The Actor, Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Malaga 1881–1973 Mougins, France), Oil on canvas

The Actor

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Malaga 1881–1973 Mougins, France)
Oil on canvas
77 1/4 x 45 3/8 in. (196.2 x 115.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Thelma Chrysler Foy, 1952
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 830
Simple yet haunting, The Actor is the work with which Picasso ended his obsession with the wretched in favor of the theatrical world of acrobats and saltimbanques. Although the attenuated figure and extraordinary play of hands recall the El Greco-inspired mannerism of the Blue Period, The Actor can be seen as the prologue to the series of works that culminates in the enormous canvas Family of Saltimbanques (1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).
The new subject matter, palette, and sensibility of this picture coincide with the arrival of Picasso's new lover, the model and sometime artist Fernande Olivier (1881-1966). A sheet of studies for The Actor, made around New Year's Eve 1904, includes two profiles of Fernande and shows the same correction to the placement of the actor's left leg and foot that is visible in the painting.
Picasso painted The Actor on the back of a previously used canvas, on which another, unidentified artist had painted a landscape with swirling water.

Picasso’s friend Frank Burty Haviland, the wealthy Franco-American painter whose brother, the photographer Paul Haviland, backed Alfred Stieglitz's New York gallery, 291, was the first owner of this work. It was first exhibited in the Sonderbund show in Cologne in May 1912, to which it was lent by Paul Leffmann, a German industrialist. In 1938, Leffmann sold it to Picasso’s dealer Paul Rosenberg and long-time Picasso collector Hugo Perls. The automobile heiress Thelma Chrysler Foy gifted it to the Museum in 1952.
Inscription: Signed (lower right): Picasso
Frank Burty Haviland, Paris and Céret (likely acquired from the artist, ca. 1905 – 1912; sold through Joseph Brummer); [likely Brummer Frères, Paris, in co-shares with Haviland; stock no. xk21, sold in April 1912, to Feldmann]; [likely Rheinische Kunstsalon (Otto Feldmann), Cologne, April 1912; sold to Leffmann]; Alice and Paul Friedrich Leffmann, Cologne and Florence (1912 – June 1938; the canvas was left in the care of Professor Dr. Heribert Reiners, in Fribourg, Switzerland by September 7, 1932; sold through Käte Perls); [Galerie Käte Perls, Paris, acting as agent for Leffmann, 1937-1938]; [Hugo Perls, Paris, then New York, bought 1/3 share with Rosenberg, June 1938 – November 15, 1941; sold through Rosenberg]; [Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris; and Rosenberg & Helft Gallery, London; then Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York, bought 2/3 shares with Perls, June 1938 - November 15, 1941; stock no. 4014; sold to Charles Henschel of Knoedler]; [M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1941; sold to Mrs. Chrysler Foy]; Thelma Chrysler Foy, New York (1941 – 1952; her gift to the MMA, 1952)

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Cologne. Rheinische Kunstsalon (Otto Feldmann). "Pablo Picasso," March 15–April 15, 1913, no. 5 (as "Der Schauspieler") [likely also traveled to Prague, 1913].

Berlin. Ausstellunghaus am Kurfürstendamm. "Herbstausstellung," December 1913, no. 160 (as "Der Schauspieler").

Cologne. Kölnische Kunstverein. "Kunst in Kölner Privatbesitz," mid-February–end March 1916, no. 78 (as "Der Schauspieler").

Cologne. Kölnische Kunstverein. "Moderne Kunst aus Kölner Privatbesitz," January 1929, no catalogue.

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Dial 85 (October 1928), unpaginated, ill., as "L'acteur".

L. S. E. "Ausstellungen." Das Kunstblatt 13 (1929), p. 95, notes that it was lent by Paul Leffmann to Exh. Cologne 1929.

Christian Zervos. Pablo Picasso. Vol. 1, Works from 1895 to 1906. Paris, 1932, p. 124, no. 291, ill., as "The Actor".

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Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 231–32, ill.

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