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Alice Princet

Page history last edited by Thomas Kutzli 12 years ago

"She was rather a madonna like creature, with large lovely eyes and charming hair. Fernande afterwards explained that she was the daughter of a workingman and had the brutal thumbs that of course were a characteristic of workingmen. She had been, so Fernande explained, for seven years with Princet who was in the government employ and she had been faithful to him in the fashion of Montmartre. Then they married. No sooner were they married than Alice Princet met Dérain and Derain met her. It was wat the french call un coup de foudre... She and Derain went off together and they have never separated since. I always liked Alice Derain. She had a certain wild quality that perhaps had to do with her brutal thumbs and was curiously in accord with her madonna face." (Gertrude Stein)


"Jeune fille accoudée signed 'Picasso' (lower left) blue crayon on paper 141/2 x 101/2in. (36.8 x 26.7cm.) Drawn in 1903-04 LITERATURE C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, supplément aux volumes 1 … 5, vol. 6, Paris 1954, no. 558 (illustrated p. 68). NOTES Executed at the height of Picasso's Blue Period, Jeune fille accoudée ('Young Woman Leaning') is a striking drawing of a typical Blue Period woman. Looking wistfully out from the picture, she has a gaunt face and a long, emaciated neck. The women Picasso portrayed during his Blue Period were predominantly fragile, downtrodden by products of Paris's bohemian demi-monde. This woman's sadness is that of the victim, although the specific cause of her melancholy eludes the viewer, remaining deliberately undefined. The blue crayon Picasso has used to depict this thin, mournful woman emphasizes his intention for this rare drawing to be seen as a complete 'blue' work. Picasso creates an intensity in this picture by drawing attention to the face and neck of the woman, by leaving the rest of her body largely undefined. This was a technique Picasso often used in his works of this period, even in oil paintings like Seated Nude of 1905. In Jeune fille accoudée, the emptiness around the woman is used to accentuate the fullness of her emotions. Picasso had three highly influential female muses during the Blue Period: Madeleine, Margot and Alice Géry. They all fitted his aesthetic needs of the period in different ways, his acquaintance with each of them prompting new artistic developments. Because each of them had features which sublimely embodied his ideas of expressive sadness during the period, he often merged the physiognomies of these three women, blending the distraught eyes of one with the pout of another and the cheekbones of a third, thereby creating a perfect 'blue' woman. Jeune fille accoudée, however, appears to be a portrait of Alice Géry. Alice Géry embodied the life of Montmartre and the Bateau Lavoir, in which Picasso and so many other bohemian artists, poets and characters lived. Gertrude Stein describes her as, 'rather a madonna like creature, with large lovely eyes and charming hair. Fernande Olivier, Picasso's mistress afterwards explained that she was the daughter of a workingman and had the brutal thumbs that of course were characteristic of workingmen... She had a certain wild quality that perhaps had to do with her brutal thumbs and was curiously in accord with her madonna face' (G. Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B.Toklas, New York, 1993, pp.31-32). Alice was introduced to the Montmartre circle by Picasso and made an immediate impact. Her angelic features and debauched behaviour seemed to embody the age and made her the perfect subject for Picasso's work of the period. Although remarkably few clear renderings remain of Picasso's one-time muse and mistress- a rare exception being his 1905 drawing of her smiling while reading a pornographic novel- her striking features would haunt many of the faces of his women, boys and even Rose Period harlequins for many years to come. For many years the mistress of Maurice Princet, a mathematician and civil servant, Gertrude Stein recalled that Alice was 'faithful to him in the fashion of Montmartre, that is to say she had stuck to him through sickness and health but... amused herself by the way' (G. Stein, op. Cit., New York, 1993, p.31). Despite her fragile appearance in Picasso's drawing, Alice was a far from fragile, strong-willed woman who was unafraid to live her life as she intended. When she and Princet eventually married, largely because Princet's promotion necessitated a respectability not served by living in sin with a mistress, Picasso asked 'why should they marry simply in order to divorce' (Stein, op. cit., p.31). He himself helped fulfil his own prophecy by deliberately introducing Alice to André Dérain. This sparked off a whirlwind romance which ended her first marriage and became her second. Although Picasso had suspected that the pair would have an affair, he could not have anticipated its amazing success. Alice's marriage to Derain was ended only by the artist's death in 1954. In Jeune fille accoudée, Alice's hair is in a bundle above her head, recalling his late Blue Period painting, Woman with Her Hair in a Topknot. This work is the epitome of Picasso's late Blue Period production, the dejection of the model enhanced by the hint of sensuality absent from his earlier works. Although there are many differences between the hand positions, the direction of the subject's gaze and the facial features, Jeune fille accoudée obviously played a part in the inception and development of this painting, as did Alice herself. Picasso's emphasis on the head and neck area in Jeune fille accoudée combined with his use of blue, then his trademark colour, eloquently convey her despondency. Her sadness is itself emphasized by her gaunt features and her swanlike, fragile neck, the most modeled area of the drawing. It is elongated and emaciated, reminiscent of the characters in Picasso's Blue Period works, for instance the two thin, despairing figures in his famous etching, Frugal Repast. This picture of Alice perfectly illustrates her importance to Picasso's 'blue' works: the formerly anonymous despair of the absinthe drinkers and prostitutes of the Paris streets who people Picasso's blue works is here given a new, personal content in this work by the intimacy between the artist and the sitter."

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