; in the fact that the artist captured his French mistress and muse asleep on a chair once again. The piece is famous for its erotic content, as well as for an accident that occurred in 2006, when the owner of Christie’s auction house accidentally put his arm through the painting, lowering its value to $85 million. While the owner had plans to auction off the painting for $139 million back in 2006 before the incident, he took the mishap as a sign not to sell the artwork; and so La Reve remains in the Wynn Collection to this very day.
6. Femme Assise Dans Un Jardin (1938): $49.5 Million
By this time, Picasso had begun dabbling in and experimenting with Cubism. This 1938 painting depicts Dora Maar in a garden setting. The French artist, poet and painter was best known for being a lover of Picasso. The piece is a good example of the artists Cubist style; an early 20th-century avant-garde movement which Picasso himself became a co-inventor of. It is said that Picasso completed this famous painting within the span of one day. Femme Assise Dans Un Jardin remained in the private collection of cellist and composer Daniel Seidenberg up until his death in 1997. In 1999, the artwork went for about $49.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction.
5. Pierrette’s Wedding (1905): $51.3 Million
This 1905 Picasso painting was created during the artists Blue Period. The monochromatic color scheme, with shades of blue add a somber element to the piece; that in contrast, should be depicting a celebratory scene of a Harlequin admiring the new bride. The presence of blurred images in the background indicates that the artwork might have been left incomplete, although experts have confirmed that the painting is in fact complete. Art dealer Josef Stransky, a friend of Picasso, obtained the painting in 1907. Between 1945 and 1962, however, it was then placed into the hands of Paulo Picasso, the artist’s son. Financier Frederick Roos then purchased the painting and donated it to the French Government. In 1989, the painting finally went up for auction and was sold at the price of $51.3 million.
4. Femme Aux Bras Croises (1902): $55 Million
Also referred to as Woman with Crossed Arms, this piece also belongs to Picasso’s Blue Period. The subject of the painting is believed to have been an inmate of the Saint-Lazare hospital-prison in Paris. Gertrude Stein, a writer and art collector, was one of the owners of this famous painting. Gertrude also famously became the subject of a Picasso painting in 1906. In 1936, Femme Aux Bras Croises was passed into the hands of art collector Chauncey McCormick and remained there until 2000. It was then sold at a Christie’s auction for $55 million to an anonymous buyer; following an intense bidding war.
3. Dora Maar Au Chat (1941) – $95.2 Million
The subject of this iconic 1941 painting is said to be surrealist photographer Dora Maar, one of the most famous mistresses and muses that Picasso had during his lifetime. The piece depicts Dora sitting in a chair, while a small black cat stands behind her. The painting showcases Picasso’s brilliant use of bold colors and cubist style. For example, the complex pattern on Dora’s dress adds to her dramatic posture and the overall composure of the painting. Picasso had often regarded Dora as his “private muse.” In 1963, art collectors sold the painting to a private collection. Finally, in 2006, the painting appeared at a Sotheby’s auction and sold for almost double the estimated price, at $95.2 million.
2. Garcon a La Pipe (1905): $104 Million
This portrait depicts a Parisian working boy holding a pipe in his hand and wearing a crown of roses around his head. The colors suggest that this piece belongs to Picasso’s Rose Period; referring to the time when the artist’s style was in favor of cheerful orange and pink hues in contrast to the cool, dreary tones of the artists Blue Period. John Whitney, the American ambassador to Britain was the first to buy this Picasso painting in 1950 for $30,000. It remained in Whitney’s private collection until 2004. By then, Whitney’s wife had set up the Greentree Foundation after her husband’s death in 1982. The painting was then put up for auction at Sotheby’s in 2004 and sold for $104 million, surpassing the estimates experts had made by a massive amount.
1. N***, Green Leaves and Bust (1932): $106.5 Million
As the most expensive Picasso painting, this portrait depicts Picasso’s muse and mistress, Marie Thérèse Walter in the nude; sprawling across the bottom half of the piece. Her bust is a sculpture that Picasso had done in 1931, which adorns a pedestal. The artist painted this within a single day and the work represents a successful phase in his career. Picasso had become extremely skilled in his art by this time, and therefore, had begun to use symbolism in his artwork. In 1952, art collectors bought the painting for $17,000 and it remained in their private collection until 2010; when it sold for $106.5 million at a Christie’s auction.
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