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(possibly) Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (no. 09308).
René Gaston-Dreyfus, Paris.
Acquired from the above on December 9, 1962.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Modern Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lewis, September 2, 1969-January 4, 1970, no. 24 (illustrated in the catalogue n.p).
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso: Oeuvres de 1959 à 1961, vol. XIX, Paris, 1968, no. 317 (illustrated p. 99).
Picasso attended his first bullfight at the age of eight, an experience which left an indelible mark and informed one of the most important subjects of his oeuvre. The bullfight, or corrida, was intrinsically linked with the artist's nostalgia for his native Spain and was a theme he explored in all its aspects – drama, violence, pride, speed, theater. Picasso returned to the motif in various guises at different stages of his career, from Guernica to the more highly decorated matadors of his late works.
The present work is one of a series of pen and ink drawings executed in June 1960 (C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso: Oeuvres de 1959 à 1961, vol. XIX, nos. 309-335). The year prior, Picasso illustrated a treatise on bullfighting by Pepe Illo and provided the drawings for a text written by his friend, the famous torero, Luis Miguel Dominguín. Depictions of picadors in this series varied from grand figures, as in the present work, to tragic heroes, such as the 4 June 1960 Le picador (Zervos vol. XIX, no. 305), in which the horseman emerges out of a dramatic half-light, lance readied, his face turned away.
Picador et danseuse was included in the 1969-70 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art dedicated to the works on paper collection of Hollywood producers and writers Edward and Mildred Lewis. Passionate art patrons, their collection at the time spanned the late 19th century through to the mid-20th century and included drawings by Corot, Delacroix, Matisse, Degas and many others. The present work was exhibited alongside another of Picasso's bullfight series, entitled Picador with Women, 1960. LACMA describes this series as choosing to "celebrate the picador, who is the under-dog or 'scape-goat' of the bull-ring, compared to the torero and matador, as the 'hero'" (Modern Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lewis (exhibition catalogue), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1969, n.p). Certainly, the male protagonist of Picador et danseuse appears elevated in status: dressed in full costume, seated regally and being entertained by the castanet dancer whose body is a dynamic blur of intertwined lines.
The link between the music of Spain and its traditional sport was felt keenly by Picasso, who spoke of his ability to recreate the experience of the bullfight even when he was not able to attend: "Yes, it is my passion...but sometimes something stops me attending... Then, my thoughts are in the arena, I hear the pasodoble, I see the crowd, the entry of the troop, the first bull. One time I felt so bad at missing a fight that I began to conjure up all its phases in my mind...and this has rooted me completely in the art of the bullfight..." (Picasso quoted in Picasso, Toros y toreros (exhibition catalogue), Paris, 1993, p. 224).
Living in the South of France since the late 1940's, Picasso was able to visit bullfights in nearby Nîmes, Arles and Vallauris, allowing him to reinvigorate this motif. His sequence of studies in the summer of 1960 is seen as the height of his obsession with the bullfight and has been described by Michel Leiris as a "dazzling series of washes and drawings" (Picasso, Dessins 1959-1960 (exhibition catalogue), Paris, 1960, n.p). In the present work, we see the picador as the center of attention with a dancer , whose skirts fly in the passion of the movement, entertaining him. By contrast, the horseman sits impassively, almost critically, with one arm on his hip. Hovering behind him is the unexpected figure of an older woman, bearing witness to the scene in uncomfortable proximity. This hooded figure has been identified as 'Celestina', a recurrent presence in Picasso's work first appearing in 1903-1904 and then emerging again in a series of illustrations for the book La Célestine, published in 1971. Based on a Spanish tragicomedy from 1499, the tale of Celestina revolved around an old matchmaker who sought and enabled hedonistic pleasure with the help of prostitutes and corrupt servants. Despite being settled with Jacqueline and fast approaching his 79th birthday, it appears that the passion and virility of the central cast of the bullfight arena had lost none of its appeal for Picasso.