Tête de matador signed and dated '22.10.70 II Pablo Picasso' (upper left) purple crayon on paper 65 x 50cm (25 9/16 x 19 11/16in). Executed on 22 October 1970
PROVENANCE Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris. Anon. sale, Sotheby's Parke-Bernet New York, 23 October 1975, lot 171. Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 30 June 1982, lot 189. Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
LITERATURE C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1970, Paris, 1977, vol.XXXII, no. 287 (illustrated p.100).
The subject of the matador is one in which Picasso grew heavily interested over the course of his career. He began exploring the antagonistic concept of matador versus bull, or man versus beast, in 1900, with a series of early pastels named La Corrida, that stripped the matador of his usual macho image and presented the role in a calm and rather domestic manner. Progressing beyond those early references however, Picasso produced two series of works between 1930 and 1935 the Vollard Suite and Minotauromachy - that are as much an expression of Picasso's internal conflict and identity as they are a reference to classical and Spanish culture. Only two years afterwards, in 1937, Picasso completed his masterpiece Guernica wherein the motif of the bull was key to the symbolism within the composition and the notable absence of the matador was as important as those symbols that were present.
Produced in 1970, Tête de matador was one of a number of works completed after watching a bullfight at Fréjus and it is one of the final times in his life that Picasso explored the subject. According to the exhibition Late Picasso that took place at London's Tate Gallery in 1988, the subjects of Picasso's work at this time were particularly poignant; Picasso.. 'always plays a part, or wears a disguise: as a painter at work or as a matador-musketeer [...] Picasso's confrontation with the human face, which makes him into the great portrait-painter of the twentieth century, brings him back to a confrontation with himself, the painter, young or old' (M.-L. Bernadac, in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, pp.81-83).