Pablo Picasso – Les Communiants

 

Pablo Picasso - Les Communiants

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Les Communiants

1919

oil on canvas

14 X 9 1/2 in. (35.5 x 24.1 cm)

Provenance:

Family of the artist
Jacques Doucet, Paris
Josephine Hartford Bryce, New York; Estate sale, Christie’s, London, 26 June 1996, lot 272
Anon. (acquired at the above sale); sale, Christie’s, New York, 10 May 2001, lot 384
Maspro Art Museum, Japan, acquired at the above sale
Christie’s New York, Impressionist and Modern (Day Sale), 5 May 2005, lot 337
Private Collection, California, acquired at the above sale

Literature:

C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1917 à 1919, Paris, 1949, vol. 3, no. 286, p. 100 (illustrated)
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso from the Ballets to Drama (1917-1926), Barcelona, 1999, p. 497, no. 376 (illustrated, p. 128)
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: From Cubism to Neoclassicism, 1917-1919, San Francisco, 1995, p. 180, no. 19-28 (illustrated)

Exhibition:

New York, Jacques Seligmann & Co., 20 Years in the Evolution of Picasso 1903-1923, November 1937, no. 13 (illustrated)

Cubist works on canvas are among the most highly coveted of Picasso’s works due to their scarcity and iconic style. In 2015, the record-setting sale of Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) for $180 million set a new apex for the Picasso market. As the demand for works by one of art history’s most recognizable names increases, early cubist paintings become even more desirable.

Les Communiants finds itself at a crossroads – painted a year after the end of World War I and at the tail end of Picasso’s exploration of analytic and then synthetic cubism. During this transitory time, Picasso also explored two seemingly competing styles: cubism and neoclassicism. For Picasso, who could effortlessly adopt different styles, the use of neoclassicism was a vehicle in which to investigate new themes and subjects. Of this included the subject of Les Communiants, the first communion of two youths.

Picasso returned to this theme, and this scene in particular, in various styles. The neoclassical example Les Premier Communiants (1919) is at the Musée Picasso in Paris. The differences between these two works, explored below, showcase the strength and spectacular vision of Picasso. 

artist-quote

History

When we think Picasso, certain images and ideas come to mind – bodies broken up, angles, and dominant geometry. But what does it mean to look at a Picasso? It is a question we will return to at the end. First, we must contend with the context of Picasso, particularly as it pertains to this painting from 1919.

Born on October 25, 1881 in Málaga, Spain, Picasso was the son of a painter. In 1895, he and his family moved to Barcelona where he studied at La Lonja and fell in with the artistic group at the influential café Els Quatre Gats. Picasso visited Paris several times from 1900 before finally settling in the city in 1904, kicking off important artistic relationships and artistic endeavors. It was during this time in the City of Lights that Picasso developed his Blue and Rose period before diving into Cubism and painting the landmark Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Les communiants finds itself at a crossroads – created a year after the end of World War I and at the tail end of Picasso’s exploration of analytic and then synthetic cubism. What is cubism? Its invention attributed to Picasso and Georges Braque, the movement approached representation in a new way, bringing different but simultaneous perspectives of the subject. The end result is a seemingly fragmented object – multiple viewpoints combined at the same time within the same space. There is a suggestion of three dimension on a flat surface without resorting to illusion.

More
  • picasso-les-demoiselles-WEB
    “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907), oil on canvas, 96 x 92 in. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • picasso-guitar-1919-WEB
    Painted the same year as Les communicants, this work is an example of Picasso’s synthetic cubism. “The Guitar” (1919), oil on canvas, 39 ½ x 32 in. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de l
    “Les Premiers Communiants” (1919), oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in. Musée Picasso, Paris.
  • Picasso in 1908 in his workshop-WEB
    Picasso in 1908 in his workshop in Montmartre, Paris.

Catalog and Video

View our video of Pablo Picasso’s Les communiants 

View our multimedia catalog featuring additional content on Les communiants

MARKET INSIGHTS

  • Pablo_PICASSO_AMR-1
  • Fueled by an insatiable demand for top tier works, the Picasso market has achieved an impressive upward trajectory in recent years. In 2015 the record-setting sale of Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”), 1955, for $180 Million set a new apex for the Picasso market.  

  • It is important to note that the finite supply of Picasso paintings available is further limited because over half of the works are already in museum collections. The Picasso Museum in Paris alone was gifted half of the artist’s estate after a deal made with the French Government and the Picasso family. These paintings will rarely come to market, along with thousands of works already in public collections worldwide.

  • As evident in the graph by Art Market Research, one can see that Picasso’s market appreciation has sustained a healthy return of 732.2% since 1976, or an annualized compound rate of return of 4.8%.

  • Cubist works on canvas are incredibly rare and among the most highly coveted of Picasso’s works.

Top Results at Auction

"Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”)" (1955) oil on canvas, 44 7/8 × 57 5/8 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: May 2015 for $179,365,992
“Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”)” (1955) oil on canvas, 44 7/8 × 57 5/8 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: May 2015 for $179,365,992
"Fillette à la corbeille fleurie" (1905) oil on canvas, 60 7/8 x 26 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: May 2018 for $115,000,000
“Fillette à la corbeille fleurie” (1905) oil on canvas, 60 7/8 x 26 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: May 2018 for $115,000,000
"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" (1932) oil on canvas, 63 3/4 x 51 1/4 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: May 2010 for $106,482,496
“Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” (1932) oil on canvas, 63 3/4 x 51 1/4 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: May 2010 for $106,482,496
"Garçon à la pipe" (1905-1905) oil on canvas, 39 1/4 by 32 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: May 2004 for $104,168,000
“Garçon à la pipe” (1905-1905) oil on canvas, 39 1/4 by 32 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: May 2004 for $104,168,000

Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction

"Le Verre" (1911), watercolor on paper, 11 3/8 by 8 7/8 in. Sold at Sotheby's New York: October 2020 for $1,543,000
“Le Verre” (1911), watercolor on paper, 11 3/8 by 8 7/8 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: October 2020 for $1,543,000
  • Strong result for a watercolor on paper, which are less valuable than oil paintings on canvas
  • Smaller than Les Communiants
  • High result attributable partially to the desirable date of 1911 
  • Bland colors but traditionally cubist and beautifully rendered
"Nature morte devant une fenêtre" (1919), oil on canvas, 19 3/8 x 12 1/4 in. Sold at Christie's London: February 2018 for 2,048,750 GBP
“Nature morte devant une fenêtre” (1919), oil on canvas, 19 3/8 x 12 1/4 in. Sold at Christie’s London: February 2018 for 2,048,750 GBP
  • Work on paper (generally less valuable than canvases), same date (1919) as Les Communiants
  • Sold for almost $3 million in 2018, strong colors and composition similar to Les Communiants
  • Slightly larger, but still done in small scale
"Guéridon devant une fenêtre aux volets fermés" (1919-20), oil on canvas, 8 3/4 x 4 1/2 in. Sold at Christie's New York: November 2011 for $1,538,500
“Guéridon devant une fenêtre aux volets fermés” (1919-20), oil on canvas, 8 3/4 x 4 1/2 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: November 2011 for $1,538,500
  • Painting on canvas smaller than Les Communiants by almost half
  • Same year and style, similar color scheme – colorful
  • Achieved $1.5 million in 2011, and Picasso’s market is improving
"Verre, pipe et paquet de tabac" (1919), oil on canvas, 13 7/8 x 10 5/8 in. Sold at Christie's London: February 2013 for 937,250 GBP
“Verre, pipe et paquet de tabac” (1919), oil on canvas, 13 7/8 x 10 5/8 in. Sold at Christie’s London: February 2013 for 937,250 GBP
  • Similar in size to Les Communiants
  • Darker colors than Les Communiants not as exciting
  • Subject is a still life which is less exciting than human subjects
  • Achieved $1.46 million in 2013, and Picasso’s market is improving

Related Works in Museums

"Les Premiers Communiants", 1919, oil on canvas, 39 x 31 in., Musée Picasso, Paris
“Les Premiers Communiants”, 1919, oil on canvas, 39 x 31 in., Musée Picasso, Paris
"The Guitar", 1919, oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 in., Museum of Modern Art, New York
“The Guitar”, 1919, oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 in., Museum of Modern Art, New York
"Seated Man", 1915-1916, watercolor and gouache on paper, 11 1/2 x 9 in., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
“Seated Man”, 1915-1916, watercolor and gouache on paper, 11 1/2 x 9 in., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
"Three Musicians", 1921, oil on canvas, 79 x 87 3/4 in., Museum of Modern Art, New York
“Three Musicians”, 1921, oil on canvas, 79 x 87 3/4 in., Museum of Modern Art, New York

Image Gallery

Authentication

The definitive authority on the authenticity of paintings by Van Gogh, the Van Gogh Museum inspected this painting in January 2020 and provided this letter of authenticity. During that inspection, X-ray revealed a second painting under the surface – a portrait of a man.

View full report

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