With an expertise by Claude Ruiz Picasso dated 11.10.2022.


• Owls are a reoccurring image in Picasso’s menagerie
• The artist captures the animal in sparse lines
• Work created directly after the Second World War, a time in which Picasso was reorientating himself

The owl is a common motif in Picasso’s menagerie. While in his works the dove repeatedly symbolises peace and the minotaur – albeit mythically – stands for male virility, Picasso uses the owl as a symbol of wisdom. Picasso thus takes up the symbolic language of antiquity; the Greek goddess Athena already indicated her own wisdom with an owl. In the work offered here, Pablo Picasso reduces the animal to six strokes: He creates the body and beak in a single sweep; he also executes the wings and eyes swiftly but decisively. The artist’s mastery nonetheless allows us to identify the animal depicted, which is perched on the edge of a plinth in the manner of the Old Masters and peers out of the picture. Picasso lived in the south of France and produced sheer quantities of works: he moulded and painted ceramics, he printed in almost all available media, he interpreted and quoted his own imagery and that of Western art history. This enormous creative urge goes hand in hand with a restlessness in which he reaches for everything available to him. The owl also bears witness to this: Picasso made it on the cover of the book dedicated to him by Paul Eluard, which is in the possession of Cécile Eluard. It remains unclear when this leaf was removed from the book, but the gold trim on the upper edge of the leaf testifies to the circumstances of its creation and interweaves the owl not only with Picasso’s profound knowledge of cultural history but also with the personal circumstances of his life as a contemporary witness.

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