News

Sale of donated Picasso to benefit University of Sydney science


27 April 2011

A rarely seen masterpiece by Pablo Picasso given to the University of Sydney is being sold and all proceeds will benefit scientific research and future educational programs.

An intimate portrait of the artist's lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, Jeune fille endormie, painted in 1935, will be auctioned by Christie's in London in June this year. It is expected to sell for £9 million to £12 million (A$14 to A$18 million).

Olivier Camu, International Director and senior specialist in Impressionist and Modern Art from Christies in London (left), with Dr Michael Spence, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney (right).
Olivier Camu, International Director and senior specialist in Impressionist and Modern Art from Christies in London (left), with Dr Michael Spence, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney (right).

Having resided in just two private collections since it was painted, Jeune fille endormie was given to the University of Sydney in 2010 by an anonymous donor on condition that it would be sold and that the University would dedicate the proceeds to scientific research.

Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney said: "In an extraordinary act of generosity, an overseas donor who wishes to remain anonymous was prepared to fly to Australia to personally give this painting to the University on the strict understanding that it would be sold and the proceeds directed to scientific research.

"This very generous and far-sighted gift is recognition of the international standing and reputation of the University of Sydney. By giving to the University in this way, our donor underlined the fact that our many generous supporters can have confidence that benefactions will be used wisely by the University for the benefit of our researchers, students and the wider community.

"In this case some of the proceeds of the sale of the Picasso will create multiple endowed chairs across several disciplines within a new multidisciplinary University centre dedicated to research into obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The new centre will transform research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, involving everything from metabolic research to the economics of food supply."

Giovanna Bertazzoni, Director and Head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie's London commented: "This is an absolute jewel of a painting by one of the great artistic geniuses of Western art and we are pleased to be able to support the University of Sydney by offering it at auction.

"Bursting with colour and luring the viewer into the intimate sanctity of Picasso's love for Marie-Thérèse, the portrait will be offered at auction for the first time having only ever been seen in public once before. We expect this work to excite collectors from Asia, the Middle East and Russia, as well as those from the traditional markets of Europe and North America."

'Jeune fille endormie', by Pablo Picasso, 1935. [Image: Christie's]
'Jeune fille endormie', by Pablo Picasso, 1935. [Image: Christie's]

Picasso met Marie-Thérèse Walter in 1927 when he was 45 and she was just 17. In the early 1930s Picasso purchased a country home, the Château de Boisgeloup, where he and Marie-Thérèse were able to spend more time together in seclusion. This spawned a period of frenzied and inspired artistic activity when the artist created a string of masterpieces, many of which now hold prominent places in museum collections around the world.

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, another portrait of Marie-Thérèse, sold at Christie's in May 2010 for US$106.5 million - a world record price for any work of art sold at auction.

Jeune fille endormie was originally acquired by Walter P Chrysler Jr soon after it was painted, and then changed hands just once before it was donated to the University of Sydney in 2010. It was shown at the celebrated Picasso retrospective at MoMA, New York, in 1939, which toured to Chicago, St Louis and Boston in 1940. It was then included in an exhibition of works from the Chrysler Collection in 1941, and has since been hidden from view in a private collection.

Proceeds of the painting's sale will benefit scientific research, and research into obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in particular. According to the World Health Organization, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (ODCD) and related conditions such as renal disease, breast cancer and colorectal cancer are now the leading causes of disease and mortality globally.

The University of Sydney has taken up this challenge, establishing a new centre dedicated to research into obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease that aims to transform people's lives and the global health landscape. It will be the only multidisciplinary research centre of its kind.

Building on the University of Sydney's broad research base, and collaborating with other researchers nationally and internationally, the $385 million centre will foster collaboration between world-class, established researchers, educators and innovators from medicine, science, law, economics, public health, architecture and the humanities.