Child with a Dove
Child with a Dove (L'enfant au pigeon, sometimes described as Child Holding a Dove) is a painting by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, made in 1901 at the start of his blue period. It was on public display in England for many years before its sale in 2012.
Picasso was 20 years old in 1901, and struggling to make his mark at the start of his artistic career. He returned for a second spell in Paris, to prepare for a joint exhibition in the summer with Francisco Iturrino at Ambroise Vollard's gallery. Towards the end of the year, Picasso moved away from the rapid impressionistic brushwork that had won him praise towards a flatter, abstracted presentation, with blocks of colour outlined in black, typical of his blue period.
The painting depicts a small child, probably a girl, with short ginger hair wearing a white gown tied at the waist with a blue sash. The subject stands holding a white dove in two hands, beside a ball with brightly coloured segments like a colour wheel. The background is painted flatly, an abstracted blue sky and green grass. It measures 28.75 inches (73.0 cm) by 21.25 inches (54.0 cm).
The work can be read as a picture of the innocence of childhood; as an essay in abstraction, with shapes simplified and superfluous details left out; or as a commentary on colour theory, with large blocks of colour - orange hair set against blue sky, and white dress set against green grass. It is thickly painted, perhaps concealing an earlier work underneath. The potential sentimentality of the subject matter is avoided by the use of bright colours.
The painting was acquired by French art dealer Paul Rosenberg. It was bought in 1924 by Mrs RA Workman from the Alexander Reid Gallery in Glasgow, but she sold it to Samuel Courtauld in 1928. On his death in 1947, he bequeathed it to Christabel McLaren, Lady Aberconway, wife of Henry McLaren, 2nd Baron Aberconway. After the death of Lady Aberconway, the family loaned the painting to the National Gallery from 1974 to 2010, and it was also displayed at exhibitions at the Courtauld Gallery and the Tate Gallery. It has been described by Arts Council England as one of the “probably the most famous work by Picasso in a UK collection”.
In 2012 the painting was sold in a private sale brokered by auction house Christie's on behalf of the Aberconway family. The price was reported as £50 million. The government imposed a temporary export ban which expired in December 2012 because no British institution was able to match the purchase price to acquire the work. It was displayed at an exhibition of Picasso's works from 1901 at the Courtauld Galley until May 2013, and is expected to be exported when the Courtauld exhibition closes in May 2013. In April 2013 it was reported by Le Figaro that the buyer was the Qatar Museums Authority.
- "Picasso's £50 m Child With A Dove Set to Leave the UK". BBC News Online. April 14, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
- Pablo Picasso's Child with a Dove to leave Britain after 90 years, The Independent, 11 April 2013
- Picasso painting Child with a Dove barred from export, The Guardian, 17 August 2012
- Why was Picasso's Child with a Dove allowed to leave the UK?, The Guardian, 11 April 2013
- Picasso painting leaves for Qatar after 90 years in the UK, The Telegraph, 12 April 2013
- Children Remembered: Responses to Untimely Death in the Past, Robert Woods, Liverpool University Press, 2006, ISBN 1846310210, p. 86
- National Gallery