Rare early Picasso painting goes up for auction in Paris

A rare early painting by Pablo Picasso, El campanar de l'esglesia del Pi, goes on auction in Paris June 5, with an estimate of 600-800 thousand euros. The work, painted by a 20-year-old Picasso, is important because it marks the transition to the Blue Period.

A rare early work by Pablo Picasso (Malaga, 1881 - Mougins, 1973) will go up for auction next Wednesday, June 5, at Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr in Paris. It is a painting executed by a Picasso in his early twenties, around 1900: titled El campanar de l’esglesia del Pi (“The Bell Tower of the Church of Pi”), the work was given by the artist himself to a close friend and colleague of his, Jaume Sabartés, has been jealously guarded in private hands until now, and is being offered for sale for the first time, with an estimate of between 600 and 800 thousand euros.

It is one of the paintings from the Barcelona period, landscapes made between 1895 and 1903. Picasso painted a modern city, but also a city rich in tradition. From the balcony of his studio in the nearby street of Nou de la Rambla, he painted the church of Santa Maria del Pi, considered one of Barcelona’s most emblematic and recognizable medieval Gothic architectural structures. The foreground, composed of roofs, is executed with quick, confident strokes. From these rooftops emerges the bell tower of Santa Maria del Pi, surrounded by misty blue hills. The painting, which has been presented in numerous exhibitions and included in various publications, is considered a decisive work in the artist’s life as it testifies to Picasso’s transition to the Blue Period. It was 1901, when Carlos Casagemas, his great friend, took his own life at the age of only twenty-one in a Parisian café, plunging the painter into deep sadness. A few weeks after his death, Picasso completed La Mort de Casagemas (“The Death of Casagemas”), a work that marked the temporary end of his use of warm colors. Picasso, finding himself in a state of destitution, found in blue pigments a means of expressing his feelings and interpretation of the world.

Pablo Picasso, El campanar de l'esglesia del Pi (ca. 1900; oil on canvas, 25.5 x 40.5 cm)
Pablo Picasso, El campanar de l’esglesia del Pi (ca. 1900; oil on canvas, 25.5 x 40.5 cm)

From then on, for the next three years, Picasso’s paintings were covered with a uniform color: blue. With its melancholy, this color embodied the painter’s state of mind at this time. As he developed his distinctive style, he experimented with new techniques, depicting themes of loneliness and misery.

Lucia Tro Santafe, senior specialist at Bonhams , commented, "El Campanar de l’esglesia del Pi is a sentimental landscape of Barcelona, a city that held a special place in Pablo Picasso’s heart and work. Made during his youth, this painting denotes great maturity, reflecting the soul of the young Pablo at a crucial period in his life. An ancestral place of fervor and art, Santa Maria del Pi is steeped in Barcelona’s legends and folk traditions. This work is much more than a historical representation of a monument: it is the starting point of the Blue Period, perhaps the most celebrated era of the artist’s career. It heralds the beginning of an intense and dramatic era for both the artist and his work. Given as a gift to Jaume Sabartès, fellow artist and poet as well as Picasso’s secretary, this work has remained in private hands until today. We are pleased to offer this rare painting on the market for the first time."

The work going up for auction in Paris is distinguished by the sky that occupies half of the composition. And it is declined in a monochrome of intense, muted blues, characterized by deep, elusive hues that can leave the viewer with the choice of seeing a bright or stormy horizon. Far from being uniform, this composition is distinguished by the use of vivid, primary touches: beige, ochre, red, contrasting with cool tones. A sentimental landscape, imbued with sweetness and poetry, in which Picasso seems to reveal a part of himself.

Rare early Picasso painting goes up for auction in Paris
Rare early Picasso painting goes up for auction in Paris

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.