See the x-ray image

La Vie is the masterpiece of Picasso's Blue Period. Considered the most important picture produced before Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, La Vie reflects the evolution of Picasso's pictorial style, subject matter and philosophical concerns during this period. The enigmatic symbolism of the work has prompted numerous interpretations and studies, the most recent of which is the catalogue of the exhibition entitled Picasso and the Mysteries of Life: La Vie, curated by William Robinson at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2012.

The X-rays of the work taken in Cleveland in 1978 revealed that the support of the painting was the earlier work Last Moments, which had been displayed at Picasso's one-man show at Quatre Gats in February 1900 and had then been sent to Paris to be shown at the Exposition Universelle that same year.

Although the painting isn't dated, we can say that it was made in the spring of 1903. An article published on 4 June of that same year in El Liberal announced the sale of the work to a French collector. Neither the identity of the collector nor the agreement have been verified, but the announcement helps us determine the date on which the picture was completed. The presumed purchase, however, contradicts the information provided by Robinson regarding the sale of La Vie to Sebastià Junyent.

The exact time at which La Vie left Barcelona is not known. The work could have been acquired by art dealer Ambroise Vollard. After decades of mysterious silence, the work reappeared in 1926 illustrating the cover of The Arts under the title Figure Painting and quoting Thannhauser Galleries as its owner, who had purchased it from Vollard in 1924. In 1937 it was acquired by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, and in 1944 it was sold to Seligmann Gallery in New York in 1944, which eventually offered it to the Cleveland Museum of Art, collection to which it still belongs presently.

La Vie - Pablo Picasso

La Vie
Pablo Picasso, 1903
Oil on canvas
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1945.24