Fine Art

Pablo Picasso

Spanish, 1881-1973


Handpainted partially glazed tile
Height 13 3/8 inches (34 cm)


Estate of the artist
Jaqueline Picasso, Paris (by descent from the estate)
Etienne Sassi Inc, Paris
Hammer Galleries, New York
Private Collection, England


Vallauris - Musée Magnelli, Musée de la Ceramique : Picasso, Ceramiste a Vallauris, Pieces uniques, July - November 2004, no 103 (illustrated page 146)
New York, Hammer Galleries, Picasso: Ceramics at Vallauris - 1946-1973, April - May 2005

The work comes with certificates of authenticity by Maya Widmaier-Picasso and Claude Picasso.

Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, better known as Pablo Picasso, was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France. As one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

His father was an art teacher, and the young Pablo grew up in an artistic environment. By the age of fourteen, he was an accomplished draftsman, and in 1900 at age nineteen, he made his first trip to Paris. There he studied the Old Masters and Classical sculpture and also was exposed to the paintings of Impressionists and Post Impressionists.

Between 1901 and 1904, his work was dominated by a blue palette, which has led to this time being called his "Blue Period". Blue, for him, was to symbolize suffering, hunger and cold, and the hardships he experienced while attempting to establish himself. By 1905, his 'Rose or Circus Period' was beginning, and also later that year, a growing interest in African masks evolved in his painting.

The 1920s are regarded as one of the most productive periods of Picasso's career. He painted with vivid coloration, expressing an experience of curvilinear Cubism and classical idealism. In 1927, he began a relationship with seventeen-year-old Marie Therese Walther, and in 1936 with Dora Maar, a photographer, and used them both as models in various works.

During the World War II years, Picasso did a lot of modeling in clay and creating of assemblages with found objects, and many of the pieces, especially after the War, expressed his sense of humor. Also after the War, he began creating with ceramics and he was very productive with printmaking. In 1943, he was involved with Francoise Gilot, an accomplished artist, with whom he had two children, Claude and Paloma.

His last female relationship was with Jacqueline Roque, whom he met in 1953 and married in 1961.  Roque worked at the Madoura Pottery in Vallauris where Picasso developed a fascination for ceramics and contributed greatly to the Pottery industry which was then at his height.

In the 1950s, Picasso’s style changed yet again and he reinterpreted works of earlier great masters including Velasquez, Manet, Courbet and Goya.  In 1949 he exhibited at the Philadelphia Art Museum’s 3rd Sculpture International and he was soon after commissioned to make a giant 50 foot sculpture for the city of Chicago, now known as Chicago’s sculpture, resembling a bird, woman or a horse with its ambiguous, abstract shape.  This piece was unveiled in 1967 and is certainly one of Chicago’s most beloved and recognizable works of art.

Our ceramic tile was made two years after Picasso left Vallauris. Made of fired red clay, the artist used glazes in tones of white, black, and creams to draw geometric shapes depicting an hibou (French for owl) in its most rudimentary form. Picasso’s affinity for incorporating owls into his work could derive from various sources.  In mythology the owl was known as the sacred bird of Athena, goddess of wisdom, who disguised herself as a bird.  The artist often referenced classical themes in his work, and in that context, the motif could represent a timeless symbol of courage and intelligence. The owl was also the ancient bird of Antibes on the French coast, which certainly resonated with Picasso being so close to Vallauris. 

A series of concentric circles form the eyes and denote feathers on the chest. A curved band of white glaze with black lines and dots separate the round head from the square body, and various lines and curves serve as simplistic yet decorative feathers. The verso side features a less anatomical and more decorative pattern of lines and circles, almost as if the bird is wearing a Native American garment.