Sotheby’s has a big sale brewing in London this Winter. The auction house announced a £35m Klimt to follow up on the private sales of the artist’s work. There are also a £10-15m Modigliani, £7-10m Gauguin and four Picassos in the sale. One of the Picassos is this painting of a tomato plant that carries a £10-15m estimate.
Here’s how the auction house described the painting:
Symbolic of victory in Europe, Picasso’s paintings of the tomato plant in bloom in the apartment he shared with his lover Marie-Thérèse are ripe with personal as well as wider political and cultural significance – a way ofreflecting the spirit of hope and resilience that characterised this time. The most complex and visually striking example from the most sought-after series of the war period, Plant de tomate has been in a private collection for four decades.
In the summer of 1944, in the weeks before the Liberation of Paris from the Nazis by the Allied Forces, Picasso began to take notice of the potted tomato plant that was growing besides the window of the apartment. These were not uncommon in civilian households throughout Europe at a time when food rations limited the amount of available produce for consumption. Seeing the lush and fertile plant as a sign of hope as it continued to bear fruit, Picasso painted five canvases of the plant on a window sill between August 3 and August 12, 1944 – varying in degrees of abstraction. The background view outside the window is painted with varying shades of yellow and grey, calling to mind the smoke and gunfire that could be heard throughout the city during these frightening last weeks of the war. Rarely has Picasso invested a still-life with such meaning and sociological importance. Picasso’s art was blacklisted by the Nazi regime and the paintings that he completed during this period remained in his studio – only to be exhibited after the war.