The Wait (Margot)
Signed Picasso in the lower left-hand corner
Oil on board
69.5 x 57 cm
Plandiura Acquisition, 1932
A work set in the Parisian nightlife Picasso discovered at the turn of the 20th century. It is a portrait of a morphine addict or prostitute painted in quick flowing highly colourful strokes with a partly divisionist pictorial treatment. Likewise, the energetic thick brushstrokes – an influence from Van Gogh – and the black outline of the figure – also a feature of some Van Gogh works and the French Les Nabis artistic movement – are worth commenting on.
The noted chromatism lets us see how Picasso here felt captivated by the play of lights and how much he enjoyed using colour. The extensive red was used to colour both the dress and the hat as well as the face – lips, make-up – and also to fleck the back wall.
Context and Reception of the Work
In 1901 Pere Mañach – a Catalan living in Paris and Picasso’s first dealer – in collaboration with the art critic Gustave Coquiot organised an exhibition for the artist at the Gallery of Ambroise Vollard, the most important art dealer in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century. With prodigious intuition and exceptional aesthetic taste, he discovered or launched the post-impressionist painters Van Gogh and Cézanne – Les Nabis – and finally Matisse and Picasso – Les Fauves.
The young Picasso exhibited 64 paintings and some drawings, alongside the Basque painter Francisco Iturrino. Margot formed part of the exhibition (it was known as the Morphine Addict in the catalogue under number 9) and is also known as Pierreuse [prostitute] with her hand behind her shoulder. This theme is also seen in other artists from the period such as Santiago Rusiñol (Morphine, 1894), Anglada Camarasa and Van Dongen.
The exhibition enjoyed a certain success (‘nearly all the papers saw it favourably’ wrote Picasso himself) and caught the attention of Max Jacob who, the day after the opening, was invited by Mañach to meet Picasso and see more of his works.
In his book, Coquiot describes Picasso as a ‘frenzied lover of modern life' who observes 'all street scenes, all human adventures' (landscapes, prostitutes, street scenes or interiors). He also admires the furious brushstrokes (‘the man can not stop looking […] filling his canvas furiously with urgency, impatient with not being able to make his hand go quicker’) executed with ‘long brushstrokes filled with colour’. (Gustave Coquiot, La vie artistique. Pablo Ruiz Picasso, June 1901.)
In July 1901, the critic Félicien Fargus stated in the Revue Blanche that Picasso ‘adores colour for itself’ and Pierre Daix classified this work as pre-fauvist.
It was purchased from Catalan collector Lluís Plandiura by the Museums Board in 1932 alongside other Picasso works which, when the Museu Picasso in Barcelona opened in 1963, became part of the permanent collection.
If in an 1897 letter to his friend Bas, Picasso classed pointillism as blind obstinacy, he would be influenced, amongst others, by the style during his stay in Paris – still in vogue amongst avant-garde painters – as can be seen with Margot.
Pointillism was the popular term for the technique known as divisionism, comprising of the juxtaposition of short pure colour strokes so as to achieve a much more intense and bright optical blend (in viewers’ eyes, a contemplation from a certain distance) than that achieved with traditional physical mixtures of colour on the palette.
The painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac – divisionism leaders and theoreticians – rejected the term pointillism for being inexact and superfluous, having to further bear a new classification detractors contemptuously coined – confetti style. Picasso, on the other hand, invented constantly: he made a personal adaptation of the technique, not applying it with a neo-Impressionist brushstroke feature (Picasso's is freer) nor systematically (limiting its use especially to the backdrop and, even, the table, whilst he seems to have taken inspiration from painters such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec or Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen for the figure).
Divisionism can also be seen in other works housed at the MPB: La Nana (The Dwarf, MPB 4.274), dating from the same year, but also the later Woman with Mantilla (MPB 110.004) painted in Barcelona in 1917 and left unfinished, perhaps due to dissatisfaction with the result of a divisionism applied more systematically and canonical this time, in comparison with the two earlier works.
Comment by the Director of the Museum
The wait or Margot is one of the key works in our collection. An oil on cardboard that Picasso painted in 1901. Best known for taking part in an exhibition in 1901 at the Vollard Gallery in París. Organized by his dealer, Pere Mañach, this exhibition signified Picasso’s first making a name for himself in the Paris of the time. So, we have to understand the painting in that context. In Picasso’s understanding of the Montmartre artists. Influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec, Munch or by Steinlen, we can see here his fascination with exaltation of colour, above all. These extended, free brushstrokes are what grab our attention. This is primarily a captivating work of art. That we can enjoy, today. This is the capacity of Picasso – to transcend the moment when the work was painted and to make us sense the presence of this woman with her glassy eyes, her white face as she stares at us. She generates in us the possibility of emotion, the possibility of interacting with our own personal sensations through the art.
References and Bibliography
Margot was the work chosen as the communication image for the Musée d’Orsay exhibition ‘De Cézanne à Picasso, chefs-d’oeuvre de la galerie Vollard’, held from June to September 2007 that brought together over a hundred works in Paris from around the world which were once owned by Ambroise Vollard.