Parisian life has long since inspired a plethora of artists, thanks to an air of culture and creativity which also drew many to live in the French capital. This portrait was produced in Paris shortly after Pablo had moved into the district of Montmartre. Many have found this part of the city an inspiration for their work, such as Gustave Caillebotte, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edgar Degas, to name just three. This painting features a portrait of a local boy holding a pipe whilst wearing a wreath of flowers.
Pablo was a young, aspiring artist at the time of this painting - around 24 years old. It is seen as one of the most significant works from the early development of his career and shows how early Picasso moved into contemporary styles having initially studied classical art techniques. Artist Picasso produced several study drawings in preparation for this final artwork, experimenting with multiple poses and accompanying objects though the majority had Little Louis in the same position as he stuck with for the completed oil on canvas. It is probable that his muse would have sat several times in order to complete these study sketches, but some may have been done without the young man in attendance.
Garcon a la Pipe raises more questions than it answers. Picasso touched on the beauty of youth in this painting which was out of character for his portraits of around this time. Elements of the pose are also inconclusive as to his thoughts behind the work, whilst the left arm is placed in an uncomfortable, unnatural position. Picasso found that Montmatre was awash with suitable models for his work, and with no shortage of people making their way in the entertainment industry, he was able to select all manner of interesting characters for his work. Many were more than happy to make a little supplementary income, whilst others were content just to be in and around a creative environment.
The latter best describes the boy in this portrait, someone who was intrigued by the personalities found living and working around this eclectic part of the city. Little Louis, as he has become known, was intrigued by the personality of a young Picasso and was regularly seen hanging around the artist's live-in studio in Le Bateau-Lavoir, Montmartre. This was a city filled head-to-toe in artists, from all over the globe. Many were contemporary and appreciated the open minded nature of this city. Amedeo Modigliani, for example, was able to balance a hectic life whilst still building up a portfolio of work in the backstreets of the French capital.
The artist spent a lot of time in composing the scene for this work, before taking a break from it for around a month in order to concentrate on other projects and also return to it with a fresh pair of eyes. He then added flowers and completed the final touches. The general concensus amongst art critics is that Garcon a la Pipe is not one of Picasso's masterpieces, and were surprised by it's continual achievement of high prices when put up for auction.