The Dream (Le Rêve) is a portrait painting from 1932 which captures the artist's young mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter
Le Rêve, to use it's original French title, is a large scale painting which offers the viewer plenty of detail of the artist's model. He uses Fauvist and Cubist styles to invent this distorted version of reality, with a great attention to the colour combinations. As with most portrait artists, Pablo would find preferred subjects for his work and use them again and again, experimenting each time with different methods with which to create their image on canvas. There is also an abstract simplication of line and form which is typical of Picasso's work during this period. Le Rêve headlined a stunning Picasso exhibition in the Tate Modern, London that focused on Picasso's work during the year of 1932 and included Nude Woman in a Red Armchair and Girl before a Mirror. You will find The Dream on the frontcover of the exhibition book, underlining its importance amongst an extraordinary output in the year of 1932.
A careful inspection of The Dream suggests that artist Picasso is producing an abstract version of his own penis, disguised in the upturned face of this portrait. This kind of abstract eroticism can be found in the work of Georgia O'Keeffe and many other notable artists from the 20th century. Marie-Thérèse appeared in Reading just two weeks before The Dream was completed. Both depict her in an armchair, this time asleep. Picasso creates a mood of sensuality through the colour scheme found here, which was common around this time in much of his work. The soft pastel colours oozed a contemporary feel whilst strong lines helped to complete the composition. The way in which he depicts her fingers with sharp lines plus also the detail in the background will remind some of the work of Frenchman Henri Matisse with paintings such as Music and The Dance. It is particularly the colour schemes used by Picasso during this period which remind us most of Matisse.
Picasso would vary his colours across his career, famously going through his blue and rose periods. The revealing pose suggests themes of sexuality but also vulnerability as the young lady sleeps. Her famous long blonde hair is faithfully captured by artist Picasso here who uses yellow shades to contrast aggressively against the darker background. The reds and yellow tones are then repeated in her beaded necklace which delicately balances on her meditative chest. Perhaps this scene reveals the elements of the young lady which most attracted her elderly lover - her hair, curved figure and undoubted beauty. Whilst possibly looking vunerable whilst sleeping, the domestic setting of this scene should suggest comfort and privacy, a personal moment between these two passionate lovers. Whilst many regard this as a cubist work, it can be argued as part of his surrealist period whilst the colour scheme points to fauvism. At this time in art history Picasso was setting new ground all the time, requiring new classifications as his unique ideas and styles created art in ways never seen before.
The Red Armchair and Sleep continued along the theme of Marie-Thérèse Walter as Picasso continued to pull his muse into all manner of extortions. His time in Boisgeloup also brought about several reclining nudes with more gradiented shapes, reminiscent of the later work of Fernand Leger. Within 1932 there were also many items styled similarly to Le Rêve (The Dream) including Girl Before a Mirror, The Mirror and Nude in a Red Armchair. Picasso took in an interesting style of creating a type of painting of sculptures, capturing sculptured objects, gradiented with his bright colours as seen elsewhere at this time. Seated Woman in a Red Armchair and Woman in a Red Armchair, both from early 1932, seemed to bridge the gap between sculpture and oil on canvas. He was, of course, highly skilled in creating sculptures himself as well as working with ceramics from time to time as well. There seemed no end to either his talents or his desire to try out new ideas, even when he achieved popularity with what he was already doing.
This photograph captures Marie-Thérèse Walter in Leysin, Switzerland, around 1929. Her pose is strikingly similar to that used in the final The Dream painting. There has been considerable research to find photography around the life of Picasso in order to visually understand better those around him and his own behaviour beyond just what has been written. Picasso produced several portraits of Marie-Thérèse in this type of pose. Reclining women can be found in a huge number of famous paintings from right across the board in terms of art movements.
Amedeo Modigliani, for example, concentrated much of his career on this theme. There was also Edouard Manet's Olympia and Gustav Klimt's Danae to name just two. The original painting has changed hands on regular occassions and has amassed a prizely sum over the years. It was initially purchased by Victor and Sally Ganz for $7,000 as early as 1941. When the owners passed away much of their collection was auctioned off in the 1990s, to a huge profit. Since then, The Dream has been seen as an investment opportunity more so than attracting genuine fans of the artist's work.
It is the female portraits produced by Picasso which are amongst the highlights of his career, be it the oil painting found here or some of the informal pencil drawings found elsewhere in this website. They all offer us an insight into his life and also his personal relationships would fuel some of the emotions that can be found within several periods of his work. Although not technically an Expressionist, he clearly made use of his own emotions as a means to drawing on inspirations for his work, be it the stylistic methods, or the content that he covered. He also produced a number of self portraits that would also serve a similar purpose for those of us looking to understand the man himself better. One of the beautiful elements ofThe Dream (Le Rêve) is that even though the artist uses cubist methods to re-arrange the female's face and body, we can still entirely understand everything about her mood and posture. It is not so abstract that we are left confused, but strikes a good balance between the two. Other artists would move more and more towards greater abstraction over time, such as shown in the careers of the likes of Mondrian and Miro, and it may not have been something that they initially set out to achieve, but slowly progressed towards the final end point in an organic manner.