Gagosian Quarterly

Spring 2017 Issue



The story behind the sculpture that Diana Widmaier-Picasso highlighted in Picasso’s Picassos: A Selection from the Collection of Maya Ruiz-Picasso. Text by Michael Cary.

Pablo Picasso, La femme enceinte, 1959, plaster, height: 43 ½ inches (110 cm). Photo by Rob McKeever

Pablo Picasso, La femme enceinte, 1959, plaster, height: 43 ½ inches (110 cm). Photo by Rob McKeever

Michael Cary

Michael Cary organizes exhibitions for Gagosian, including eight Picasso exhibitions in collaboration with John Richardson and members of the Picasso family. He joined Gagosian in 2008 after six years working with the late Kynaston McShine, then chief curator at large at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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After the birth of their son, Claude, in 1947, Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot began to spend time in the town of Vallauris, near Cannes in the South of France. Vallauris was the home of a ceramics industry that fascinated Picasso; he was eager to explore this new medium, and in 1948 he and Gilot settled into a small house in the town, La Galloise, so that he could work with the craftsmen at the nearby Madoura pottery. After the birth of their daughter, Paloma, the following year, Picasso acquired a building nearby, a decrepit former perfume factory called Le Fournas, and turned it into a studio in which to paint, sculpt, and store the growing volume of ceramics he was creating. His route there on foot led past a field that served as a dumping ground for the local potters, who used it to dispose of broken pots, tools, and leftovers of metal and wood. Here Picasso would collect whatever caught his eye and carry it to the studio, adding to the scrap already present in the disused factory. Over the next few years the possibilities he saw in this pile would reinvigorate his sculptural practice; from this detritus he would construct some of the greatest sculptures of his career.


Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso at Madoura Pottery, Vallauris, 1953. Photo by Edward Quinn, ©

“One of the first sculptures Pablo made in the perfume factory was La femme enceinte” (The Pregnant Woman, 1950), Gilot would recall.

He wanted me to have a third child. I didn’t want to because I was still feeling very weakened even though a year had passed since Paloma was born. I think this sculpture was a form of wish fulfillment on his part. He worked on it over a long period of time, I suppose from a composite mental image he had of the way I had looked while I was carrying Claude and Paloma. The breasts and distended abdomen were made with the help of three water pitchers; the belly from a portion of a large one, and the breasts from two small ones, all picked up from the scrap heap. The rest was modeled. The fact that the figure was only about half the normal size gave it a grotesque appearance. It had almost no feet, it swayed perilously, and the arms were too long. It always looked to me like a child-woman recently descended from the ape.1

The ape comparison was not far off the mark; Picasso was concurrently working on sculptures of a baboon (Le Guenon et son petit, 1950–51) and of a goat (La Chèvre, 1950), both pregnant, no doubt also to inspire Gilot. Yet the circumstance of the fetishlike construction of La femme enceinte reinforces her totemic purpose: she is a fertility goddess, and, as Diana Widmaier Picasso has pointed out, should be seen in light of the two casts of the Lespugue Venus, an ivory figure of the Upper Paleolithic period, that Picasso had long kept in his Paris studio.2


Plaster version of La femme enceinte I (1950) in progress, Le Fournas, Vallauris, 1950. Photo by Robert Picault

The art historian Elizabeth Cowling has proposed that La femme enceinte should also be seen as a response to Edgar Degas’s sculpture of the same subject (1896–1911), an uncommon one in sculpture in general and in Degas’s and Picasso’s oeuvres in particular. The two works share several similarities, especially the symmetry of each figure’s pose. Degas’s figure, however, is a psychological study: it depicts a woman confronting the strangeness of her changing body, and expressing concern or love for her unborn. Picasso’s, on the other hand, is a stoic vessel, and under her plaster skin her distended stomach and breasts are made from ceramic pots—literally containers for water, the medium of life.3

Picasso kept the 1950 plaster original of La femme enceinte for the rest of his life, often placing her in a commanding position in his studio to keep watch over its contents. (She now lies in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.) She appears as such in the painting Femme dans l’atelier (1956), and in a number of photographs of the studio at La Californie, the villa in Cannes that Picasso acquired in 1955. Between 1951 and 1953, an edition of three bronzes was cast from the figure. In the ensuing years, Picasso altered the plaster intermodel from that casting, adding the anatomical enhancements of navel and nipples and more solid feet to stand on. This second state of La femme enceinte was cast in a numbered edition of two in 1959.


Picasso with plaster for La femme enceinte (1950) in the villa La Californie, Cannes. Photo by Edward Quinn, ©


May: Pablo Picasso meets Françoise Gilot in a Left Bank Paris restaurant, Le Catalan.


April: Picasso begins to live with Gilot in Paris.

August–November: While Picasso and Gilot vacation on the Côte d’Azur, he is invited to use rooms in the Château Grimaldi, Antibes, as his studio. He creates a number of works in situ and donates others to the Château, which will become the first Musée Picasso in 1966.


May: Birth of Picasso and Gilot’s son, Claude.

Winter 1947–spring 1948: Picasso begins to work in ceramics at the Madoura workshop in Vallauris.


Sometime this year, makes the first of four sculptural portraits of Gilot pregnant, including Petite femme enceinte (Spies 335.I).

May: To be closer to Madoura he acquires a small house, La Galloise, in Vallauris.


January: Publication of Les Sculptures de Picasso, the first study of Picasso’s sculpture, with text by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and photographs by Brassaï.

April: Birth of Picasso and Gilot’s daughter, Paloma. Spring: Creates the second sculpture of a pregnant Gilot, Femme enceinte (Spies 347.I), made from plaster and a palm frond.

Summer: Acquires Le Fournas, a disused factory building in Vallauris, where he sets up one studio for painting and another for sculpture. A room connecting the two is used to store the ceramics that he makes at the Madoura workshop.


May: Begins La femme enceinte, 1er état (Spies 349.I). The work inaugurates a burst of creativity in the artist’s sculpture over the next few years.


Casts an edition of three bronzes from La femme enceinte, 1er état.

Summer 1951: first signs of the breakdown of the relationship between Picasso and Gilot.


Summer: Picasso meets Jacqueline Roque, who works at the Madoura pottery shop in Cannes. Roque will become his mistress and the two will marry in 1961.


September: Gilot leaves Picasso, taking their children with her to Paris.


April: Picasso purchases the villa La Californie in Cannes. After he and Roque move into the villa two months later, he will install a number of bronze casts of his Le Fournas sculptures on the grounds.


April: Picasso paints Femme dans l’atelier, depicting Roque sitting in a rocking chair staring at La femme enceinte across the studio at La Californie.


Picasso creates the second state of La femme enceinte (Spies 350), working from the plaster intermodel used to make the bronzes in 1951–53. The base is inscribed with what appears to be the date “15.3.59,” although the “9” is unclear. Photographs of the intermodel by André Villers, dated 1958, confirm the absence of the nipples and navel at that point, making them a late addition to the second state.

1Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), p. 320.

2See Diana WidmaierPicasso, “Between Form and Medium,” in The Sculptures of Pablo Picasso (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2003), p. 15.

3See Elizabeth Cowling, Picasso Looks at Degas (Williamstown, Mass.: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2010), pp. 205–07.

Artwork © 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Black and white image of  Pieter Mulier. Photo: © Paolo Roversi, courtesy Alaïa

Fashion and Art: Pieter Mulier

Pieter Mulier, creative director of Alaïa, presented his second collection for the legendary house in Paris in January 2022. After the presentation, Mulier spoke with Derek Blasberg about the show’s inspirations, including a series of ceramics by Pablo Picasso, and about his profound reverence for the intimacy and artistry of the atelier.

Portrait of Sir John Richardson, New York, 2005. Photo: Janette Beckman/Getty Images

The Art of Biography: Sir John Richardson’s “The Minotaur Years”

Pepe Karmel celebrates the release of A Life of Picasso IV: The Minotaur Years, 1933–1943, the final installment of Sir John Richardson’s magisterial biography.

A black-and-white portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler seated at a desk in front of a painting by Pablo Picasso.

Game Changer
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler

Michael Cary pays homage to the visionary dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884–1979).

Grace McCann Morley, c. 1950s.

Game Changer
Grace McCann Morley

Berit Potter pays homage to the ardent museum leader who transformed San Francisco’s relationship to modern art.

Charlotte Perriand in her studio on place Saint-Sulpice, Paris, 1928. The hands holding a plate halolike behind her head are Le Corbusier’s.

The New World of Charlotte Perriand

Inspired by a visit to the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s exhibition Charlotte Perriand: Inventing a New World, William Middleton explores the life of this modernist pioneer and her impact on the worlds of design, art, and architecture.

Diana Widmaier-Ruiz-Picasso standing in front of a bookcase

Picasso and Maya: An Interview with Diana Widmaier-Ruiz-Picasso

Diana Widmaier-Ruiz-Picasso curated an exhibition at Gagosian, Paris, in 2017–18 titled Picasso and Maya: Father and Daughter. To celebrate the exhibition, a publication was published in 2019; the comprehensive reference publication explores the figure of Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Pablo Picasso’s beloved eldest daughter, throughout Picasso’s work and chronicles the loving relationship between the artist and his daughter. In this video, Widmaier-Ruiz-Picasso details her ongoing interest in the subject and reflects on the process of making the book.

Still from video Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt

Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt

Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.

Claude Picasso and John Richardson

In Conversation
Claude Picasso and John Richardson

Picasso biographer Sir John Richardson sits down with Claude Picasso to discuss Claude’s photography, his enjoyment of vintage car racing, and the future of scholarship related to his father, Pablo Picasso.

Art and Food

Art and Food

Mary Ann Caws and Charles Stuckey discuss the presence of food and the dining table in the history of modern art.

Picasso in Italy: An Interview with Olivier Berggruen

Picasso in Italy: An Interview with Olivier Berggruen

Celebrating the one hundred-year anniversary of Picasso’s first trip to Italy, the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome is hosting the exhibition Picasso: Tra cubismo e classicismo 1915–1925, a grand presentation of two hundred works by the artist.



Diana Widmaier Picasso, curator of the exhibition Desire, reflects on the history of eroticism in art.

Picasso and Dalí

Picasso and Dalí

Known influencers, but did they influence each other?