Colin Gleadell looks at dueling Picasso Mousquetaires in the Telegraph on offer in the London sales:
Sotheby’s and Christie’s are presenting musketeer paintings by Picasso as their most highly valued lots of the summer season. At Christie’s is a 5ft high canvas, Homme à l’épée, painted on July 26 1969. A confrontational figure brandishing a sword, it was one of the largest in the Avignon exhibition and is estimated at £5 million-£7 million. Four years ago it was bought by a London-based collector for £2.7 million, and it is now being sold by his family.
Coincidentally, Sotheby’s musketeer, also called Homme à l’épée, was painted the previous day. Only a few inches smaller, it has the advantage of having never been at auction before, and the distinction of having graced the cover of the Avignon exhibition catalogue. It carries the slightly higher estimate of £6 million-£8 million
Gleadell’s article is more valuable for its pocket history of the fateful Avignon exhibition that tarnished the reputation of these pictures for so many years. Or, perhaps, with so much Picasso gone from the market and into museums, we’ve re-valued these works because we can. No matter, there were painters for whom the late rage-against-the-dying-of-the-light Picassos are important inspirations:
It was not until the late Eighties that interest in them was rekindled by the young, fashionable neo-expressionist artists of the time, Georg Baselitz and Julian Schnabel, who were at the forefront of a renewal of interest in painting. Among the prescient collectors who began buying them was the financier Gilbert de Botton, whose company sponsored the Tate Gallery’s exhibition of late Picasso in 1988.