Pablo Picasso 1881-1973


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
At Sotheby's, New York, 23 Oct. 1980, lot 381 
Private Collection


2020, London, Piano Nobile, Drawn to Paper: Degas to Rego, 24 June - 24 July 2020, cat. no. 14


René Char and Charles Field, Picasso: His Recent Drawings 1966-1968, Pall Mall Press, 1969, cat. no. 203, p. 252 (illus.)
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso. Vol. 27. Oeuvres de 1967 et 1968, Édition Cahiers d'Art, 1973, cat. no 48, p. 14 (illus.)
Drawn to Paper: Degas to Rego, exh. cat., Piano Nobile, 2020, pp. 32-33
In ancient Egypt, figures were systematically represented using their silhouettes: it was an art which imagined the world in an endless succession of profiles. Picasso relished the challenge of this pictorial constraint and it inspired many of his graphic inventions including Profils et Têtes. A work from his late career, the page is populated by a cast of wizened crones and bearded philosophers arranged in a characteristic bricolage of imagery. These personnages are held together by a loose-knit pictorial framework created with swiftly applied washes of brush and ink. While his interest in Egyptian profiles was a marked feature of his work from the 1960s, Picasso had a life-long interest in physiognomy – a pseudo-science, popular in the nineteenth century, which seeks to decrypt the mind by analysing the lines and facets of a person’s face. In Profils et Têtes, the artist summoned a cast of dubious characters, conjuring a range of facial features to achieve this impression.

Picasso’s inventions of this kind originated not from his observations of the world, but rather from the self-regarding act of drawing itself. This tendency for art to feed on art was perhaps understood by Ernst Gombrich better than any other art historian of the twentieth century, and his comments about Picasso are pertinent to Profils et Têtes.

When Picasso says, ‘I do not seek, I find’, he means, I submit, that he has come to take as a matter of course that creation itself is exploration. He does not plan, he watches the weirdest beings rise under his hands and assume a life of their own. […] here is a man who has succumbed to the spell of making, unrestrained and unrestrainable by the mere descriptive functions of the image.

This work originated from Galerie Louise Leiris, 47 Rue de Monceau, Paris. Leiris was the niece of Picasso’s pioneering dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and continued to sell work by Picasso and his contemporaries Léger, Dalí and André Masson in the second half of the twentieth century.