Picasso's WWII Nazi resistance painting to sell at Sotheby's



2017-02-22 10:28:08

A Picasso painting created as an artistic act of resistance against the Nazis during WWII will be offered at Sotheby's next month.

The still-life 'Plant de tomates' was painted by Picasso in 1944, during the Nazi occupation of Paris, and is symbolic of the struggle for freedom just weeks before the city was liberated by the Allies.

According to Sotheby's, "rarely has Picasso invested a still-life with such meaning and sociological importance."

Picasso chose to stay in Paris during WWII, despite the fact that he was blacklisted by the Nazi regime and constantly harassed by Gestapo officers.

Although he was prevented from exhibiting publically, his financial stability allowed him to continue working, and all his paintings remained hidden in his studio until after the war.

In the summer of 1944, Picasso began to notice a potted tomato plant growing beside the window of his apartment. This was a common site across the city, as food rationing meant households were forced to grow their own produce.

He saw this resilient plant as a sign of hope and painted five still-life canvases, with the lush, colourful fruit-bearing plant contrasted against the cold grey window frame and the acrid yellow sky beyond the glass.

'Plant de tomates' was last auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York in 1976, and has remained in the same private collection ever since.

Forty years on, it will cross the block once more – this time with an estimated value of £10-£15 million ($12.4-$18.6 million).

"This exceptional work by Pablo Picasso was painted at a moment of particular tension during the war: the liberation of Paris," said Samuel Valette, Sotheby’s Senior Specialist in Impressionist & Modern Art.

"As such, it is infused with a sense of renewed energy and hope that distinguishes it from other wartime still-lifes, which were imbued with a more sombre and dark mood. It shows that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

"For Picasso, the very act of continuing to paint as normal was an act of resistance, and following the Liberation, his atelier became a must-see for the allied soldiers who wanted to witness what the master had created in the war years."

Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale takes place in London on March 1.

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