Pablo Picasso
(Málaga, 1881-1973, Mougins)
Gustave Coquiot, ca. 1901
Oil on cardboard, 46 x 37 cm
Signed lower left: Picasso
Zervos, I-85; Daix VI-16
The nineteen-year-old Pablo Picasso’s first sojourn in Paris in 1900 was the fulfilment of a cherished desire. When Picasso returned to Barcelona that Christmas, he must have felt all the more keenly that this city did not have much more to offer him despite all its liberalness. Thus, after a stay at his birthplace, Málaga, and in Madrid, he reappears in Paris at the end of March 1901, remaining there until the end of the year. He resides on the Boulevard de Clichy with his countryman Mañach, who arranges personal contacts for the youngster who does not yet speak French. In this way he gets to know the writer Max Jacob and the art critic Gustave Coquiot. He paints the latter twice in this same year. The subject is full-length, seated with legs crossed, with pictures in the background, similar to and with the same dimensions as the portrait of the art collector Choquet painted by Cézanne at the end of the 1870s. Are we perhaps at Vollard’s in the Rue Laffitte, where the young Picasso already had a show in that year? Or at Coquiot’s? The small cardboard could very easily be carried along with one, and the painting was done swiftly and sketchily, its intimate freshness making it seem as much Post-Impressionist as pre-Fauvist. It is astonishing how surely this twenty-year-old Spaniard has already found his way within French painting, and we can feel the great reserves of creative vitality slumbering in this painter. There is nothing "fin de siècle" about this.