Femme assise en tailleur: Geneviève Laporte
Femme assise en tailleur: Geneviève Laporte (Bloch 1837)

1951 (August 23)

Drypoint and scraper printed on Japon nacré
From the edition of 180 of the second (final) state 
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right.
Numbered 76/180 in pencil, lower left
Dated "23.8.51." in reverse in plate, upper right
Printed by Gustavo Gili, 1969
Published by Gustavo Gili as the frontispiece for Recordant el Dr. Reventos, 1969
Image: 5 3/8 x 4 inches
Sheet: 12 1/2 x 9 inches
Framed: 21 3/4 x 17 1/4 inches
(Bloch 1837) (Baer 888.II.B) (Cramer 147)

This loving portrait is inspired by a summer holiday that Picasso spent with Geneviève Laporte, a young woman with whom he had recently begun having an affair. Picasso met Laporte in 1944, when she approached him for an interview for her school newspaper, of which she was the editor-in-chief. She was then seventeen and he sixty-three; during repeated visits that she made to the artist’s rue des Grands Augustins studio in the autumn and winter of that year a friendship developed between the artist and the teenager. In the seven years that followed, as Laporte completed her studies in the US, began working in public relations, and traveled widely in Europe, she continued to visit the artist’s studio from time to time. Their relationship was finally consummated in Picasso’s Paris apartment in May 1951 during a late afternoon storm when, according to Laporte, ‘a burning passion was born’.i At this time the artist was living with his beautiful young mistress Françoise Gilot in Vallauris in the south of France. Gilot had borne Picasso two children, Claude and Paloma, in 1947 and 1949 respectively, but their relationship was beginning to sour, and at the end of July 1951 Picasso took Laporte to St Tropez with him for a few days, leaving Françoise and the children behind. In St Tropez, still a charming little fishing harbor, the two lovers were the guests of the poet Paul Éluard and his wife Dominique. Laporte remembers it as a golden time, where she and Picasso spent ‘many ardent sessions in seclusion … walking and swimming, alternating with drawing on the beach with a pointed reed’.ii Inspired as always by a new love, Picasso made copious drawings of Geneviève in pencil and ink wash during their holiday.

 

After this short idyll, Picasso returned to Paris towards the end of August, where he created this print on the 23rd. As in his drawings of the previous month, his representational method combines realism with a flattening stylization. Here, perhaps for compositional reasons, Picasso has utilized a cubist rendering of his subject’s legs and lower torso, so that her buttocks and pubis are simultaneously visible, while her legs are compressed and reduced, leading to the title of the image, ‘assise en tailleur’, meaning sitting cross-legged. The image is dominated by Geneviève’s large head viewed in profile—its high brow, long-lashed eye and smiling lips denote its subject’s intelligence, while the broad swathe of hair that extends behind it is redolent with luxuriant sensuality. Excelling in his usual masterly linear simplification, Picasso emphasizes Geneviève’s youthful beauty by describing the curves of her high, pert breast, her long neck, and taut stomach with fluid lines.

 

This drypoint was created in two states: in the first the artist roughly sketched out his composition using the scraper; in the second—of which this is an impression—he refined it to its final appearance, scratching over his earlier lines to elongate his subject’s elegant chin, and more clearly to define the hand that rests on it. Picasso lightened Geneviève’s torso and the robe she is wearing, redefining her waist and her legs; and filled the background with lines that radiate outwards from her body, becoming cross-hatching on the left side of the image behind her profile, and darkening to black in the area between her neck, wrist and shoulder.

 

The strength of Picasso’s attraction to Laporte is borne out by two drawings of her that he created on the same day as this print that emphasize her thick, luxuriant locks, and her charming smile—La splendide chevelure and Le sourire.iii Two years later, shortly after Françoise left the artist in 1953, Picasso invited Geneviève to move in with him, but she declined. In 1954, still harboring affectionate feelings for the young woman, Picasso illustrated a book of her poems—Les cavaliers d’ombre, 1954—with drawings. By this time he was becoming involved with his future wife and muse Jacqueline Roque; Geneviève went on marry a former Resistance fighter in 1959.

 

Initially the few impressions of Femme assise en tailleur: Geneviève Laporte were limited to four proofs of the first state, and eight of the second, printed by Roger Lacourière between 1951 and 1953. However, in 1969 Picasso found a way to honor his memories of Laporte by contributing her portrait to a project of great personal importance to him. He had been invited to participate in the publication of a book in memory of Dr. Cinto Reventós—one of the artist’s best friends during his youth in Barcelona—who had died in March 1968, by his son Jacint Reventós i Conti. Picasso had not seen his old friend since February 1956, when the Doctor brought his family to visit the artist in Cannes, initiating their first meeting in fifty years. Related by marriage to the Reventós family, Gustavo Gili took charge of the printing of Picasso’s engraving and the publication of the book, which was entitled Recordant el Doctor Reventós. It has an introduction written by Jacint, and testimonials contributed by twenty-five colleagues and friends in honor of the man and the doctor, and is illustrated with reproductions of portraits as well as photographs taken during Cinto’s life. His friendship with Picasso is visible in a portrait drawn by the artist in Barcelona in 1900, and by a letter the painter sent to him from Paris in 1905.

 

This impression from the second (final) state of Femme assise en tailleur: Geneviève Laporte was printed on Japon nacré paper in an edition of 180, and published by Gustavo Gili as the frontispiece for Recordant el Doctor Reventos in 1969. It is signed at the lower right, and numbered 76/180 at the lower left, in pencil.

 

 

i Quoted in Ingrid Mössinger, Beate Ritter and Kerstin Drechsel, Picasso et les femmes, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz 2002, p.278.
ii Ibid.
iii Reproduced in John Richardson, Picasso: The Mediterranean Years 1945-1962, Gagosian Gallery 2010, p.355.