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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Picasso's Villas

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie at Mougins on the French
Riviera, where Picasso lived for most of the years from
1961 until his death in 1973.
Recently I've been highlighting the homes of various important artists from the past--everyone from Rembrandt to Walt Disney. Today I decided I should explore the French villa of one of perhaps the most important artist of the 20th-century. He called it La Californie. It was only in delving into the artist's life that I discovered the Pablo Picasso actually only lived in Cannes just six years, from 1955 to 1961. Not only that, but over the latter half of his life (those years when he could afford such lodging) the man had four such homes, one in Paris; La Californie overlooking thee harbor at Cannes; another, the Villa Notre Dame de Vie at Mougins; and the Château Vauvernargues near Aix-en-Provence, where he was laid to rest in 1973.

Pablo Picasso's granddaughter, Marina Picasso (the daughter of Picasso's oldest son, Paulo), poses outside La Californie, which she renamed, Pavillon de Flore. The property overlooks Cannes, and recently sold for more than $110-million.
One factor too, which separates Picasso from many of his long-departed peers, is that none of these four homes is currently open to the public. As near as I can tell, only one, the Chateau Vauvernargues, is still owned by any of the descendants of Picasso's three wives or their four children. The other three Picasso residences appear to be privately owned. Moreover, it's not probable they will ever welcome the hoards of art tourists that would likely ensue, the one simple reason being they all occupy some of the most expensive real estate in the world. The going price for a prestigious address on the Cote d'Azur is roughly $390 (€365) per square foot. That would be a pretty pricey tourist attraction.

Grenier de Picasso (Picasso's attic).
Picasso in his Paris studio with
his wood-burning stove, 1944.
Pablo Picasso's first major home-studio was in Paris at the 17th-century Hôtel de Savoie on the Rue des Grands Augustins in the chic 6th arrondissement of Paris. A plaque out front next to the building's wrought iron gates proclaims: "Pablo Picasso lived in this building between 1936 and 1955. It is in this studio he painted Guernica in 1937." His studio was in the cavernous attic (seen just above). Picasso moved into this studio after separating from his first wife, Olga. It was here that Picasso sat out the Nazi occupation of Paris. When a German officer tried to bribe the artist with extra coal to heat his studio, Picasso reportedly refused, retorting: "A Spaniard is never cold!". The heavy overcoat he can be seen wearing in the 1944 photo at left suggests otherwise.

Picasso's view, the old harbor of Cannes. When high-rise
buildings came and blocked his view in 1961, Picasso left.
Picasso's Villa La Californie (top), is a grand mansion in Cannes, France. The house overlooks the bay of Cannes. In the background are the hills of the district of California, from which the estate gained its name. Built in 1920 by a Russian diplomat, Picasso bought the house in 1955 and moved there with his second wife, Jacqueline Roque. From this studio he painted the Bay of Cannes (below), in 1958. In his own Cubist manner, Picasso represents the seascape strangled by the urban environment. He live here only six years before the city's urban sprawl sent him "house hunting" a few miles further up the Mediterranean coast to Mougins.

The Bay of Cannes, 1958, Pablo Picasso.
The Villa Notre Dame de Vie, recently sold for €164-million ($220-million). This luxury mansion, where Picasso took up residence for the final twelve years of his life, is located in the French resort of Mougins (in the Provence of Alpes--Cote d'Azur). For that considerable hunk of cash the new owner got a 35-bedroom villa with two swimming pools, a tennis court, a flower garden, a guest cottage and a guardhouse for protection. The town has also played host to Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Arman, Yves Klein, César Baldaccini, Paul Éluard, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill, and Catherine Deneuve.

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie today bears only a modest
resemblance to the house Picasso knew. Modernization
has erased all but the Picasso mystique--that which jacks
up its property value.
Picasso's time in Mougins coincided with the height of his fame and wealth. Although his productivity was slowing down, during this period of time he produced some important artworks from his 'later period'. Among these were: The Dance of Youth, 1961; Nu assis dans un fauteuil, 1963; The Chicago Picasso, 1967; and Femme nue au collier (below), from 1968, which was a painting of Jacqueline Roque.

Naked Woman in the Necklace, 1968, Pablo Picasso
Although Jacqueline Roque was not the easiest women to be around, (she later prevented two of Picasso's children from attending his funeral), there is no doubt that she loved him. Thirteen years after Picasso's death, in 1986, Jacqueline Roque shot and killed herself, unable to cope with the loneliness of life without him. Picasso produced over 400 drawings and paintings of Jacqueline during the twenty years they were together. He produced seventy portraits in one year alone. This was more than he had done from any of his previous relationships, with Dora Maar or Francoise Gilot.

The Villa Notre Dame de Vie, then and now. 
Pablo Picasso died at his home of Notre Dame de Vie, Mougins in April of 1973. During the evening he and Jacqueline had been entertaining friends for dinner, when Picasso fell ill. The cause of his death was fluid on his lungs causing breathing difficulties which led to cardiac arrest. On the grounds of Château de Vauvenargues, near the provincial town of Aix-en-Provence, there is a simple mound of earth, covered in grass and ringed by ivy. Mounted on top is a curvaceous bronze nude, made by Pablo Picasso in 1933, and exhibited alongside Guernica in the Paris international exhibition of 1937. Beneath lies the body of the artist himself.

Mont Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine, 1887, Paul Cezanne
The Spanish artist bought Château de Vauvenargues in 1958. The estate is located in the foothills of Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain immortalized in countless paintings by Paul Cézanne (above), whom Picasso regarded as his artistic father. The current owner, Catherine Hutin (the daughter of Jacqueline Roque from her earlier marriage to engineer André Hutin) resides there now. When Picasso bought Château de Vauvenargues, he had intended to spend the rest of his life there. He sent for all his bronzes to be placed on the terrace and hundreds of paintings he had collected were stacked in the château’s cavernous rooms. He loved the isolation and scale of the place, which reminded him of Spain. However Jacqueline apparently found it too draughty and unfriendly. Just two years later, the couple moved to Notre Dame de Vie in Mougins. Picasso lived at Château de Vauvenargues for only a very short time. In death's irony though, he has spent far more time at this villa than he did during his lifetime in all his other villas combined.

Pablo Picasso's castle--Château Vauvernargues, Aix-en- Provence, in the foothills of Mont Sainte-Victoire.


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