Friday, March 16, 2018

The Paleys’ Picasso

“Nude with Joined Hands” by Pablo Picasso, 1906.

I recently read an interesting article in Vanity Fair called “A Gilded Provenance” by James Reginato, about the huge auction to take place at Christie’s this spring of the art work belonging to David and Peggy Rockefeller. In it, there was mention of William S. Paley being part of the syndicate that David put together in order to buy the art work that used to belong to Gertrude Stein. The group, six people in total (which included David’s brother Nelson), drew numbers to decide who would get first dibs on purchasing the portraits they wanted. David drew number one. According to the MoMA Provenance Research Project, this 1906 work by Pablo Picasso, “Nude with Joined Hands,” was one of the paintings that Bill Paley ended up owning because of his membership in that syndicate. He acquired it in 1968. Gertrude Stein, and her brother Leo, purchased it directly from Picasso in 1907.

Since reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin I have had Babe Paley on my mind more often these days so after reading that, plus the Vanity Fair article, I decided to visit the William S. Paley collection at MoMA. I brought my 15-year-old son with me since he claimed he’d never been to MoMA. I don’t know how I have been raising a child in New York City who has never been to MoMA but apparently it happened (of course MoMA is usually packed so that probably had something to do with it). I will tell you in advance—the 15-year-old was bored. I was not. Glad I only had to pay admission for one of us!

I did not like how this beautiful and extremely valuable work, as well as others by Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, and Vuillard, were parked right off the elevators. I found it kind of tacky, to tell you the truth. There is not enough space to accommodate everyone who wants to see the paintings with all the coming and going off the elevator, and the glare from the lights over the elevators bounced off the glass, making the pictures hard to see and photograph.

I like a lot of Picasso’s work but I did not to expect to like this particular painting as much as I did! I love the size of it, the portrait itself, and I am crazy for the colors Picasso used. The gilt frame intensifies the pinks in the background. I have read this portrait was painted by Picasso in his Rose Period, said to be from 1904-1906.

On an angle so you see it without the glare!

The picture below shows how it was displayed at Bill and Babe’s place at 820 Fifth Avenue (look down the hallway and you’ll see it). The larger picture is Picasso’s Jeune garcon au cheval (“Boy Leading a Horse”), which Picasso painted in 1905-06, so also from his Rose Period.

As it appeared in the Paley apartment.

I thought I would include a picture of the building it hung in before MoMA. This is Fifth Avenue at 63rd Street. I read that Babe and Bill lived on the 9th floor and that if you live in this building, you own the entire floor. A life of luxury!

820 Fifth Avenue.

William S. Paley with more of his art in 1980. Notice the picture of Babe on the left! Corbis photo.

If you would like to read more about Paley and his art collection, this is a good article I found over at the Wall Street Journal from a few years ago: “A TV Titan Who Loved Modern Art” by Terry Teachout.

Let me know what you think of this painting or what it was like the last time you were at MoMA!


PinkCheetahVintage said...

I was at MoMa one time over a decade ago and I loved it. That painting is gorgeous :)

Rosie said...

Last time I was at the MOMA was 2 years ago. Have been there many times before.

Am a big fan of Picasso's paintings. Not so much Picasso the man - a terrible husband (married 2x), an even worse father (4 kids) & a misogynist. He drove a few women to insanity (Olga, his lst wife) or the brink of it (Dora Maar, his mistress).

That he was a genius is indisputable.

I do like his blue & rose period. Although, sometimes not crazy about the themes - i.e. clowns, circus, harlequins. The painting you featured look just lovely in the Paley apt. Too bad the MOMA displayed his paintings in a less than perfect setting.

Jill said...

Hi Becky, I like going to MoMA but I have been there when it's been overly full and then it's not so fun! xx

Jill said...

Hi Rosie, I was so shocked when my son told me he'd never been to MoMA but then realized he was right! The school trips usually go to the Natural History Museum, or the Hall of Science in Queens. It wasn't too bad as far as the crowds, but it was so weird to see where those Paley collection paintings were. I wonder if it was just temporary? I hope so. I am keeping my fingers crossed that MoMA buys some of the David Rockefeller art that is going to auction this spring. As for Picasso, yes, he was a terrible husband and lover it seems. I am no fan of clowns or harlequins so don't like that part of his work. But this nude was nice to see in person. The colors are very calming and beautiful. It must have been amazing to come home every night and see that hanging on your wall! xx