Who was the enigmatic Margot?

Pablo Picasso went on his second trip to Paris in June 1901 to prepare an exhibition of his recent work, together with the Basque painter Francisco Iturrino, in the Vollard Gallery. Organised by the young Catalan dealer Pere Mañach, the exhibition opened on June 25th.

Margot

Pablo Picasso. The Wait (Margot), 1901. Oil on board. 68,5 x 56cm. MPB 4.271

The oil paintings presented were characterised by the exalted colouring, applied in some cases with thick and cleaved paint brushes, exposing the bare support, and in other cases by means of uniform surfaces delimited by a stroke of dark paint that avoided the dissolution of form, in a very personal style that lets you see traces of Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Gauguin. The theme dealt with everything from everyday topics to the characters of the Bohemian and night life, especially “the courtesans in the café and the theatre”, according to the words of the critic Gustavo Coquiot in the article about the exhibition published in Le Journal on June 17th 1901.

Without doubt, the work The Wait (Margot), hung in Gallery 7 of the museum, is one of these courtesans. But, do we know who this enigmatic woman was, with her scandalous make-up and veiled look?

On a visit to Picasso in November 1968, Gustau and Anna María Gili asked the artist if he could identify the protagonist of this painting. Picasso responded that he vaguely remembered her as a woman he saw in a café.

In fact the painting hasn’t always had the same name. Both Pierre Daix and Palau i Fabre have identified it as the Morphine Addict which appears as number nine in the list of works of Vollard. However, from this moment on it begins to appear with different names. In the inventory of the Plandiura acquisition (1932) it appears as The Wait (Margot), but the same year Christian Zervos entitles it Pierreuse, la main sur l’epaule, making reference to the name “pierreuse” that was given to prostitutes who exercised in the street. Many authors would repeat the name given by Zervos in the general catalogue of the work of Picasso, while others have called it Woman Made Up, Red Woman or Figure of Woman. Finally, in the last publications about Picasso the name The Wait (Margot) is reinstated.

Malén Gual

Curator of the Collection

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